Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Slippery Situations

Yes, I did have a doule-take on our blog -- First time in I don't know how long, there's a post from someone other than me! I am so glad to have Liz back on our blog -- after all, her "Fingerless Mittens" post is the one with the most visitors.

I am in Montreal. The weather is like seeing a myself in the mirror -- it's raining, then five minutes later there's sunshine, and when I turn around we have a snow storm!! The road was all slushy in the morning, and by the lunch time it was frozen solid, making a 100-meter walk to the closest eatery super eventful, in this crazy wind that tried to knock us down, even though we huddled like a bunch of overdressed rugby players.

Yes, my 100-dollar snow parka is again a life saver. I don't know how people survive the winter here -- I would go mental in three days.

At work, I am having such a problem -- actually, a bunch of problems, everywhere I turn to -- and I don't know whether I should try to talk things over, or to just keep my mouth shut. Nothing seems to work for me. Lucky thing, I have a great team and several female peers to relate to (or comiserate with).

I don't have a tactfulness to gracefully skate over the ice. The only way to get out of this may be to just fall on my back and slide across it on all four.

Can't wait to get home.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sock Virgin - NO MORE!

Why in the world would someone knit socks?
You know all of us have said that at least one time in our lives BEFORE we casted on, ribbed ribbed ribbed, create the heal flap, did a turn, picked up stitches, decreased, knitted in the round, decreased a toe.... if you dig deep down inside you know this to be true.... BUT once you have gone thru the motions of creating a perfect little sock, even part way thru the motions, you are IN LOVE, like never before.
A SOCK!! Who knew?? All this time, the perfect "to knit" item was out there.... just waiting to be discovered. I mean sure, I have plenty of sock yarn, and needles to match, and books, but did I ever really intend to knit a sock? I think maybe not, sure I love to see all the finished socks of my sock knitter friends, but I thought that sock knitting was out of my range, and deep down, I asked myself ... WHY KNIT A SOCK when I can buy them for 5.00 at Walgreens? Call me silling, I just never really knew.... what I was missing!!!!!

Well, last night, for the first time, I started a sock. It was like magic, a religous experience! Erin as my tutor she gently guided me thru figuring out how many to cast on.. how long was my ribbing.. and then the heel, and the turn and the picking up of stitches... she just knew what to do... she even showed me a great way to SSK which was not at all as awkward as I had been doing in the past...

I AM OFFICIALLY IN LOVE!!!! I didn't want to put it down, now I know why sock knitters, knit socks. The first thought I had this morning was my sock. And then I thought of my second sock.. and the next pair I would make, what yarn would I use... I am obsessed by knitted socks.

Of course, it helps to know that Nicole LOVES her new sock. She is so excited for it. This morning I made her try it on and she said it felt PERFECT!! My heart sang. I am officially a knitter, in one second I became a knitter, a sock knitter. Sure, there are plenty of things about my perfect little sock which technically does not make it perfect, but I could care less. It is perfect in my eyes.

Erin, THANK YOU for taking the time to show me how to knit a sock. You gave me GREAT advise, start with Worsted Weight yarn, size 6 needles, start small (cast on 36) rib about two inches before starting the heel flap. I can't remember the details of the turn, so I am going to need help on sock #2, but who cares... and of course, when it comes time to decrease at the toe, I will need to make a call to Dr. Erin, the knitted sock Dr.!

I am hooked ladies, and I am off to finish sock #1 ... now my thoughts are on all the sock yarn I have in my stash and what wonderful socks I can make!!! Happy Sunday!!

Here are the details of my sock:
Childs ankle sock (Nicole wears a size 11, the sock fits perfectly)
Cascase 220 Superwash, color 839(got it on sale over a year ago!)

Needles sz 6 (plastic flexible white ones, I inherited from an older lady who passed away, the pack was never opened, I guess knitters are stasher as all ages!)

Cast on 36, k1p1 rib about 2 inches, 1 inch heal flap and the rest was a bit of a mystery, picked up stitches, decreased so I had 18 stitches on two needles and then I am back into knitting in the round.. so much for a pattern! ;-) but nevertheless a sock is formed!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Need Rose-colored Glasses

... because of this.
This is the final result of the apple bark dye on corriedale.

Although it's way better than the first trial, it's still not the shade of pink I was expecting. Charlie says that it's not pink at all. I guess I need rose-colored glasses -- and they may just help brighten the situation with my day job too!

One of my WIP is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Rib Warmer. It's brilliant -- it's done in garter stitches, and I'm a bit tired of them (I love purling!), but the design and all those short rows keep me interested and motivated. And I'm using my handspun yarn. I am close to finishing the first piece -- another to go. Photos next time.

I have to go to Montreal again next week. Oh yes. It'll be freakin' cold. I may have to spin some tomorrow, as I always get the urge to do so before a business trip!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Nicest Mittens

I just came home from the Knit Night at FlourChylde Bakery in Downtown Novato, and am still pretty excited -- Erin had her latest FO on. Pretty handknit mittens.

They are cute, and they are soft. And they are knitted with my handspun yarn I gave her! I just couldn't stop fondling them.

I'm so in love.

Thank you for knitting them Erin! I hope you'll enjoy them for a long time.

I've been spinning for a year and a half, but these are only second knitted objects with my yarn. The first one was my socks, which I am crazy about. I've been trying to find some good patterns to knit with my yarn, but I usually don't have enough of one kind to do much...

By the way, Novato knitters -- FlourChylde is open late on Friday evenings! It's a great place to knit. Wine, amazing torts and cookies, yarn and friends.... what more can we ask for?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Knitting is Dangerous

Charlie found it on the web.

As the one who has experienced the first one and the bottom two, I must say that they are all addicting!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Apple Dye Update

So, the apple bark has been soaking in the garage since 12/27. For those who aren't interested in dyeing or natural dyeing, this may be a boring topic and the picture may look weird. Even disgusting. Sorry about that.

I see pink. Do you? This may be a good sign.

I simmered the water with the bark still in for about ten minutes. You are not supposed to boil it -- too much tannin will get out in the dye and dull the color, my book says.

I didn't weigh the bark before I soaked it, but my guess is about 200 g. I am using about 50 g of corriedale. The dye stuff - fiber ratio is supposed to be 1 - 1, but I'm being conservative. I really want some pink this time.

Here's what the white wool looks like in the dye bath. From my (limited) experience, the dye bath and the wool should look much darker. Not a good sign. It's now simmering on the stove, and I will keep it in the dye bath overnight and see what happens.

One of the reasons I am fascinated by natural dyeing is that with it we can become less dependent on the chemicals. I don't use any harsh or toxic mordant or afterbath; only thing I'd use is alum and vinegar. Using things like chrome and copper, although they might produce beautiful shades, defeats the purpose of natural dyeing, in my opinion.

The more I learn, the more I gravitate towards organics -- fibers included. This gets me more motivated about attending the Summer Intensive at Golden Gate Fiber Institute. Judith McKenzie McCuin are famous as a organic fiber advocate.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Summer Camp Plans

It's been cold here. I saw some fascinating ice patterns on the windshield Monday morning. It was all over the window glass, and I almost hated for it to melt away. It was beautiful.

Back to spinning alpaca. Decided to make thin rolags using a knitting needle -- kind of making a cotton candy off the hand carder. The looser the roll is, the easier to draft.

It reminds me of the cat hairballs! Unfortunate association for the beautiful alpaca.

Lots of carding and picking the second cuts, so the spinning is slow going, but I'm enjoying it. I'm waiting for it to speak to me so I can decide what to knit with it...

I've been contemplating on attending the Summer Intensive at Golden Gate Fiber Institute. It's close, and it's this summer when I should be on sabbatical. I really wanted to attend SOAR in the fall but it's in Pennsylvania this year, and it really isn't very convenient.

I think this is the first such event for the Golden Gate Fiber Institute (which is a fairly new organization), so I don't know what this is going to be like -- how big will a class be? How many attendees? Would I be too much of a newbie for such events? And the biggest question is -- would I really enjoy it?

See, I know that the Designated Knitters and other friends of mine would laugh, but in fact I am an introvert, to the extreme. I am terrible at socializing and making a small talk. I'd hate to end up sitting all by myself.

So, I'm hoping that someone who's also considering would find me through a Google search or something, and contact me -- Anyone?

The teachers for the intensive are amazing. Sara Lamb, Judith Mackenzie McCuin, Nancy Bush, Darlene Hayes, etc -- the only thing that seemed a bit disappointing is the lodging. If I were to take a plunge and enroll in such a course, I'd love to stay at a nice, relaxing retreat-like setting, not at a YMCA camp with bunk beds!

But -- what a treat it would be!

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Here in Northern California, we've been hit by the storm of the season. It came early Friday morning, and I woke up to find a huge limb of the palm tree fallen down on my persimmon tree! We all knew about this storm was coming, so I got up early, took shower, got dressed and fed the family before we lost the power -- and as soon as I finished my first cup of coffee, at 8:52 am, the power went out.

We've lived in this house for ten years, and we were informed when we moved in that we were on the same power grid as the fire station, so our power should never be out for more than a few minutes. It had been right, until this time.

We thought we were prepared. Sure, we had lots of batteries, flashlights, a radio, food and water. But I never thought keeping ourselves warm and illuminated in the middle of the winter was this difficult. The small fireplace was not enough to warm up the house. We had no lanterns, and it turns out that Charlie's allergic to whatever the burning candles put out in the air, so that didn't help either -- in the process of surviving the storm and the long power outage, I realized how vulnerable we really are, and how totally dependent we are on the electricity. When we lose the power of "there will be light when we flip switches," we are lost.

Another finding was how quickly I switch myself into the "survival mode." I dress in warm layers in the most comfortable and practical way possible, no colors in consideration! I put no makeups (because I may not be able to take them off). We went to the mall today to keep ourselves warm, and I sure didn't want to be seen by our coworkers!

Well into the second night with no power, we were bracing ourselves into another cold night and Sunday, then it came back -- Mitch just went running around all over the house screaming "We have power! We have power!!" for five minutes. As soon as the heater started running, we felt much warmer, although there was no change in the temperature yet. It's all in our heads, I know.

Mitch fared the ordeal much better than we could have ever imagined, and we all found some fun in all this -- Mitch's favorite was called "Aflac," making a duck shadow with hands with the flashlight, with quack-quack of course. I came to appreciate almost two full nights of no TV, sitting by the fireplace, just talking and enjoying each others' company. Charlie and I talked that maybe we should do this once a month -- turn off all the lights and pretend that we had no power. (But, with the heat on)

As soon as our lives return normal, we are going to look into better preparing ourselves for events like this. As much as I am heartbroken, if the only damage is my persimmon tree (that Charlie got for me in September), we should consider ourselves fortunate. There are families that have to survive the whole winter without homes -- imagine how difficult it must be. We only lost power for a day and a half, and it was plenty hard.

I hope that you are OK, and that those who were affected by this storm will recover soon. Well, I'm back to my vacation -- my last day. I am going to knit!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year (and the last-minute struggles)

Happy New 2008! Can't believe it's already 8 years into the "new millennium!" I still remember the Y2K craze (in so many ways -- I'm in the "hi-tech" industry) like yesterday.

We've been off since the 22nd, but not doing much every day and sitting around the house has caught up with us -- well, with me, at least. I felt like we needed to go somewhere, do something, before the Christmas break ends. This is the only time of the year we all get the time off for so long, without running around to make everyone's schedule match. I really wanted to take advantage of it -- so, I made a reservation of a motel just night before and left to a short two-day trip to the Gold Country, Grass Valley, hoping to see some snow. Our 4 1/2 yo son had never seen the snow.

I knew (from various fiber related blogs) that it snowed on the Christmas day in Grass Valley, but of course there's nothing left in town. And being Sunday, the yarn store is closed (bad planning!). Yarn store in Nevada City had been converted to a flower shop, unless we were not reading the address right. Mitch was bouncing off everything so going into antique stores was not very safe. So nothing was accomplished on the shopping side.

Next day we went up Rt 49 for just few miles (as we were told the night before at Swiss House Restaurant -- great food!), the forest ground we could see from the road was still white. It really wasn't much, but enough to declare an instant snowball fight!

The only time the mittens from the last winter get worn this year, I'm sure, with much appreciation.

Mitch just didn't want to leave, and at the end we had to carry him into the car. "Can I bring some snow home?" Now it looks like we need to make another trip to see the real new snow, not this icy leftover from a week ago.

The vest is done, but I'm not sure how much use this is going to get.

The main solid gray part is knitted with a chunky wool 100% yarn I brought from Japan when I moved to the US, and it's at least 22 years old. It's almost an antique. The front panels in white/gray are done with a strand of Rowan Cocoon (white) and a strand of Natural Shetland from Elemental Affects (gray) held together. It's hard to see, but the panels have cable patterns.

(still hard to see)

For one thing, I thought I sized it so he would wear it for at least two winters. From the rate he's been growing, it'll be too small in three months. And he's not going to wear it unless I force him to; he's always been a cotton shirt boy, and he wears nothing else, no matter how cold. In the worst of our winter, he would wear a short-sleeve T over a long-sleeve T, that's it. I had to use the secret weapon ("I will not take you to Erin's house if you don't wear this for me" tactics) to have him pose in it.

I still have to put the zipper in the front, but at this point I'm wondering if it's worth the effort. Sigh. Okay, this may be the last piece I'd ever knit for you, unappreciative son of mine.

This is pretty much all I did, other than some Alpaca spinning, during this break. I should get ready to go back to my "normal" routine, including some knitting and spinning for myself.

Happy New Year everyone -- I hope the new year is filled with peace, good health, and beautiful fibers!