Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FOs - in a big way!

Yesterday I finished two projects. I think thats some kind of personal record!

Here is mom's sweater:

And a detail:

I'm really happy with how it turned out. When it comes to knitting sweaters, even if you are using an established pattern, you sometimes have doubts. It can be extremely hard to visualize the whole thing coming together, even as you're knitting it. I had those moments - it helped when I showed her the yarn and she loved it - but I didn't really know if it would turn out feminine enough. But I think it looks great. The garter stitch collar and button bands (thanks, EZ!) are perfect. I was worried that adding another stitch would confuse things, but actually I knit a little ribbed edging sample, layed it down, and it made it more confusing. I think the garter stitch adds a nice sort of nature-y quality to it. I can't wait to give it to her!

Oh, and don't you love the buttons? Again, I had some doubts, but I think they look nice. They're not the perfect buttons, but they look pretty darn good, if you ask me.

And here are the Jaywalkers:

This is a horrible photo and frankly, I think that yarn is UG-LEE. It looks better knitted up than it did in the skein. I think the red and brown are my problem, and they are the main colors by far. Anyway, who knows who this will be for...just taking some emergency extra gifts and I'll see if I'm moved to give them to someone on Christmas Eve, my traditional wrapping day.

So, this will probably be it for me for a while. We're off to Michigan for a few days and I'm unlikely to do any posting since I don't have to work.

Lets hope that my next post will be as a weaver...

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quick lil' update

Finished the sleeves for mom's sweater on Monday night (after not getting a seat on the train neither to nor from work!) and blocked them yesterday. Hooray! Now this weekend, we're supposed to get a big ol' storm and I hope to be on my couch with a glass of wine, seaming the pieces and knitting on the collar and button bands.

Yesterday, after blocking, I finished my jaywalkers. I still have to graft the toes, but they're done.

Then I started Monkey with ShibuiKnits Sock in a lovely blue. I am going to be SO SICK of knitting socks after Christmas...I hope I get some sock enthusiasm back for the big first shipment of the rockin' sock club!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sorry blog, I've been busy on ravelry...

Yep, thats my one and only explanation for not being here. I've been spending all my time on ravelry. If you knit or crochet, you should too! Its the best - still a waiting list, but sign up now and you'll be on within weeks. And trust me, its even better than you can imagine!

But enough about that (although you can now see my projects there...). Yesterday, I finished, as in totally finished, the tote bag for my aunt. It had been knitted and felted, and now its decorated and I could give it to her now if she was here! The proof:

Thats the front. And the back:

Adorable, right? This was my first experience needle felting and it was so much fun! I really had no idea it would be so easy and fast and fun. I bought the Clover needle felting tool and mat:

(photo from Betz White, whose blog will make you want to start felting NOW)
And I bought some black roving from new fave Paradise Fibers. Since this was my first time needle felting, I bought stuff that was sold in that section of the online shop; I didn't know you could use any ol' roving. So I bought 8 freaking ounces of this stuff, and didn't even use 1 whole ounce in felting! More like 1/16 of an ounce. I tried to spin it, but it did not go well. Ugh, it looked awful. Don't know if thats me, the roving or my spindle (which I'm beginning to suspect wasn't the best choice for a beginner...).

Anyway, the score is the first three bars of "Simple Gifts' since my aunt sang that at my wedding. I drew the notes and things on with a black sharpie (since it would blend into the notes anyway) and then just pulled off bits of roving, twisted it a bit, and then punched away. The whole thing took me maybe half an hour and it was really great fun. And it looks so cute!

To spin that black roving, I took off the undyed white I had on my spindle. I had used all that fiber up anyway and had to wind it. So I skeined it (sort of) and was surprised at how much yarn I had made! I do wonder if it has too much twist in it; going to have to get a shot of it and ask one of the spindling groups on ravelry. In the meantime, though, when I go back to MI for the holidays, my mom and I are going to Heritage Spinning and I intend to buy a basic, lighter drop spindle and see if I don't improve. I'm still very much in the slubby stage.

Mom's sweater is close to being done. I'm shaping the sleeve cap so I should be blocking the sleeves before the week is over. It would be so great to get the whole thing seamed this weekend. It didn't help that I had to come into work early this morning and the train was so crowded and I just had the worst luck in not getting a seat. So I knit only one lousy row. The nice thing about shaping the sleeve cap is its getting smaller and smaller - unlike the main part of the sleeve that gets bigger and bigger!

Monday, December 3, 2007

We're blocking!

So, the wedding was great fun, though not the most relaxing couple of days off I've ever taken. My knitting did suffer a bit for it (I went the entire wedding day without knitting a stitch!), but I managed to cast off for the first sleeve Saturday. That really makes me feel like the end is in sight and I'm starting to contemplate neckline options. But for now, the fronts and back have been blocked and I can prove it!

You will perchance to notice my oh-so-professional blocking set up. One dollar store plastic tablecloth with fabric back (the kind that makes a good design board for quilting) placed to protect my dining table covered by one woven hippie blanket that I've had since college to pin into. If anyone wants to buy me a blocking board and wires for Christmas, it will be most welcome. (Hey, it worked for the swift and ballwinder for my birthday!)
I soaked the pieces in the bathtub with some shampoo (I don't even know where to buy Eucalan in this city) and was shocked at how much dye came out (the yarn, you may recall, is Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool). The water was like ocean blue. But the pieces don't seem to have suffered for it. Then I pinned them out and much to my surprise, they were pretty much dry this morning.
Now I'm on fire to finish the other sleeve and start seaming. I don't hate seaming (don't hate me, fellow knitters) and I'm especially pleased with the results since I bought Knit Klips. If you don't have them, get them - they make an enormous difference.
Being antsy to finish the second sleeve, I was not thrilled to walk to the train this morning and discover it was having problems. This, of course, means that the trains will be packed - when they do actually show up - and that I won't get any knitting done. I wedged myself on to the second train that came and got a seat in a few stops. Due to the problems, the train was running really slow - I was 45 minutes later to work than usual - but got lots of knitting done. I kept thinking, imagine how pissed I'd be if I hadn't gotten this seat and was wasting all this time not knitting. Pretty lucky for a monday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ravelry is all that!

I seized my time eating my lunch to play a teensy bit on ravelry. It is the BOMB! Sign up immediately - even if you're a loner. Thank goodness this is happening in my off season for work...

I'm on Ravelry!

Yes, the invite came today. Hooray! Being part of a cyber knitting community doesn't not make me a lone knitter though. Unfortunately, I don't have much time to explore it today - I am on my way to the Jers for my good friend's wedding. The sashes are done, the dress has been hemmed, the $50 convertible bra is packed, and I'm leaving soon for two and a half days of super girly stuff (including but not limited to a spray tan, manicure, hair appointment, and champagne consumption - things I never do, except for champagne consumption). I've never been a bridesmaid before, so it is quite an honor and very exciting, but also very expensive. Wow, is it expensive.

So, I'm glorypea on Ravelry. And of course, if you haven't received your invite yet, don't worry - it will come! Mine took about two weeks or so, I guess.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I blame it on Rhinebeck

I don't think I would have even considered learning to spin (being a lone knitter) if it weren't for Rhinebeck. Honestly, you see at least as much roving as yarn among vendors - if not more. And I LOVE naturally colored, undyed yarns (I love dyed yarns too, but since most of my and my man's wardrobe is black, brown and grey - sheep colors, all - I like the idea of wearing just what the sheep wore), and these fibers are abundant as roving but not so much as finished yarn.
I hadn't thought much about spinning ever, though the man sort of encouraged me to spin after watching the movie Gandhi, who spun the yarn for the cloth he wore:

My first year, I bought some roving and got instructions on making a CD drop spindle, which sat in my stash trunk for a year, mostly because I never got around to making the spindle. Then I found the $20 from my Grandma and decided to buy a nice drop spindle with it this year.
I've been messing around with my spindle since Rhinbeck which was just a little over a month ago, but it has just started to click within the last 10 days or so. It really did just take practice and experimenting with different ways to hold the yarn. Its not at all diffifcult, but it does take some getting used to. Now, I'm not a master (mistress?) of the drop spindle by any stretch of the imagination, but I have begun to really enjoy using it. I've almost used up the merino top I bought last year, and with my order from Paradise Fibers, I bought olive merino and grey Icelandic fiber. And I have nearly half a pound of naturally colored black wool that I didn't want to waste on learning attempts. Now that I'm close to consistent, I can start to spin it! I'm going to spin all of my fiber from last year first, though.
I'm a control freak, but I had never felt too much like controlling the yarns I knit with, because I knit with basic, simple yarns. But spinning does open up many more possibilities, especially among natural colors. And it has given me a sort of reverence for wool. That stuff is amazing. Its so satisfying when you see the twist go up into the draft, or when the twist takes in a new end of fiber. And I think its good to think of yarn as something more than a product that you just go to the store and buy.
Beginning to think about buying a spinning wheel - but still want a loom first. Then, once I have those things - move out of this city and get me some sheep!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving cut flowers

I love, love, love to arrange flowers - but I tend to like the weird, expensive stuff, so its an indulgence I only allow myself for guests and holidays. Of course I get to do a lot of arranging on the company's dolllar, but then you're working within the limitations of the project. So I went down to the flower district (28th street between 6th and 7th, if you've never visited) and splurged small-time today. I wanted to do orange and dark green, but I didn't see anything I loved in those colors. What I really wanted was sandersonia:

but I didn't see any. I love this flower and used it in my wedding centerpieces.

When I'm not looking for something specific for work, I only shop at two stores there for cut flowers: Dutch Flower Line and Fischer and Page. Fischer and Page was jam packed with non-professionals (no offense, but the market is too crazy for people who don't know the protocol to be standing around and hemming and hawing about stuff) and besides, most of their stuff looked really bad. Dutch Flower Line is my favorite - 9 times out of 10, they have by far the nicest stuff in the market, and that one time, then their stuff is just as good as everyone else's. Its never a mob scene, they have a peerless selection of roses (doesn't really affect me, usually, I rarely use roses for personal arranging), and normally, a good selection of everything else.

I was struck by the number of peonies in the market this morning. Peonies in November? Just seems odd. Anyway, there was no sandersonia and actually, very little orange. So I ended up going with a yellow and green theme instead (my table and tablecloth are green and green is my favorite color anyway). Here is what I bought:

yellow Leucospermum ("pincushion" in floral speak)

Yellow Achillea/yarrow

This lovely pale yellow Eustoma (still called Lisianthus in floral speak, but botanically it is Eustoma and I like saying Eustoma better than Lisianthus)
And then I got lots of foliage, because I'm a sucker for all these beautiful textures:

Glorious, lush crested polypodium!

a finely dissected fern - I think its an Asplenium but I don't know
And then two little bunches of this gorgeous moss with long stems, they call it musgo but I don't know its botanical name and hence I can't locate an image of it.

As much as I'd like to spend the day futzing with arrangments, I have tons to do when I get home so I can't get too bogged down with them. I'll try to remember to take a photo.

And my order from Paradise Fibers came in! I can start my needle felting and play with my new spinning fibers...but instead I have to sew the sashes and hem my bridesmaid dress because the wedding is a week from Friday.

But one thing at a time - big Thanksgiving dinner first. Hope everyone has a lovely, painless holiday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving with the control freak

Um, yeah, that would be me. We gardeners have a reputation for being control freaks and I am no exception. This year, after many years of dining at other people's houses, I am FINALLY hosting Thanksgiving again.

Actually, the last two years in a row, we had dinner at a friend's house and they don't like to cook much, so I did most of the cooking. But that still not the same as having your own dinner where you have no other dishes to work around and are in complete control of the menu. I hate sweet sweet potato dishes - the marshmallow casseroles, those dishes that require brown sugar and pecans - and so at last, there will be none of that.

We're having seven people total, which is perfect for our space and equipment. I have nine dinner plates, and my beautiful flatware:

is a service for 8. So thank goodness the other two people who I thought were coming (and the reason that I bought an 18 pound turkey!) are no longer joining us. Thankfully, work is only half a day tomorrow, which gives me time to come home, arrange the flowers, set the table and get a few things made tomorrow night.

My dinner menu, if you are interested:
cocktail of home infused damson plum vodka
cider braised chorizo on smoked cheddar corn cakes

Turkey (an 18 pounder from Dines Farms. It is naturally raised and was (gulp) $63.50 - an amount I gladly paid for a turkey that could have flown to my house and at least lived a decent life before he was killed just three days ago. My man, however, choked a bit when I shelled out the cash.)
Gravy (making this make-ahead gravy recipe. I made chicken with 40 cloves of garlic for dinner on sunday, then used those drippings, the carcass, the wings and one leftover thigh, along with carrots, celery and onions, to make a stock. It turned out really delicious, the best stock I've ever made, thats for sure. Using roasted meat and bones makes a HUGE difference.)
Stuffing (more on this below)
Granny's Crannys (a basic, raw cranberry and orange relish. Both my grandmother and I loved it though no one else did. I could never, ever have a thanksgiving without it, and when I make it, I think of how wonderful my grandma was and how much I loved her. Awwww.....this silly name was given to the dish by a friend who hosted thanksgiving. She made it up when I brought over this dish.)
Brussels sprouts salad from Everyday Food November issue
Sweet potatoes with miso-scallion butter from Serious Eats. Not only does this sound delicious, but one of my guests is Japanese and I thought it was a nice way to put a familiar flavor on the table.
Rolls (I always use the milk bread pompoms from Joy of Cooking. Turns out great - slightly sweet - and makes great mini turkey sandwiches if there are any leftovers. But there rarely are.)
Spinach casserole (a dish I made to take to a friend's with limited oven space - turned out so great and can be made ahead...I use this recipe but I'm adding an additional package of spinach.)

For dessert:
Pumpkin pie, of course! I just use the regular canned pumpkin from the supermarket, but I do make my own crust. I use Mark Bittman's recipe from How To Cook Everything. I do it in a tiny little food processor and it turns out great - if you think you are a pie-making dunce, try it. The food processor does all the work without heating up the butter (did I mention I refuse to use shortening?).
Fleur de Sel pralines from the December issue of MS Living.

I have my list with all the timing all figured out on it. Dinner isn't til 5 pm, so I don't even have to get up too early.

May I discuss stuffing? Of course I may - its my blog and no one is reading anyway! I never liked my mom's stuffing. It had big pieces of celery in it which were so unpleasant to bite into. I adore the flavor of celery, but don't necessarily like biting into it. She also used all dried herbs, many of which were no doubt past their prime. I love my mom more than anything, but never loved that stuffing. So the first year I made Thanksgiving on my own, I researched stuffing (or dressing, whatever you want to call it) thoroughly and started my own recipe. Its very, very simple and utterly delicious. I have tried fancy gourmet versions throughout the years but when I do, I always miss my classic. Here's what I do:

A few days before, cut loaves of bakery bread (NOT sliced, packaged bread) into 1/2-1" cubes and let them set out to get stale and firm. Depending on your turkey poundage (and if you are stuffing it - I always do. To hell with food safety recommendations. I check my stuffing temperature anyways), you'll need 10-16 cups (like two large loaves). On Thanksgiving morning, I cut up about every possible incarnation of an onion (shallots, leeks (which came from our CSA this year - yay!), red onions, yellow onions, white onions, pearl onions, scallions, garlic) and sweat them in ample butter (maybe a stick?) until it smells so good that you can't believe it. Then I dump that into the bread cubes and mix thoroughly. Then I moisten it with wine and/or stock (often, when I do this for roast chicken, I use beer, and its often Coors Light - which adds a really lovely flavor, believe it or not. Try it!). It should just barely hold together when you squeeze a bit. It definitely should not drip liquid. Then I stuff away - I usually end up baking some on the side too, because there is often too much and you don't want to stuff your turkey too tightly.

Did you know that they lowered the minimum temperature for a turkey to finish cooking? Well, they did - its now 165 degrees. So don't over cook it! Here is lots of helpful information on cooking your turkey.

Wonderful world of wool

Blogger gave me trouble posting photos, so I guess I avoided blogging for a while. But that doesn't mean things haven't been happening.
Here are before and after pictures of my felted bag for my aunt. The yarn is Valley Yarns Berkshire from my most favorite online yarn store, Webs. The pattern is my own, and I'm happy to post it if someone is interested (out of the zero people who read this blog), but its nothing that any knitter familiar with basics couldn't figure out herself. Now, before felting:

And after felting:

You should be able to see the "jogs" that I have in the stripes...thats because I did phoney seams at each of the four corners of the base rectangle in an effort to make the sides more gussetty (not that thats a word...). It didn't make enough of a difference to do again, especially if you are working with stripes.
As I said in a previous post, the first time in the washer it barely felted at all. We had it in there with towels. Then the second time, we put it in with jeans and then left the house...not something I would do again if I were felting, but it was okay, as you can see. To dry, I stretched it over the tote bag that I had used as a basis for the proportions of this bag, which worked out great. The handles and top hem are done in seed stitch which didn't felt quite as much as the stockinette. If I haven't said so, the stripes are actually a musical staff and I am adding notes to them.

I have ordered a needle felting tool and mat and some fiber from the marvelous, wonderful, new-to-me Paradise Fibers which should be arriving today or tomorrow. Then, I will needle felt the "notes" on to the "staff". My plan is to draw the notes on the bar with one of those blue ink disappearing marker things and then felt within those outlines. I've never done this before, so if anyone happens to read this and has some advice to offer, please do. I am felting the notes for the Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts", which my aunt sang beautifully at my wedding. I guess I'll get the first two or three bars in.

The news in other projects:
I abandoned the world's ugliest sock. It was just too ugly, too small and I was hating it too much to make it worth continuing. I think I have a confession: I don't like tofutsies. I mean, I hated the name since the first time I read it, but also I just don't like its colors, its fineness, and I don't like the way it knits up. I am still going to try the green and white colorway I bought, but that yellow/blue/grey one was just blech. And who really cares if it has crabshells in it????
So instead, I started a Jaywalker sock with Great Adirondack Silky Sock, colorway "Fire". The yarn looks totally weird in the ball - A LOT of brown (which is my taste, but keep reading), with red, electric blue, purple and bits of other colors. Its for a gift, so I just picked the color sort of randomly. Fortunately, though, it looks GREAT. Jaywalker is an AWESOME pattern - rewarding but basic, a little something to keep you interested without comandeering your entire brain. I just started decreasing for the toe this morning during Spongebob.
Still plugging away on Mom's sweater...life has been kinda hectic lately, so not much has gotten worked on.
And the biggest news is I think I have had a minor revelation with the drop spindle. I'm finally starting to get a good, consistent, fine yarn. I do enjoy it very much, but I definitely lack the grace that experienced spinners have with a drop spindle. It would probably be so much easier with a wheel, but of course I'd rather have a loom than a wheel - the loom can make excellent use of drop spindle yarn, even singles! I have been spinning merino top which has been great. But in my order from Paradise Fibers I ordered some Icelandic (in honor of EZ, I suppose) and some olive green merino.
And I literally dreamed about weaving over the weekend. I was trying to wind my finished work on the beam but it was coming all loose. I was weaving something yellow. I wasn't upset or stressed out about it. I really want a loom. Oh geeze.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weaving on the brain

I just got this book:

Thats Hands On Rigid Heddle Weaving by Betty Linn Davenport. And what this means is that my loom lust is getting much stronger! I wish I were weaving RIGHT NOW!

I've only skimmed the book (I am at work, after all, and do have stuff to do - and I don't want to just devour it all at once) but it looks like a great starting point and just in skimming it I've already learned more.

The best way for this to happen is for someone to give me the loom as a gift, so the man can't complain - if I try to buy one myself, it could be a problem...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Progress, of sorts

So to make up for the depressing sadness of yesterday's post (sorry about that, but it really did make me feel better!), lets talk about being productive.

On mom's sweater, I've finished one front and am working the ribbing for the second. The stitch pattern is becoming second nature - not that I'm getting rid of my little piece of paper anytime soon, but I have acheived that understanding of the pattern where I don't need to be constantly double checking it.

My ugly tofutsies sock got ripped and since I feel like I've been spending too much time on it, I just picked a mock cable stitch pattern to use on it and got back to work (I didn't even rip the ribbing - just increased a couple more stitches on the first pattern round!). I worked the heel flap last night. Still ugly. Plus, I worked on it in the dark at a lecture last week and made a few mistakes but I'm shouldering through anyway. After all, its not like these socks are for my mom or anything.

I'd really like to post my photos, but blogger still won't let me. Grrrr.

One important development I haven't discussed is that I bought a drop spindle at Rhinebeck!

When we were moving last winter, I was cleaning out this mail organizer thing we had (that was far from organized) and I found a birthday card from my beloved Grandmother who passed away in 2006. I opened it up, and what should come floating out but two crisp ten dollar bills. How sweet! So I was determined to spend it on something special, and I decided to buy a drop spindle. It cost more than $20, unfortunately, but whatever.

So I have been sorta practicing. I mean, I have been trying. And while its not technically difficult in any way, I surely do suck at it. Even if I could post photographs, I wouldn't post one of my attempts because a) I don't have photos of them and b) its just way too embarassing!

I really hate not being good at things (guess its a Leo trait) but I am sticking with it because I do believe that its just a matter of practice. I mean, I AM making yarn - its just really, really uneven. I can't even decide which hands to use for what, I keep switching off hoping it will click with one of them and its not. But, I tell myself, knitting well took time too.

You know what they say, though - if at first you don't succeed....

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

And I'm a loner, too. Did I mention that?

Have you ever had a day where you get depressed because you feel like you don't fit in anywhere, with anyone? I'm totally having one of those days, which I actually do with increasing frequency at work.
I'm not cool. I've never been cool and never will be. If I ever have kids, they will no doubt be doomed to the same life of uncoolness that I lived while I was in school (I always thought that coolness was inherited back then). But sometimes, especially at this job (and in this city, for that matter), I just feel like a big ugly black sheep (wouldn't mind getting a hold of some of that roving!). There is definitely an "in" crowd here and I know I'm not part of it and that I never will be, no matter how long I work here.
Its not that I don't reach out to coworkers, I do. Its just that it doesn't stick. I think people think I'm weird or maybe I'm one of those people who are hard to read. I am shy and I dislike small talk, and those two things don't help. Sometimes its just hard to know that I'll never be one of those people that everybody likes.
My class in horticulture school was really small and over the course of the two years, we spent a lot of time together. This one guy who was always goofing around and teasing (in a good, nice, friendly way, not in a mean schoolyard way!) was just never like that with me, even though he was with all the other girls. One day, totally unprompted, he said to me, "I just have too much respect for you to act like that toward you" which I thought was strange. Do I hold my head too high?
I'm not trying to be self-pitying, although that may be what it sounds like. And in fact, I feel better already than I did when I sat down to write this. Sometimes just getting it off your chest, even if no one is listening (or especially if no one is listening!) is all you need to readjust.

But that brings me to the loner part, which I have been thinking about writing about anyway.

I am a lone knitter. I don't have any friends who knit or are interested in yarn or fibers or spinning or anything, except maybe my mom. I don't go to any knitting circles. I visited this place once. It was pouring rain, and I thought it would be nice to go sit and knit somewhere warm and friendly. But it was about the unfriendliest, cliquey-ist place I've been since high school (and I had this job at that time too!). I left in tears and walked through the West Village in the rain crying, so unwelcome did I feel.
But I digress.
The lone knitter thing - well, I taught myself to knit out of a book. I prefer to learn things myself, alone.
It just seems odd, you know, given the tremendous knitting community online, that I still knit alone. It seems like every girl out there with a knitting blog has oodles of friends that they knit with and go yarn shopping with.
I don't necessarily want to be like that, its just that it makes me feel like...a loner. Which I've always been, and I'm happy that way, and even if I had knitting friends I'd probably still be mostly a loner because I'm happiest at home with the man and my rabbit.

So apparently, I'm a loser, too.

Ever hear Bob Dylan's version of the song, Creep, by Radiohead? Its so amazing and he sounds so much more like a creep than the singer of the original. In fact, I don't even know for sure if it IS Dylan, because the man just downloaded it years ago. It sounds like Dylan but it could be an imitation - anyway, perfect music for today.

Although - I'm already feeling sooooooo much better!

Monday, November 5, 2007


Yeah, I might as well just come out and say it.

But don't say I didn't warn you...

I am now a member of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin' Sock Club.

Just got my email confirmation. I am one of the chosen few now and dang I feel good about myself...

With these kind of prices for sock yarn, many of them will be gifts. Its like spreading your Christmas knitting throughout the year.

Sure hope all the girls like the socks I'm knitting for them this year!

And really, I am eager to see what all the fuss is about.

Sewing six sexy silky sashes

I finally have pictures and blogger won't let me post them! That will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, its occurred to me that I've never posted about sewing before and I did a little sewing prep this past weekend.

My dear friend whose wedding is just weeks away, asked me to sew sashes for the bridesmaid dresses (since I am a bridesmaid, this is a reasonable request). The dresses are irridescent taffeta and she wanted a shiny fabric for the sash for contrast, and those were discontinued. So she and I went fabric shopping and bought some lovely brick red rayon satin at New York Elegant Fabrics (on West 40th, between Broadway or Seventh and 8th Avenue).

I measured the sash that was offered at the store - 4" wide by 94" long. Though theirs was two halves sewn together in the middle, I figured if we bought 3 yards (108") of 54" fabric, I could cut them all in continuous lengths, fold in half, leave a spot to turn, then handsew.

I cut the sashes on Friday afternoon. As previously stated, I live in an apartment and don't have even remotely decent facilities for doing this kind of work - but that doesn't stop any crafter worth her salt. It just kills her back. Working on my dining room table (too short, hence the back-killing comment), I laid out the fabric and used a nice 24"x6" clear grid quilting ruler to measure. Since I wanted the sashes to end up at 4" and I'm using slippery rayon fabric, I allowed for 1/2" seam allowances which I will trim (probably).

Have I mentioned I don't have an ironing board? Well, I don't. So it was a great joy to switch back and forth between an old blanket for ironing and my cutting mat.

I measured the width of each sash and since I'm using the full length of the fabric, I'm off the hook there. Working away from myself, I folded the edge nearest me upward 4.5". Then I sprayed the fold and pressed in the crease so that the fabric would stay more or less together while I cut. I did this along the whole length and then switched to the cutting mat.

With a fresh new blade in the rotary cutter and the handy quilting ruler, I rotary cut the entire length, opposite the fold of course. Then I repeated five more times...it took three hours! And some of the sashes have iron marks in them - just dots from the plate. Weird. But I have a fancy pants steamer that I've not used and I think once they're sewn, the dots will steam out (I mean, I HOPE the dots will steam out).

Tomorrow, I have to go buy matching thread (I have a lot of thread, but the fabric is a very unique color and since I will have to handsew the turning pocket, I want it to match perfectly. Or maybe I'll use stich witchery. :) It is getting close, and all weekends leading up the wedding are pretty much booked...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Love sick

Perhaps that should read "loom sick". Because I am being driven half mad with lust for a loom.

At Rhinebeck (I have pictures, but I keep forgetting to bring in my card), I tried the Saori loom. I tried it last year too, but this year I spent much more time and the wonderful, sweet lady from Loop of the Loom spend lots more time with me, showing me some different techniques, like scooping, which results in something like this:

That is by someone named Coco Hirunagi and is part of an exhibition of a weaving class, though it wasn't done on a Saori - you can see the rest of the class's work here if you're interested. I'm showing it only to demonstrate how, in weaving, a simple technique can be used to amazing effect.
Anyway, Saori makes the lovely, fantastic SX601:

It may look like a complex loom, but it is designed to be simple to use. It is absolutely gorgeous and it has a built in bobbin winder and it folds to be marvelously compact, which she demonstrated for me. I had woven something I thought was really quite beautiful and was all geeked up about it, but somehow the man was nowhere around to see how small it folds up (with project still warped and everything). I LOVE this loom and I LOVE the Saori philosophy of weaving for everybody and I love the allowance for pure creativity. It is a bargain, actually, at $1290.
So I dreamed about Saori all that weekend and would still love to get one, but reason has set in (a bit) and I think that perhaps a rigid heddle loom, the Kromski Harp, would be a better place to start:

The 32" is a mere $219 and while much more conventional than Saori, you can still be as free form and creative with it as you'd like (well, once its warped, anyway).
I have been trying to research it online and frankly, if there is a big rigid heddle weaving community out there, they don't have a strong presence on the internet. Nothing even close to the knitting community. Part of my rationale in choosing the Harp is that it is an inexpensive place to start, it FOLDS with the project still attached, and the built in warping board could still be useful even if I outgrow a rigid heddle.
I think it would be a long time before I outgrew a rigid heddle, though, because I talked to a guy weaving on a huge Louet floor loom at Rhinebeck and it was interesting, but I am definitely not interested in making fabric that looks like it could have been machine made (yeah, I know, a loom IS a machine, but I mean I want to see the human hand in the product and I don't think you really could in his super fancy complex cloth). I want to use up yarn ends and fabric scraps, play with different fibers and colors and just make interesting things. I'd love to weave rugs, especially.
The man swears he's behind my weaving lust but he is pretty dead-set against me getting a loom. He swears we don't have enough space (we do). He's also worried I'll never knit him anything again, which is crazy because its not like you can take the loom with you on the subway and on vacation, so I will still knit every day, even with a loom. He had a color class in undergrad and the professor told them that weaving is sort of the ultimate color experience, and that color sense is "in the fingers". Maybe he is afraid of loving weaving too.
But if I get the regular check from the in-laws for Christmas, I really think I NEED to get the Kromski Harp. So please, weavers, if you somehow stumble across my blog, PLEASE tell me your advice on my loom dilemma and any experience you have with the Harp or Saori.

So, now that I have confessed, on to the knitting.
We were just in Michigan for a friend's wedding and I went to my mom's and felted the bag for my Aunt. The first go-round, it barely felted at all. The second time, we reduced the load size on the washer and threw in a pair of jeans. Then we went to the bank. Which, in retrospect, maybe was a bit risky, but I figured since it barely felted at all the first time, it was okay. When we got back, it had definitely felted! Not too small, actually. A bit too small, but that was probably my fault for not being able to felt the swatch and predict how much it would shrink, because I was happy with the amount of felting. The handles, which I did in seed stitch, didn't felt as much as I would have liked and there was quite a lot of fiber migration but all in all, I'm happy with it. Especially since it dried, because when it was wet, it smelled terrible. I have before and after pictures, just need to remember to bring the card in.
I have finished the back of my mom's sweater and am started on one of the fronts. I took a chance and showed her the yarn while we were in MI - just the yarn, not anything I'd knitted with it, just to see what she'd say about it.
And she loved it! Totally loved it! And not just in an, oh, thats pretty way - in a wow, I love that color! way. So that was a relief.
Finally, I am working on the world's ugliest sock. It is in Tofutsies which is fine to work with, but the colors in this sock totally make me want to barf. And its turning out really small. But all that is fine, because the person it is for likes barfy colors and is really small. So I'm chugging along on it and choking back my, um, reaction to the colors.

Happy halloween! Not that we're doing anything. I think there is some kind of haunted house in my neighborhood. Its probably for kids, but maybe we'll check it out.

The sad thing is - today is one year since we left for our honeymoon in Japan. I wish we were leaving again today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

RHINEBECK!!!!!! Rhinebeck, Rhinebeck, Rhiiiiiiiine-BECK!

How excited am I for another year of the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival? SO excited! Well, me and all the other knitters who will be going.

How can someone get so excited for a sheep and wool festival? Last year was my first time going and I was excited but I was also more just curious. Now that I know where I'm headed, I'm just totally psyched (everyone at work is laughing at me, as is the man, because I've texted him "sheep and wool!!!!" more than once).

In short, its heaven for fiber lovers. You're surrounded by thousands of other fiber lovers - but even a rather devout people hater like myself can manage it without problems - and they're all wearing beautiful things that they made and they're sitting and using drop spindles and knitting and crocheting and basically loving life.

And the animals! So many darling sheep and goats (I love goats!), alpacas, bunnies...so basically its adorable fiber animals, oodles of yarn and fiber apparati, and tons of like-minded people. Its awesome. Its so awesome that even my husband is looking forward to going back. Wouldn't characterize him as excited, exactly, since that is how I am describing myself, but he really enjoyed himself and also didn't try to talk me out of yarn purchases. I actually bought very little last year but I sense more purchases this year. It can be overwhelming, though, and you may end up buying nothing in the end. Or at least, very little.

Last year, I was at this one woman's booth and she was selling Ashford rigid heddle looms when this woman and her two young sons, maybe like 10 and 12 years old, comes up and says to the woman, "Well, he says he'd rather have this than a playstation for his birthday, so we'll take one". How darling is that?

Okay, so heres some photos from last year. The man took over 400 photographs - we were testing out our new memory card before our big trip to Japan, but also he liked taking pictures. Witness:

That is my arm petting these two sheep. They were the first live animals (not that we saw dead ones...) that we saw when we entered the festival so I was super excited. The poor girl leading them couldn't get anywhere for all the people stopping her to pet the sheep!

This is me with this cute little girl. I was looking at the sheep and she said, "do you want to feed them?" and she gave me a handful of sheep chow. It was so nice.
If you were wondering, what I'm wearing is a simple cardigan/jacket made out of Colinette Point 5, the colorway is cardinal. I love that yarn but I hate knitting with bulky yarns. I wish we could get Point 3 in this country (is anyone who can do something about that listening? And if so, is my opinion worth anything?). I'm also wearing my wedding shawl as a scarf. This year, it is going to be quite warm out, so I'll be wearing rossnyev with a brand new, hot off the sewing machine matching skirt. Wish I had time to knit a matching cloche.
Here are some more great photos of fiber animals taken by the man:

I think that guy was some kind of goat.

And heres a question for you - why didn't I buy this yarn? I'm looking at it like I love it, I'm loving it now, reviewing the photo, but I didn't buy it! Was it expensive? Don't do this to yourself, if you go to Rhinebeck. Buy what you love, and buy it when you see it because someone WILL buy it (it happened to me! Not with this skein, but another):

This nice lady taught me to use a drop spindle and taught me a lot about spinning. We got instructions to make a CD drop spindle but haven't done it yet:

I'll have a report on this years festival next week. For now, only two more days!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

my delicious lunch, ugly yarn, and more!

All is well in my world. Fall finally seems to be here, thank goodness, and I just finished the most wonderful, delcious, appropriate lunch - oden at Menchanko-Tei (yes, I know it was closed by the Department of Health and that the reasons why weren't innocuous. But I love oden and theres no place else to get it around here!). It was one of those lunches that just plain hit the spot and made my whole day better. At lunch, I get the oden teishoku, and they choose the items for you. Today they gave me grilled tofu (yakidofu, and it was so good), ganmodoki (a cake made of tofu and vegetables, all chopped up and then reformed. They say they deep fry it, but it doesn't taste like it. It has a spongy texture that really soaks up the broth and it is so, so delicious!), mochi kinchaku (my absolute favorite - a mochi stuffed in a fried tofu pouch. Soft and indescribably tasty), and of course, daikon and egg. No fish cakes today! I don't know why. Of course you can order oden by the piece and make your own, but I like seeing what they serve me. To tell the truth, this is a pretty typical set. I wouldn't have minded a chikuwa fish cake in there. Here is a really cute page that describes oden ingredients.

But I digress. There is knitting to discuss.
I started swatching some sock yarns from the many types I bought for gifts, but since I didn't swatch in pattern and I'm NOT knitting all those socks plain, I guess that was mostly pretty useless. I'm on the fence about the patterns. I guess it would help to pick who is going to get which socks, so I could decide based on personality, but I haven't done that yet either.

I finished the goofy spiral scarf. Dang that yarn is ugly (Berrocco Trilogy). They have plenty of great yarns, for sure, but this one is ug-lee. But it looks nice in the spiral scarf. When you get to that 1600 stitch row, wow. Its like climbing knitting Mount Washington or something. I'm still binding off (I do a little every morning while I watch my favorite show) but it is spiralling along nicely and appropriately, resembles seaweed. Even though its blue. I think the recepient will appreciate it, though.

And mom's sweater is in full swing. I'm almost to the armholes. I've really only been working it on the subway, and considering that I have a no more than 20 minute ride, I'd say thats pretty impressive (well, I usually do two rows when I get to my desk. Can't resist). I am feeling quite uncertain about the color and the pattern. It looks beautiful, really, but I'm not getting a "my mom is going to love this" vibe from it yet. Its just the back, so I'm still plugging away. I'm actually considering showing her the swatch and getting her opinion of it when we are in MI at the end of this month. What to do, what to do? Either way, I love working the stitch pattern and the twisted stitches do go really fast.

Thats about it. I guess I'm off to look for more sock inspiration so I can do some relevant swatching tonight.

Oh, and too bad about the Yankees, right? I have my fingers crossed that Joe Torre will stay. I can't imagine having a crazy boss who only focusses on the few negative things I've done, when I've actually done so many wonderful things (like taking the team to the playoffs every year since he's been there, after his first??? Hello, Steinbrenner?????).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rossnyev update

I finished Rossnyev last night and am wearing at work today (despite the fact that its like 70 some degrees and 90% humidity outside. It IS October, right???).

Funny, finishing projects always feels sort of anti-climactic to me.

A few changes, as mentioned: made full length sleeves and just let the hems roll instead of doing it in the bramble pattern; worked one row of sc on all hems and the back of neck to prevent too much rolling.

Sorry no photo...so take my word for it, it looks great and I love it!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Time for some knitting talk

So the traveling has been great, but the knitting has been great too, and before I post about Tennessee and the final leg of our trip, let me get back to yarn play. But of course, sorry - no photos.

While travelling, I worked on the Baby Yoda Sweater. My go-to baby gift is usually the always-a-hit, everyone-loves-em Blu baby jeans, but it would appear that the entire United States is running low on Rowan Denimyarn. Webs is out (actually, correction - WAS out. Just checked and they have replenished. But since the pregnant coworker is leaving next week, no time to order, knit and wash. Nuh-Unh!) and the closest thing I have to an LYS is out, too.

So I decided on Baby Yoda. The recepient (his mother, anyway) is a good friend, but I wasn't looking to do an heirloom quality gift. Baby Yoda was perfect! I worked it in O-Wool Balance and it is cute as can be. I love that it can grow with the baby. Then I invented a little hat. Of course I use "invented" loosely - just to say that I didn't use a pattern. Its very cute but I have no idea if it will fit a baby.

Rossnyev has been poking along. I finished a sleeve, but then decided that I don't like the 3/4 length. Its a little too cutesy for me - I have other 3/4 length sleeve cardigans I do like, but it just felt a little too...I don't know. But I didn't like it, and I also feel that full length sleeves will extend its wearability season. So I'm working the second sleeve up to full length and then I will have to unravel the decorative pattern edging of the other sleeve and continue it to the same length. Fortunately, its excellent TV knitting and though I love the yarn, I'm sort of to the point where I want it done.

And I have officially embarked on my mom's sweater. Totally loving it. But then again, don't we love every project when we start it? If you don't love a project at the beginning, its going to be a long haul...and maybe likely to be a perpetual UFO. The stitch pattern I'm using is "Ribbed Leaf" from Walker vol. 2 (page 151). I've never worked a twisted stitch pattern before and I love the rhythm of it. And because the pattern appears so complicated, its extremely satisfying to work. It also pairs very nicely with 1x1 rib for the edging.

Next up is to start some of my Christmas sock knitting. Simple socks only, because mom's sweater is NOT TV knitting, and once Rossnyeve is done (hopefully soon), I'll need a new mindless project. Mom's sweater might turn into TV knitting, but even though its simple, its still a 16 stitch, 28 row repeat and I have A LOT of stitches on the needle for the back of the cardigan. Abundant opportunity for confusion. It works on the subway, but not for a good movie. It will be fine baseball-playoff knitting.

Go Yankees!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Carry me back to Old Virginia, Back to my Clinch Mountain Home

It was a four hour drive from Lexington, Kentucky to Maces Spring, Virginia. We went through the Cumberland Gap into Virginia. The scenery was lovely:

And the roads, as you can see, were positively deserted - a real treat when you are used to driving in the city with a bunch of pushy assholes (of which, admittedly, I can be one from time to time).

There isn't really all that much Carter-related to see in Maces Spring (I refuse to call it Hiltons!). Janette Carter, daughter of Sarah and A.P., began the Carter Fold which is the actual music venue. Here are the sites you can visit in Maces Spring/Hiltons:
the graves of Sarah and A.P. (is this the same Church in The Wildwood that they sang about? I don't know!)
A.P.'s store (he ran it pre-Carter Family days). This serves as the museum.
A.P.'s birthplace (a log cabin moved on site)
The Carter Fold - the big auditorium type place where they give concerts every Saturday night.
Maybelle and Eck's house is nearby, but is privately owned so you can't tour it.

Music starts at 7:30 and the other sites open around 6 p.m. - they are only open on Saturdays before the concert, so frankly there is little sense visiting any other day or time.

We pulled up to the Fold about 5:45 p.m. and were greeted by:

That little house is the store and museum. We paid our 50 cents admission and walked into a crazed jumble of memorabilia, interesting but completely disorganized and in dire need of conservation and curation. I say this only because I feel it is important enough to warrant that. I loved the sort of quirky, chock-a-block feel and the hand written labels and genuineness of it all and that shoudn't be lost - but if the items are going to last into the future, they have to be properly displayed. For example, there are huge scrapbooks full of letters people wrote to A.P. when he was sick - but they are just stuck into a folder. Lots of clothing in the display cases is moth eaten and musty. It was kind of sad and distressing, actually. If I had oodles of money, I'd donate it towards some professional curation!
The highlight of the museum for the man was A.P.'s work clothes:

We paid 50 cents to tour the cabin as well before buying our tickets to the concert.
The band playing that night was the ETSU Bluegrass Band, the only university in the country to have a four year degree in Bluegrass!
We had a while to go til the concert started, but it was already quite crowded. We couldn't sit close - some lady yelled at me for trying, which put me in a foul mood...thankfully that went away when the music started - and the venue is much, much larger than I expected. I knit, of course (a Baby Yoda sweater for my friend who is expecting) and the man took some pre-show photos. It was dark so they're bad. Do forgive.

That lower photo, thats the snack line you see there. What kind of food do they serve at the Carter Fold? An eclectic mix of nachos, hot dogs, and bean soup with a corn muffin. We ate popcorn. I couldn't help but crack wise about authentic Appalachian nachos - they did appear to be the most popular food item in the crowd.
The show started on time. Dale Jett, who is Janette's son (hence A.P. and Sarah's grandson) is a sort of MC and he played two numbers before ETSU came on. They were Carter Family songs, but I don't recall which.
Then the band came on - they were great! We were enjoying it plenty when all of the sudden, in about the third number, we heard this sound. The man described it as rain, to me it sounded like breaking glass, but like rain too - and we looked all around, wondering where it was coming from and what it was. When we looked down at the stage, we saw what it was.

It was perhaps 8-12 people, walking out in front of the stage, shaking hands and smiling at one another.
They were Appalachian clog dancing!

I absolutely cannot describe how we felt at that moment. We had tears in our eyes. Not to be overly dramatic, but really. We did. It was like all of the sudden (and I am getting tears in my eyes typing this), bluegrass wasn't something that we listened to through a box anymore - bluegrass was ALIVE, a living tradition, a vital part of people's lives, a social event, a celebration. It wasn't a CD and it was more than a performance. It was the soundtrack of that part of the country and of people's lives. It was incredibly moving and immensely entertaining. Here's a photo, except where the snack line was in the previous photo, the people here are dancing:

Alas, there were many "No Videotaping" signs posted - so no movie. But you have to go see it for yourself.
The people are blurry because they were moving so fast, but the gentleman in the blue and red and white striped shirt really tore it up, he was fantastic at it and was one of the first ones out on the floor. There is also a young guy, probably 18 or so years old, you can just see his head in a tan baseball cap who was amazing to watch. Here was this kid, decked out in baggy jeans and like a Harley t-shirt or something, doing this regional dance and doing it spectacularly. These are people who come out to the Fold most Saturdays, to see their friends and to dance. I really had no idea what kind of crowd would be there, and I don't know why I was so surprised that it would be locals.

We watched the rest of the concert in a sort of reverie. I did have a feeling similar to when I used to go to church, and there are so many people, all coming together with like minds, to celebrate something. It was definitely a spiritual experience.

The concert lasted well into the night, I guess we left at about 10:30, still on this high that we got from experiencing...I don't know exactly...American Music? American Culture? America?

We were staying in Bristol, a city on the border of Tennessee and Virginia. Bristol is extremely significant for Carter fans, because that is where they were "discovered" by Ralph Peer. He placed an ad, looking for local talent for Victor records, and he recorded the Carters and amazingly, Jimmie Rodgers at the same session.

Bristol was about 25 miles away. Too happy and bewildered to care for directions, I turned on to the Bristol Turnpike. I knew I was heading in the right direction, but what followed was half an hour down the darkest, twistiest, turniest roads I have ever driven. I laughed the whole time. It was a joy. The man kept exclaiming over the stars - you sort of forget about them living in the city, and they were magical.

We arrived at our hotel around 11:30. It would have been a real kicker to the day if we had found a delicious place to eat. We stopped at a bar we passed that said they had food, but it was too smoky inside and they were playing some awful top 40 tune. We settled for a six pack and Taco Bell back at the hotel room. Not the perfect ending to a perfect day, but good enough, to be sure.


The roots of roots music - Pre-Virginia post discussion

Growing up, my family wasn't that into music. My dad would play the oldies station when he was grilling or working in the garage and my mom played Christian music. Sheesh, right? The music that I most associate with my childhood - and this is thanks mostly to family camping trips - is Motown, Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" album, and Bob Seger. I loved to listen to classical on the radio, but my dad made fun of me for it.
Point is - finding the music I love hasn't been an easy process. When I first heard Led Zepplin, I was a junior in high school and I was shocked that I fell instantly in love with it. Previously, I thought it was "hard rock" music for burnouts. From LZ it wasn't too long til I discovered the Grateful Dead, which I also instantly loved. But as much as I liked the Dead, all along what I really wanted to hear was the musicians who has influenced them. But how to get there?
Johnny Cash's American Recordings were a start. Falling in love with them and listening to more and more Cash finally unlocked the roots music I had been looking for. I had been listening to Dylan since my junior year of high school, but who was this Woody Guthrie, and where could I hear his music? Certainly not on the radio and not even in the public library. And naturally, in those times, I didn't have the money nor the access to the music shops (this was - gasp! - pre-Amazon days) that I have now.
Our first year in New York, we were poking around the Virgin Megastore in Union Square when the man randomly came across a Monroe Brothers CD. On the back of it was a quote from Bob Dylan that said something like, "I love listening to Bill and Charlie Monroe. Thats what America is all about to me". So we bought it and fell completely in love. After that, it was a sort of torrent of bluegrass music purchases and from then on, the roots music world gradually opened up. We bought (or got from the library) all sorts of crazy country and bluegrass compilations, plus Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and finally, The Carter Family.
For all our musical revelations, I don't think any were quite as profound as the man's instant attachment to the Carters. Played the one CD we got from the library a million times, bought more - bought the Mark Zwonitzer book, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? and started to dream of visiting their home place of which they sang so fondly - Maces Spring, Virginia.
On September 15, 2007 - we made our pilgrimmage.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Blue Moon of Kentucky

Just returned from a week touring Kentucky, Virginia (not much of it) and Tennessee. I love New York, I really do...but anyone who lives here gets tired of the pretensions and rudeness from time to time. Especially if they've recently spent a week among lovely people and scenery as we did down south there. Here's the rundown:

Wednesday, September 12 we arrived in Louisville. We stayed at the utterly fabulous 21C MuseumHotel. If you go to Louisville, frankly, there's no where else to stay.

If you checked out that website, then you may think that it contradicts the lack of pretension I'm claiming to have seen on our trip. However, it really wasn't pretentious. I swear! Full of contemporary art and with one of the best restaurants in town (Proof on Main), but really, the staff was so nice but not weird nice, just genuine. And the owners are sharing their own personal collection with the public, and whats pretentious about that? The galleries are open to the public anytime. There is art on guest room floors that they can't get to without paying for a room, but the public can come in for tons of free art whenever they'd like - including Judy Fox's amazing (and perfectly sited) sculptures.

Proof specializes in bison and bourbon, so the man was very happy. The trip was, for all intents and purposes, a business trip. But I can't help it if the man loves bourbon and has long wanted to travel the bourbon trail. And, the bison was really delicious - nothing like those cheesy bison burgers you see advertised in diners. We had lunch and drinks at Proof but had dinner at Lily's, which was wonderful.

Then it was on to Lexington! Horse country! I've never been that into horses, especially after being thrown from one (with no injuries, thankfully) at church camp as a kid, but I got a grand tour of Keeneland which was lovely, as you can see here:

Since they were having their September Yearling sale (see, don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about?), I got a glimpse of the whole bizarre world of thoroughbreds. Bizarre, but fascinating and I definitely want to see a race - ideally in Kentucky, but I always have Belmont here in NY.

Once in Lexington, I visited Ashland, the home of Henry Clay and had a bite at their cafe. This place served sandwiches literally straight out of my grandmother's cookbooks - I tried pimento cheese for the first time. I had heard of it, but I asked what it was, and when the nice lady (it really seemed like everyone in Kentucky was SO NICE) said that if I didn't know what pimento cheese was, I must not be from the south. Well, then, I HAD to try it. Didn't love it there, but tried a different version later and enjoyed that. Had we arrived at the cafe earlier, I could have tried other old-fashioned delights like olive and cheese, cream cheese and nuts, and something else odd that I don't recall.

The next day, as a gift for the man, I gave him a bourbon day - driving him around to the distilleries and to the Boubon Festival. As it turned out, you don't need a designated driver for bourbon sampling, because:
1. the distilleries are far apart and have limited hours, making it practically impossible to get to them all in one day.
2. you HAVE TO take an hour long (at least) tour to get to the tasting part, making it extra impossible to get to them all.
3. they only give you half an ounce of bourbon.
So even though I gave the man my samples, he was pretty far from buzzed and could certainly have driven himself if he had to.
But allow me to back up for a moment, because this day started with the best breakfast of our lives! We enjoyed it at the Silver Spoon Restaurant in Versailles, Kentucky - on Business 60, right where 60 splits off to the right (if you're coming from Lexington). Determined to not eat at a chain, we were glad to see this place and pulled in around 10:30 am. The man ordered the Farmer's Breakfast: two eggs, toast, potatoes, a country ham steak, biscuit and gravy and fried apples. I ordered a regular breakfast: two eggs, toast, potatoes, and whole hog sausage. I really don't know where to begin describing the meal, it was absolutely sublime. The eggs were hands down, the best I've ever had in this country. They were so delicately flavored, I could swear they had been laid that morning. And naturally, they were perfectly cooked. The meats were naturally flavored and delicious. The biscuit and gravy, delightful and full of homemade taste. And the fried apples were a true flourish, with the man enjoying them in bites with the ham. So, if you do the bourbon trail, have your breakfast at the Silver Spoon - its a gem!
Due to annoying tour schedules, we had to drive by Woodford Reserve and go up to Frankfort to Buffalo Trace. Frankfort is a cute town and I saw a house I absolutely loved - a three gabled gothic revival. But I digress. Buffalo Trace distills one of the man's old favorites, Blanton's, and his new favorite (after sampling it later that evening at De Sha's near our hotel - great bourbon selection!), Pappy Van Winkle. You don't get to see the distilling or mashing or fermenting at Buffalo Trace, but you do get to see the storage houses (which smell wonderful, and I don't like bourbon) and the hand bottling room (pretty neat) and the grounds are lovely. The tour ends with a tasting of Buffalo Trace and Rain, an American vodka they make there (corn vodka - delicious, and convenient for those of us who buy American as much as possible!). I let them touch my lips but gave them to the man, as I'm not much of a liquor drinker.
Then it was on to Woodford. A visit there came highly recommended from many people, but we were disappointed and I'm telling you now, put it low on your list - the man recommends the Heaven Hill Whisky center thing in Bardstown first - but I was working and didn't go with him there). Anyways, Woodford.
First, you have to pay $5! Maybe this is because they drive you 800 feet in a bus. I don't know. But you have to pay and essentially, you're paying to listen to an hour long advertisement for Woodford. Our tour guide was really cheesy and awful, maybe that put the bad taste in our mouth. The nicest part of the Woodford tour is definitely seeing the fermenting. Look how cool it is:

and seeing their beautiful copper stills:

But the tour (and the requisite movie) is just, Woodford this and Woodford that. It got kind of tiring. Anyways, the tour ends with the tiny sample (happily surrendered mine to the man) and the craptacular plastic sample cup that "you get to keep".
After that, slightly disheartened (and $10 poorer!) we headed to Bardstown for the festival. There, we ate at this makeshift type tent with two women dishing out pulled pork, sloppy joes and I think chicken salad sandwiches. I had a sloppy joe, which I hadn't had in many years and it was quite good. The man ate the pork sandwich and loved it, but was soon angry that he passed on the 2" thick pork chop sandwich at another food booth. He consoled himself with a corndog:

And as for that cigar - a real estate company was giving them away for free. It smelled so bad when it wasn't even being burned that he left it in a hotel room.
For a bourbon festival, it was awfully tough to find a drink. But we found the drinking area:

The man sampled 1792 (he hated it!) and refreshed his taste for some other bourbon he hadn't tried in a while. The pours were generous and fortified him enough to brave the craft vendors. I thought they were pretty good, actually, and we bought some lovely things for our good friends who are watching the rabbit. Here is the guy who made the tasting spoon we bought:

He's a second generation spoon maker (carver? I don't know) and was very nice. He just does it as a hobby and doesn't have a website but he makes some handsome spoons.
We ate that evening at the aforementioned DeSha's which was more or less unremarkable except for its bourbon selection. Here is a picture of their uninspiring salad:

But it was walking distance to the hotel and you can't argue with that.
The next day was the big day - we were traveling to Hiltons, Virginia - formerly Maces Spring, Virginia - for a pilgrimmage to the Carter Fold. A long awaited day, indeed!
We made the trip down there leisurely, taking back roads instead of I-75. We visited the delightful and unexpected Rock Castle River Trading Company where I fell madly in love with a bunch of pieced but unjoined Victorian silk "grandmother's flower garden" quilt blocks. They were foundation pieced on old letters and I'm still dreaming of them - but at $10 a block, I couldn't afford them all and it would be a shame to separate them.
The excellent people there told us to go to Weaver's Hot Dogs in downtown London if it was open. Even though we were planning to stop at the (somewhat) fabeled Burger Boy Restaurant nearby, when we saw Weaver's was open, we stopped in:

They asked if we wanted onions, and the man said, "however they're best". We didn't know onions meant a strange chili type sauce with raw onions in it. They were quite tasty dogs, no doubt, and the photos on the wall were a great touch.
Burger Boy with its storied fried chicken loomed just up the road, so calling the Weaver's dogs an appetizer, we soldiered on. And then it appeared, in all its iconic sign-y glory:

The man had the chicken, I had a burger once I saw that they made them small and thin, the way I like them. The chicken was indeed VERY good, but it had tough competition. For us, its hard to beat the outstanding, delicious, superlative fried chicken at Fiorella's in New Orleans.
Thus, we continued up the road to ol' Virginny. But our experience there deserves its own post, and its nearly time to punch out for the day. But I can promise that what is going to be described in the Virginia post is the closest thing I've ever had to a spiritual experience - and was a highlight not just of the trip but probably - no joke - of my life. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Socks that Rock Rant

What the *^&%! is up with this Socks That Rock stuff?

First, google it. You will see evidence of acolytes devout enough to rival the world's major religions. You look at the pictures and see pretty socks in pretty colors and think, "I wouldn't mind making a pair of socks out of that". If you dig a little deeper, you find out that people who haven't yet knitted with STR are considered "virgins". I swear!

So you think, gee, if its this popular, I should be easily able to go get myself some. So you go to the website and look at the retailer list and see there are 16 - that is SIXTEEN - yarn shops in America and Canada where you can buy this fabled stuff. Imagine my surprise that there was one in Michigan - but thats as far east as they come.

I then clicked on "retail info" and found out that they had a WAITING LIST just to sell their products in your shop (apparently, they can't supply more than 16 shops and their Rockin' Sock Club, famously shut down by some well-meaning better business bureau who couldn't believe that thousands of women paying $250 for a "sock club" wasn't a scam). And that to be on this waiting list, you have to reply to their little questionnaire, including "a current class and teacher bio" and "...any other point of interest you would like us to CONSIDER". CONSIDER!!!! You have to be judged by these people to see if you're good enough to sell their yarns. What a bunch of hogwash.

I was really trying to avoid swearing on my blog but I am very, very tempted to say "F***ing elitist B****es!" Right??? I mean, come on! This is YARN and KNITTING, this isn't haute couture (Fashion Week is taking place in Bryant Park right now, meaning that normal people can't enjoy the park since its been turned into a tent colony for hosting the fashionistas and the - I'm going to say it! - ELITE of the world). And its SOCK YARN. I love to knit socks, I do, but I can get oodles of beautiful, glorious sock yarns most anywhere (even from MY LYS), without supporting a clearly exclusionary yarn company.

Oh, and did I mention that one skein of this holy grail of yarndom is only 360 yards - meaning you're basically knitting adult anklets, because you're not getting a very long calf section (fyi, most two socks per skein yarns are over 400 yards).

I told you this was a rant.

And, all that said, if I can get into the Rockin' Sock Club next year, I'm totally doing it. Even though I rarely wear socks.

A girl's got to see what the fuss is about, right?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Christmas knitting update

Christmas knitting is officially past swatching stage and has firmly and definitely begun. The felted tote bag for my aunt is actually almost done (at least the knitting stage) which means of course I should be posting a picture and of course that I don't have one at the moment.

The bag is pretty hilarious right now. I've never knitted for felting before and so I see it as a big, floppy ugly thing and I cannot wait to see all tightened up and felty. I started it last weekend. Now, I live in an *apartment* and that means that I don't have a *washing machine* which means I cannot *test felt* because even if I went to the laundromat to test felt one measly swatch, they're all front load washers which can't be opened during the cycle, because they'd make a terrific mess if you did. So I did hand felt a swatch, but even like 20 minutes of that doesn't really give you the full idea of how much the piece will shrink. In writing the pattern, I decided (randomly) on a shrinkage of 2/3. Which means I was multiplying my desired finished measurement by THREE and using that figure. Well, I didn't even get a third into the base rectangle of the bag before I realized that there was NO WAY that could be right. So I dashed off to WEBS and found that they had a free pattern for a felted bag out of the yarn (Valley Berkshire). Using their figures (thank you, Webs, for giving before and after felting measurements), I rejiggered my whole pattern and am now more or less confident that I will end up with a nice tote bag. And my friend is going to let me use her washing machine.

I am also knitting a scarf out of this ugly sparkly yarn for someone that I don't like but must still give gifts to. I wanted a spiral scarf and found a suitable non-short-row pattern (no problem with short rows, she's just not worth putting that much work into it!). I didn't revisit the pattern I found online, assuming I knew what to do. After all, its just CO 100 sts, k 1 row, then increase in every stitch for one row - repeat as necessary. So I did k1, yo and wasn't feeling too confident about it but plugged away anyways. I was all the way up to 800 stitches on the needle before I looked at the pattern which says k into f and b of every stitch! No big deal. I ripped it, all 800 stitches and will be casting on again soon. I don't care because it makes great TV knitting. I think it still would have spiraled, it was just too holey.

All this goes to show you, I'm no knitting genius. But practice makes perfect and I get plenty of that.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Look at that cute bunny!

A picture of my sweet bun-bun:

But I'd like to state for the record that it is NOT EASY to photograph a rabbit, and its especially not easy to photograph a black rabbit. He always comes out looking sort of shapeless. Which makes this photo a pretty darn good attempt.

Is there anything cuter than a bunny? Maybe my nephew. He's pretty darn cute:

Okay, my nephew wins. I really love this photo taken by my sister-in-law.

And may I present a BONUS BUNNY PICTURE:

The bonus is this one contains actual knitting! That is my Rossnyev cardigan on the new couch, so I guess that makes it a triple bonus: new couch, bunny, and project. Oh wait! Quadruple bonus because it also has a yarn cake from my new ball winder on it (I had hand-wound the balls and then rewound them on the ballwinder. Just for fun. Its my new toy!). Before I go into blogging overload, I'll just say the cardigan is seamed and I'm knitting on the sleeves in the round as per the pattern. I think I might finish in time to wear it before it gets nasty out! More Rossnyev in the days to come...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Holiday swatching - exhibit A

Sorry for the bad photo. It isn't too easy to photograph, actually, and here in NY the light today is really ugly and crappy. Its humid and they're expecting storms.

In any case, this is one of the yarns that is brighter than I had expected. Almost like a cookie-monster blue:

But not in a bad way! This is for my mom's sweater, and I wanted to make her something she could just throw on with jeans. Plus, she has red hair so I know this color will be good on her.

The pattern I'm using is the most prominent one. I swatched a bunch of ideas over and over on the same cast-on. The stitch pattern is from one of Barbara Walker's Treasuries (I'd link to their page at Schoolhouse Press, but they're on a page with a bunch of other stitch pattern books. If you have been thinking about buying them, do it - they rock! And, buy them from Schoolhouse, not a huge company that doesn't need your support). The pattern is from volume one and I can't even remember the exact name of this particular pattern, "fossilized rib" or something?

Its a 28 row repeat, but very easy to do and it adds length very quickly, thanks, I suppose, to the angles of the twisted stitches. I like the subtlety of it - my mom is rather subtle herself. And when I looked at the Elsbeth Lavold pattern books at the yarn store the other day, the Silky Wool sweaters were knitted in similar patterns. This yarn likes to be knit into texture.

So, what do you think?
And what of the sweater style - I know I'm going cardigan, but drop shoulder or set in sleeve? What would happen if I do a raglan? And what of the neck? Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Monday vs. Tuesday

Which would you rather knit with?

The ball on the left I hand-wound with the assistance of my co-worker - it took a long time! That EcoWool likes to stick together! And look at that lop-sided, ugly form.

The cake on the right, I wound in just minutes with my fabulous new swift and ball winder. Look at that beautiful criss-cross action! Look at that center-pull! And, it won't roll clear across the subway car and land in a puddle of who-knows-what under the seats. Joy!!!!

And she didn't buy me the cheap plastic swift, either - she went for the wood. My mom is the greatest!

Oh, and P.S. - crappy birthday to me...who wants to spend their birthday at work? Ugh.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My knitting day just got BETTER!

Did you see, Kathy Elkins from Webs left a comment and explained the name Webs! My amazing knitting day just got even better. Kathy, if you visit again -- I LOVE WEBS!!!! I'd go to a tent sale, but that would be hazardous to my bank account and to my limited storage space. Keep up the great work, and I'll keep up the hefty orders!

Holy Amazing Knitting Day!!!!!

Could this be the greatest knitting day EVER????

First, I went to The Yarn Connection at lunch to buy a needle for one of the Christmas projects and to buy some Rowan Denim for baby jeans for my expecting co-worker (they didn't have the yarn - but it didn't even matter, every thing else more than made up for it!). Anyway, I asked if they had the new issue of Vogue Knitting. And did they have it! Have you seen this thing? Holy mackrel, I am in knitting heaven. It rivals the infamous September Vogue in heft (well, relatively speaking) and I spent a lovely lunch in the park, barely even getting through the nicely done yarn company profiles that comprise the first several pages of the issue.

So, the plan was to come back to the office and delve into it more deeply. But when I got back, my birthday present from my mom had been delivered! My birthday is tomorrow actually, so its a bit of an early present. Anyway, what should I receive from my totally fantastic mom but:

A SWIFT AND BALL WINDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I said no one would get me one. She didn't even know I wanted one, just that I didn't have one! So how totally excited am I. Despite the fact that I'm at work, I rigged it up (which makes it sound more difficult than it is - it goes up pretty quick) and wound a ball of Araucania EcoWool into a gorgeous little yarny cake faster than you can say "tangle". Which is what I had yesterday when I wound a skein of it by hand. Pictures tomorrow, so I can email them to my mom and show her the astonishing difference between the hand wound ball and the yarny cake.

Thank goodness I hand-wound only one of the skeins of Elsbeth Lavold Silky Wool that I am using for her Christmas sweater!