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 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 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...