Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fleece & Fiber Porn!

Tulips roving from My Favorite Thing!

Romney fleece from Sapphire Child

Wine & Orchids roving custom dyed by Three Irish Girls

Ciara roving dyed by Three Irish Girls

Simply mouthwatering.
Today, I consider myself a very, very fortunate spinner...


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

UFOs: Knitting Project Purgatory...

See all those bags on my doorknob? It's a lot, right? But wait--the door has a knob on the back, too. And we have more than one door in our house. Each with its own little assembly of UFO "cocoons." So I guess the question of the day is: Will these butterflies ever emerge?

There's a reason, of course, why I have so many projects going at once. Some may call it an excuse... You see, I design knitting (and crochet!) patterns. Not so good about taking the time to put them in a nice PDF format, but I do create the patterns.

When you're designing, if you're like me, the time it takes to finish a pair of socks, say, can feel uncomfortably unproductive. I've succumbed to the just-knit-one-sock-and-take-a-photo habit lately. Not one of my more admirable traits, but at least it allows me to get more done in a given day, week, or month.

Another aspect of my dilemma is the simple fact that the creative process is self-propelling. In other words, the more I create, the more ideas I get.

So I often cast on while my enthusiasm for the new idea is high, making notes as I go. Then I might get another idea and, if I'm feeling totally crazy, will cast THAT one on, too. A never-ending cycle of creativity-gone-wild.

I'm not complaining about the fact that I have ideas, and certainly I'm not complaining about having the TIME to follow up on my ideas and get them to some form of completion...some day. It's just that these projects add up, and eventually make me feel more than a bit guilty.

There are exceptions, of course. Recently, I cast on the Freesia socks with some gorgeous Shalimar hand-dyed sock yarn from Eleganza Yarns. If you scroll down a little, you'll see a photo -- a blue and yellow puffy, lacy confection with a heel that allows the pattern to continue all the way down to the sole. THESE socks will be completed. I love them, love how they look, how they feel, and how much fun they are to knit.

But the Freesia socks really are an exception. I LOVE all of my patterns and my projects. Time is limited, though, and I can only do so much knitting, crocheting, and spinning (don't get me started on the latter...I've been in fleece heaven lately!).

For every problem, there must be an answer. What will mine be? Rip out some of my older projects (the ones knit from book or magazine patterns that I might be feeling bored with)? Or should I try working with a test knitter?

Ahh....a test knitter. Wouldn't that be marvelous? Writing up the patterns would be a must, obviously, since even the best test knitters are unable to produce exactly the designer intends via mind-reading.

But maybe that's the kick in the ass I need. Cast on, swatch, get it right, write up a draft pattern, and send to test knitter. It's a process I could get used to pretty quickly.

Needless to say, at this point, I can't afford to pay anyone, except by offering free versions of my final patterns. But maybe there are people willing to knit new patterns just for the challenge (read: finding mistakes) and enjoyment of knitting. One would have to be a process knitter to be a test knitter, don't you think?

Let's get back to the bags-o-knitting above, though. In my next post, I'm going to list my UFOs, with photos when possible. Anyone interested in joining me, talking about your own unfinished projects?

I know, many of us already list them on Ravelry. But here in blog-land, we can TALK about our WIPs (and NOT in progress) in-depth, explore their nuances, and share new ideas.

And, who knows, maybe we'll even find a way to lighten our doorknob loads along the way...


Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Coming Attractions: New Pattern Sneak Peeks

Coral Reef Cuff

I know. One of these days I need to actually transfer my patterns from notes to nice, clean PDF files--complete with photos and helpful how-tos. Until then, though, I think its fair to offer you a sneak peek of a few things I've been working on...

Barn-Door Socks

First, the Barn-Door Socks, knitted in Noro Kureyon Sock on US#1 needles. I love the way the subtle lace pattern looks in the rugged, slubby Noro yarn. I also love the woolly feel of the yarn when I knit with it...Is it just me, or does it leave a soft lanolin-type feel on your fingers?

The colors are simply beautiful. I've never spent a summer on the shores of Maine, but these colors evoke what I imagine it would be like: a silvery-brownish tone, like weathered-wood shingles; pale muted purple, like the twilight sky and the mist that rises over the ocean; aqua and turquoise, with flecks of white, like clear waves crashing on jagged rocks.

A surprise is in store for the heel and toe shaping--they'll be fun to make! The fit is great, the yarn isn't rough on your feet (despite the slightly scratchy feel as you knit it), and the colors and quiet stitch pattern could make for a unisex sock--depending on tastes, of course.

Next is a currently-nameless tea cozy. I knitted this swatch in Peace Fleece worsted-weight, a wool and mohair yarn with a decidedly sheepy feel. I absolutely adore this yarn and am entranced by the Peace Fleece story.

Tea cozies have enjoyed a renaissance during the past couple of years, and it's easy to see why...Sure, we enjoy our coffee--really enjoy it!--in the U.S. But most people I know also enjoy a cozy cup of tea from time to time.

In fact, during the colder months, when the air seems to crackle and snap and make the inside of your nose burn, knitters and crocheters dream of settling in on a deep, cushiony sofa with a hot cuppa and their current project (fireplace optional). For non-needleworkers, the scenario is the same, but usually includes a much-beloved book instead of a scarf-, sweater-, or sock-in-progress.

Either way, once you settle in on the sofa, the last thing you want to do is get up for more hot tea every half hour. Thus, the tea cozy. This pattern will be an easy, quick knit, with an eclectic twist, making it a great idea for Christmas and other holiday gifts.

Freesia Socks

Finally, more information about this sweet pair of socks knitted in Shalimar Sock Yarn. Shalimar is hand-dyed by Kristi, who owns Eleganza Yarns in Frederick. This pattern's name, "Freesia," was inspired by the azure blues and creamy yellows in the ultra-soft merino yarn.

In my sophomore year we moved to Marin County, and I had to change to a new high school (Tamalpais H.S., in Mill Valley, CA). Tam has a gorgeous campus, built on a hill, with lots of grass and trees. One building encompassed a courtyard, with four tree-planters surrounded by a sort of colonade.

Beneath the trees, the planters were filled with Freesias. When the sun shone down mid-day, the entire courtyard would be thick as honey with their scent. Though I didn't know what the flowers' name at the time, I fell in love with their dizzying perfume. I can almost smell them when I look at this yarn…

The heel and toe in this pattern are a bit unusual, as I've been feeling a little bored with the ubiquitous short-row heel and wedge toe. The details will make for a feminine sock that looks pretty from every angle.

I know you'll just put them in shoes and probably hide them under a pair of blue jeans, but that's OK. Think of these socks like delicate Parisian underwear--even though no one else sees them, you'll know they're there!


Friday, July 11, 2008

Eye Candy Friday: Fresh off the farm!

Eggs from our local farmer's market.

I don't know if anyone still does Eye-Candy Friday. But when I saw these in a bowl, waiting for Chris to scramble them, I had to snap a picture. Aren't they gorgeous?

Two of them were literally pale green (does that show up on your browser? I hope so!).

I'd love to dye up some fiber in these colors, so I could spin a luminous two-ply, worsted-weight yarn. Then I'd use it to knit myself a cozy, woolly sweater.

Happy weekend!


Monday, July 07, 2008

Handspun Yarn Porn & Arts in the Park

Today, I have some handspun yarn porn for you...

Here's the plied version of Ply Me! -- now known as Fallen Petals. When all was said and done, I ended up with 400+ yards of a light fingering weight...

After plying, I dunked the yarn in hot water, then in cold water; ran in through the salad spinner; and hung the skeins out on the laundry line to dry.

Since the yarn was not blocked, the finished product is lovely and springy, with plenty of elasticity.

In other news, Chris and I had fun at "Arts in the Park" (connected to my little town's new farmer's market) yesterday. Not too many people, but it's early in the season yet. When more produce is available, I think we'll have more customers.

(What's in that box on the left? A load of really good knitting books I am selling,
since I hardly ever knit from other people's patterns anymore. Anyone interested?)

What I did sell: The striped purse (hanging in front of the table), a pair of earrings, and these red mitts, which I designed this past winter...

Plus, I got an order for several more pair of the mitts (sorry about the photo quality here -- my camera hates red!) from the customer who bought them :-)


Friday, July 04, 2008

Me, Myself, and I on the 4th of July: New Pattern Previews, Meme, and More...

Peony Head Band (one of my new crochet creations!)

This morning I decided to visit all of the blogs on my list (at right). It's been a while since I did that, though it was a daily habit just a year ago. Cara's probably right...Ravelry is wonderful, but it has had a questionable impact on the knitblog community. Head on over to January One and read her posts from the past few days. This conversation is interesting and thought provoking.

On My Fashionable Life, Anna wrote about post-partum depression and her fears about losing creativity and inspiration. Her words really touched me, and reminded me, again, that I'm not alone. I have neither children nor PPD, but I do have CFS/ME -- an illness that affects people physically/emotionally/spiritually. Some days, I feel unable to even daydream! Difficult situation, considering what a head-in-the-clouds, dreamy child I was. Back to blogs, though.

Anna is a thoughtful writer, and shares so much of herself on her blog. Plus, she's an amazing designer, who deserves notice and great success. Take a look at My Fashionable Life...You won't be disappointed.

Coming attraction: "Freesia" sock pattern in gorgeous Shalimar hand-dyed sock yarn

While I was on Anna's site, I came across this meme, and just couldn't resist. So, here are a few things about me that you might not have known (or wanted to know!)...

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago I was working as an assistant manager in a retail store, married to someone who was very angry, resentful, and abusive. With an Ivy League degree and lifelong wish to be a “real writer,” I felt stuck and hopeless. But I started fiddling around with a story, never knowing it would turn into a novel (still unrevised). I had three gorgeous cats and two lovely dogs, all of whom I lost when I had to flee the house for my own safety (literally barefoot) two years later. It was a dark time. [Things are MUCH better in my “new life” :-) ]

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
1. Figure out what to make for dinner considering all we have in the cupboards are rice, beans, lentils, cornmeal, tomato paste, and one can of tuna.

2. Crochet several face scrubbies and start on a child-sized market bag, in preparation for my first-ever stand at the Farmer’s Market’s Arts in the Park this Sunday (scary!).

3. Finish plying the sock yarn that’s on my bobbins (also for Farmer’s Market).

4. Take a nap...I got less than 6 hours of sleep last night.

5. Call my sister so we can have a nice chat.

3) Snacks I enjoy:
M&Ms, warmed up to body temperature, so the inside is all soft and gooey; whole grain toast with jam and ricotta cheese on it; cupcakes/cakes...anything with that sugary white icing; leftover steak, eaten cold with my hands; leftover fried chicken strips, also eaten cold, with my fingers; homemade chocolate cookie dough; hummus with fresh pitas; warm scones; home-made hot chocolate; whole-milk lattes; freshly made chai tea from Teaism, preferably with one or two salty oat cookies; brown rice topped with garlic Gomasio; tortillas topped with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, toasted under the broiler; spun-honey ice cream.
(Carbs, anyone?)

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Pay off our college loans and other debts; buy lots of groceries; buy a house on 20 acres of land, not too far from the ocean; arrange annuities for our nephew, niece, and God-son, so they'd always be taken care of; give my father-in-law a gift certificate for the Ferrari of his choice; buy tickets for every Formula One Grand Prix for the next 10 years, plus many tickets for soccer games for DC United and abroad; travel, travel, travel (I've never left the U.S.); help re-build New Orleans; fund continuing assistance for the hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia whose homes, communities, and lives were decimated by the 2004 tsunami; give money to CFS/ME research; enjoy all the time my husband and I would have together; support family, friends, and philanthropic organizations as much as possible.

5) Places I have lived:
California: Walnut Creek, San Bruno, Burlingame, San Mateo, Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, on “The Peninsula” south of San Francisco; Mill Valley, Larkspur, in Marin Co.; Nevada City, in “Gold Country”; Citrus Heights, near Sacramento
South Dakota: Spearfish
Washington (State): Seattle
Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (many parts), Pottstown, Reading
New Jersey: Lindenwold, somewhere in North Jersey when I was really little
Washington, D.C.-metro area: Georgetown, Dupont/Scott Circle, Hyattsville, and western Maryland

6) Jobs I have had:
Communications consultant; retail management; daily-news reporter; sandwich maker at a deli; hotel front-desk clerk; travel agent; real estate agent; knitting teacher; nonprofit marketing specialist; currently full-time artist/writer/editor (freelance)

7) Bloggers I am tagging to do this, whom I would like to get to know better:
Hey, if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged. I’m that glad to have any readers at all after my six-week absence! Please let me know if you do this so I can have some fun reading all about you.

Happy Independence Day to my friends in the U.S.! I hope the holiday affords you all some quality knitting/crocheting/spinning time!


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Summer Knitting

First things first...Welcome back! Apparently I really DO believe in blogging without obligation, huh?

The top photo is of some cute little guys I made for the Little Critter Swap, sponsored by Meghan over at Stitch It! Podcast. The pattern is from an Amigurumi book. I think it's called "Happy Eggs."

By the way, if you listen to knitting / spinning podcasts, you should give Stitch It! a listen. It's funny, touching, entertaining, and enlightening...Meghan's show is one of my favorite things ;-)

Speaking of spinning, I've been doing a little lately:
I spun this yarn -- which I'm calling Ply Me! for now -- on my Kromski Sonata. I'll give it a real name after I do some bobbin juggling and decide what kind of finished yarn I want. I'm leaning toward two-ply sock-weight. The pretty colors are courtesy of All Things Heather, purchased at

I've also been doing lots of knitting. I have other photos to show you, but for now, I'll just post this one...
They're Mom's "spring socks" (Carolina, Last Queen of Naples, by MonkeyToes). I made these two-at-a-time on one circular needle, using Plymouth Happy Feet yarn.

Unfortunately, I packed them for shipping before taking photos of the finished socks! So I'll have mom model them for me and send a few snaps.

Wow! The Summer Solstice has come and gone -- amazing how time flies! And speaking of come and gone, we've also had visits from my mom, my sister, and my mother- and father-in-law during the past six weeks. Every visit was thoroughly enjoyable, and thoroughly enjoyed.