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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas

It was a fabulous holiday here at Purls Before Wine. As mentioned in the previous post, I have been awash in the Christmas spirit.

On Christmas Eve, we hosted our (nearly) annual dinner party for our friends, the Feinsteins and the Cohens. A good time was had by all, although I did select a menu that kept me in the kitchen for the two days prior and much of the evening. I served:
  • Hot Spiced Cider (my recipe)
  • Shrimp Cocktail
  • Gougeres (delectable cheese puffs from the Barefoot Contessa Paris Cookbook)
  • Hot Spiced Cashews (also from a Barefoot Contessa book)
  • Roasted Baby Potatoes and Baby Carrots with Thyme and Rosemary
  • Spinach Gratin (the Contessa again)
  • Parkerhouse Rolls (the Sister Schubert cookbook--yum!)
  • Beef au Poivre (Contessa Paris again)
  • Walnut Cake (The Fearless Chef Cookbook--I've made this cake three times this month!)
  • Pumpkin Pie with Cointreau-spiked Whipped Cream (the one on the Libby canned pumpkin label with my own crust recipe)

I have about 3' of usable counter space in my kitchen, so it was pretty harrowing in there. I worked ahead as much as possible, but the schedule for taking things out of the fridge, putting them in the oven, searing the filets, making sauce, taking things out of the oven, etc. was a little crazy. I really should simplify things so that I can relax with our guests before dinner, but where would the challenge be in that?! (When we redo the kitchen, I want to annex the room next door so that I have a place where people can mingle while I cook. That would help tremendously.)

The next day, the husband and I got up a bit on the late side. (Well, I got up earlier and put in another load of dishes and watched A Christmas Story. Again. I had stayed up late the night before and watched it. Twice.) After his requisite trip to our neighborhood Starbucks, we settled in to exchange gifts. His holiday is always like a trip to the Men's Furnishings floor of a department store: socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc. Occasionally he gets something that shakes things up, and I did score on the Pixar Short Films DVD, an impulse buy that seemed to thrill him.

He gave me several very thoughtful gifts, but the highlight came courtesy of a suggestion made by the Yarn Harlot. It seems that he wrote an email to her a while back asking for unique knitting-related gift suggestions. She graciously took the time to respond with the recommendation that he get me a signed copy of an Elizabeth Zimmerman book. He took her advice and found a remarkably well-kept copy of The Knitting Workshop signed and dated in 1985. I could not have been more thrilled!

We relaxed about for a few hours, and I made Potato Filling (I have my own recipe, but this one is similar) and Dried Sweet Corn , two Pennsylvania Dutch favorites that are holiday must-haves around here, to take to our friends' home for Christmas dinner. (I'd also made extra Parkerhouse Rolls and another Pumpkin Pie to take along.) My friend, Sandra, made a Pork Crown Roast, Apple Stuffing, Green Beans with Honey and Cashews, and a delicious salad. (Whenever we are in town, we celebrate the big holidays together and we share the cooking. It lightens the load for both of us, and it does result in a pretty fantastic feast!)

While things were finishing up in the kitchen, we exchanged gifts. My dear, sweet friends, Sandra and SA, adopted a Coopworth sheep for me! She is "mine" from April, 2008, to April, 2009. They will send me her picture and letters from the farm, I will get a call when she lambs, and they will ship me her fleece when they shear her! I can visit her on the farm if I want to, though she is in New Hampshire. Isn't that amazing? I practically squealed!

I am beyond thrilled, but I had better sharpen up my spinning skills before shearing time!

Everyone seemed to be happy with the gifts we gave this year. Because we have to ship everything, our holiday shopping tends to be finished quite early. (I get panicky if we get down to the wire. Fortunately, everything arrived in time and intact.) Apparently, our niece had to be prevented from calling us at 7:30am Christmas morning to thank us for her gift. (Cooler heads prevailed at her house and we spoke later in the morning, after coffee was had.) The one knitted gift I gave this Christmas, aside from the ornaments pictured in the last entry, was a pair of Monkey Socks made with Tofutsies. I made them for my cousin because (a) she has demonstrated a true appreciation for the things I have knit for her before and (b) because I thought she would find the yarn content interesting. I'm told she put them on as soon as she opened them and wore them all day--hurrah!

I hope you all had a wonderful day, too, and have a safe, happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making Merry

I would have never guessed that I would be so busy being unemployed! For the first time in a decade, I am really getting to enjoy the holidays. For the past five years I held a very stressful job that seemed to overshadow the season, and for the five years prior to that, I had a retail store. In retail you are all about Christmas, but I found that I never really had time to enjoy it. This year I am going at it full-force: decorating like mad, baking cookies with a friend, going on my annual date with my husband to the Chriskindlmarket (check out the big, scary angel hovering over Daley Plaza in the picture) and to see the department store windows , dropping by another friend's shop with cookies and hot glogg, flying down to Indianapolis to see one of my best friends in a corny-but-fun Christmas show, going to "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre, hosting my book group's annual December gathering, yarncrawling with a friend in from Minneapolis, and preparing for a dinner party on Christmas Eve. All the while I have been operating my own personal Christmas ornament, sock, and baby booty sweatshop.

(Two friends had babies last week that were due to arrive in January. I have bigger projects planned for them, but booties will have to do for now.) I haven't been able to enjoy the hustle and bustle to this extent for years.

I can already tell that the post-New Year letdown is going to creep in, but SA is visiting from Alabama from January 2nd to the 9th, so that will help to ease the transition out of the holidays and into the long, grey Chicago winter. I know that I am going to be sweeping up needles and Buffalo Snow for months--and maybe years. (I just found an old, dried sprig from a Christmas tree behind a radiator. We didn't have a live tree last year because we travelled to PA, so it was at least two years old. A fastidious housekeeper I am not.) Even though I am still putting the finishing touches on the decorating, I am already thinking about having to take it all down, from the hundreds of blown-glass ornaments on the tree, to the poinsettias that will begin dropping leaves in no time, to each little house, lead skater, and bottle brush tree in the the winter village scene.
(Here is a link to one explanation of this Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. I grew up calling it a "Christmas Yard." The real term is a "putz," but that has different connotations in certain circles!) My grandparents always put up a table-top tree and the train and Christmas Yard surrounded it. Their yard was a marvel: Independence Hall was just down the block from Noah's Ark; tiny dinosaurs lined up to board with bunny rabbits; and skaters did figure eights in front of a fort. Scale and context were not part of the plan. Because I came home last Christmas, they put the yard up but they skipped the tree. They are getting older and they haven't done it this year, so last year may have been one of the last times for Grandma and Pop Pop's Christmas Yard:
(It's hard to see, but the frame on the wall holds a beautiful handpainted photograph of their old farm. I love that picture.)

I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season as much as I am. Until next post, happy winter knitting!

Sunday, November 18, 2007 oh, so many ways!

After 5 1/2 month since giving notice, I am finished at my job. (I did take home one smallish project that I will do pro bono, but I am done with the day-in, day-out tasks.) I wasn't sure how I would feel given that this organization has been a part of my life for 10 years. I actually feel better than I thought I would. Separations of these kinds always invoke some type of grieving process, and I'm not sure that I am finished with that yet. I am reminded of how I felt at my grandfather's funeral. He had Alzheimer's, and the process of his leaving was a long, gradual one. Since I decided to resign nearly 6 months ago, I have had time to adjust to the change. Of course, as happened with Pop, there will be periods of sadness, but it isn't the intense, concentrated grieving that happens with sudden loss.

I am taking a bit of a break before my next venture. I've had some colleagues interested in having me consult or freelance, and that may be the route I take, at least for a while. I'm fairly certain that I am not going to leap into full-time executive directorship of a not-for-profit in the near future. I need to be able to experience sleeping through the night for at least a few months--if not longer-- before diving headlong into the next thing.

For those of you wondering, I did finish Garnet Wings in time for the big event, and it was a big hit. I felt good in it and even better for having completed it during such a stressful time. (It didn't hurt that over the past several months that I have lost 20 pounds--who knew stress could be a good thing?!)

You can't tell from the picture, but I substituted Disco Lights for Rock Star, and that worked well. I've worn it twice, once for the big gala and once to a dinner party at my husband's partner's home. I'm a bit concerned about cleaning it. Hand washing is out of the question given how much the swatch distorted when I washed and blocked it. I suppose dry cleaning is likely the way to go. Any advice out there about cleaning silk, particularly Tilli Tomas? If anyone is considering the pattern, I also made some mods. After a few unsuccessful attempts at the armhole, I ended up picking up less stitches than called for on the armholes and neckline and I went down two needle sizes after the first two rows. (I was getting a ruffly, baggy band by following the pattern.) If I were to make it again--and I might--I would make the next smaller size and/or I would do waist shaping. Nonetheless, it worked for the event and I felt good in it. (In addition, I went for one of those Oprah-touted bra fittings at a "bra fitting specialist." It was something. I suggest that you do it if you haven't before; I went down two band sizes and up two cup sizes--who knew I was so off?! It was an experience, for sure, and you've got to prepare yourself for paying more for a bra than you ever imagined paying in your life unless you are Carrie Bradshaw. Totally worth it and I am now a convert.

While I have been working like a mad woman for the last several months, friends have been conceiving like rabbits. There are a slew of babies arriving soon, and I have turned the knitting room into a baby bootie assembly line. Once I finished Garnet Wings, I turned toward projects on a smaller scale.

The first pair is for the soon-to-arrive Maximiliano, a baby that a colleague and his partner are adopting upon his imminent birth. (The baby-poo green is actually a very nice lime color.) The second pair (sorry for the blurry shot; I could not get the lighting right and I was in a big hurry ) are for a friend who is due in December. This poor girl has been sick EVERY SINGLE DAY of her entire pregnancy, sometimes in the double-digits. That kid had better be sweet. I was rushing to get these done this weekend. The shower was tonight, and I was knitting through the intermission of a play that we went to this afternoon in order to finish in time.

I will be seeing the Knitting Niece next week and she instructed me to bring knitting needles (to replace the ones she has misplaced) and roving so that we can make felt cat toys for her new kitten. I'm also thinking we may do some Kool-Aid dyeing and a a few other crafty things while we're together. Sure beats working!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Life in the Big City

When you live in a big city like Chicago, you have a tendency (or at least I have a tendency) to become overwhelmed by all of the options to see and do, and you (or I) end up missing a lot of great events and exhibits. This weekend, I was determined to get to two different shows that are closing soon, Niki in the Garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory and the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Garfield Park Conservatory is a huge greenhouse and garden on the city's west side. A few years ago, they had a fabulous Chihuly exhibit that I loved so much I went twice. This summer, they featured Niki de Saint Phalle's mammoth sculptures both inside and outside. My favorite was a monumental skull. (I love whimsical Day of the Dead-style skulls, so much so that I have several knitting and project bags with skull motifs.)

So that you get a sense of scale, this is the 6'5" husband inside of it.

The attention to detail was incredible. Each area featured a different material, from stained glass to flat marbles to stones to mirrors.

It was amazing from every angle, including the inside, which was covered in mirror and had a built-in bench so that you could enjoy the reflective surfaces and the moon mosaic in the ceiling.
There were many other installations, including these cavorting women.

On Saturday, the Conservatory was also hosting Halloween events for families. There were games, activities, food, music, and "spooky" animals. SOAR was there with a Barn Owl and a Great Horned Owl. I was really taken by the intricacy of the markings.

There was also a bat lady.

She had two Argentinian Fruit Bats hanging from her shirt. That's Bruce with his wings spread and Stellaluna is behind him. They were very, very cute. Apparently, they enjoy having their heads and ears rubbed just as cats do. (I was told quite firmly by the husband not to get any fancy ideas about having any fruit bats as pets.)

In addition to the animals and sculptures, there were exotic, beautiful flowers and plants everywhere. This cactus flower struck me because of its resemblance to a starfish.

There are no pictures from the Day of the Dead exhibit. Photos of the ofrendas were prohibited, but there were some beautiful, moving tributes, including one dedicated to the 31 Chicago public schoolchildren that have been killed this year.

I am nearing the deadline to have my sweater finished for the big gala at work. It's not been a complicated or time consuming project, but I haven't had a lot of dedicated, concentrated time to work on it. The back, front, and sleeves are finished, the shoulder seams are bound, and it has been blocked. Now to sew up the sides, pick up and knit the neckline and armholes, and graft the handkerchief sleeves on. I've got until the 7th, so that shouldn't be a problem. I just hope that it looks good...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kentuck 2007

While many of you were indulging your fiber passions at Rhinebeck, I was cavorting south of the Mason-Dixon. Rhinebeck coincides with the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, and though I pine to head Poughkeepsie-way, the third weekend in October is taken so long as my friend S.A. is executive director of the festival.

My friend Sandra and I have had many a good time on this annual trip. This time, we had more fun, laughed harder, and felt more "away" than any year for a few reasons. We made the wise decision to come back on Monday afternoon instead of rushing back on Sunday, so we were able to take our time and relax. S.A.'s partner Neil cooked gumbo and rosemary cornbread for us Saturday night (So. Good.) and we hung out at their place with them and a few of the festival artists. And this year, we brought along our friend Buggie. Since she had never been down before, it was great to introduce her to the things we love so much, including Archibald's Bar B Q, Golden Flake Sweet Heat Chips, and all of the other elements that make a trip to this festival such a great time for us. (Buggie quite enjoyed the experience, especially her first encounter with Moonshine.)

The Festival itself was quite wonderful, and the variety of artists was as impressive as ever. As an added bonus, the famed Gee's Bend Quilters were there.

As for acquisitions, I bought a Bethanne Hill painting (my third!), a face jug, some fun jewelry, an Alabama t-shirt and a make-your-own kit from Alabama Chanin, and a few other goodies. There was another Patsy Blake painting that I longed for (I bought this one last year), but I was exercising restraint.

The festival features fiber artists including a few weavers, silk painters, quilters, and a woman who does batik wall hangings. There was also a Fiber Guild tent where I sought out and received some useful advice about skein winders.

A good time was had, and so begins the countdown to next year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stinkin' Tinkin'

Like for most of us, knitting is my outlet. It's the thing that is supposed to keep stress at bay. Hah! Last night, I came home late from work after a particularly trying evening meeting to find that my husband was still stuck at work which meant I wouldn't have any quality time with him before he left for a business trip at 5am this morning. (He's worked all or part of the last 5 weekends and has been putting in a lot of late nights, so I was looking forward to maybe an hour or two of face time. Not to be.) And, our Internet was out, so no Ravelry to fill the void. I was primed for a big, fat pity party. So, I put on my favorite flannel cowboy pajamas (the apparel equivalent of comfort food) and sat on the couch to work on my sock. It's a simple sock, just garter rib--a no-brainer, right?! I was so engrossed in my funk that I forgot the knit rows between the K2, P2 rows. Just plain forgot. When I realized it, I had to tink a bunch of rounds. Sure, I could have performed surgery with a crochet hook, turning Ps into Ks, but that would have taken just as long or longer. So, I got nowhere. Well, I did have those 20 or so minutes before I realized my mistake, so I guess those counted toward reducing my stress level, but the next 30 or so of undoing undid that. My evening was a Kinks song turned up to 11.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quoth the Raven, "Never Mind"

Holy Humvees, people, what is with this weather?! 88 and sunny? We here in Chicago often get cheated out of spring--we go right from winter to summer--but if we lose fall, too, I am outta here. (I know, I know, it's warm everywhere, not just here.)

Halloween is a favorite holiday 'round these parts, and I can remember many a sad October 31 when I had to wear my winter coat over my costume. (I really, really hated that when I was of trick or treating age.) It doesn't appear that kids are going to have to worry about that this year unless things take a sudden turn.

I've done just a bit of Halloween decorating this year. Last October, due to a crazy, crazy time at work and in life, I couldn't see my way to put out any rats, bats, or even a single spider. I'm easing back into it this year. I have a wrought iron tree in the living room (it was my fiber-decorated Christmas tree this past December), and it is full of crows and ravens. There is a buzzard hanging out on an antique birdcage. Tippi Hedren would not even consider darkening my doorstep. The skulls, skeletons, and rats, however, will probably have to wait until next year.
Instead of finishing the last few inches of Garnet Wings, I pulled out a UFO sock and worked on it this weekend. Never mind that it is too freaking warm for socks. Never mind that--though I love to knit socks--I hardly ever wear socks, even in Chicago winters. (I have h0t feet. I mean that literally, not in the fet1sh-y kind of way. My mother says I have ugly t0es. ) Never mind that I have a plan to wear Garnet Wings in a few weeks. Never mind.

(I am still having paragraph spacing issues here in Bloggerland. Anyone else having the same experience?)

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I haven't posted in a while. It's all Ravelry's fault. (Not really.)

I *think* I have my entire sock yarn collection "stashed" in Ravelry. (Well, there are a few mystery balls. Whatever made me think that I could possibly remember what they were without the ball bands?!) My sock yarn stash is, ahem, plentiful, and it is a pretty fun place to go "shopping" when I need a project. (I believe I may be personally sending at least one of Emily Parson's kids to college.)

One thing that I realized was how much more selective I am now about sock yarn than I was just over a year ago when I started to amass the collection. I went whole-hog crazy on Etsy for a while, and while there are lots of fab indie dyers out there, they are not all using great base yarns. It's tough, I know, because I am in the midst of my own personal yarn tasting, trying to find good base yarns for my own dyeing fun. I've found a couple that I like, but have ended up with a bunch that I don't. (A few still elude me. There are a couple of folks out there with to-die-for-stuff, and I haven't yet figured out what they use. I'm going to keep going until I find my Grail.)

It's back to work tomorrow. Just seven more weeks to go.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Playing Catch-up

Hi y'all,

Things have been a blur, so linear is not where it's at with this post.

I received my first Woolgirl Sock Club package.

Nice job, Jen. I am a sock club joiner (Rocking Sock Club, anyone?), but have yet to actually make any of my socks. I will...someday.

The Husband and I went to Renegade last week. It was big and huge and huge and big. In all fairness, I don't love street fairs. Put the same event in a park, and I am happy as a piginpoop. (Side note: I'm on the Kentuck countdown!) The sheer volume was overwhelming. There were fabulous things (great jewels including one of my etsy faves LusterBunny), clever things (I'm blanking on the clever at the moment, but I know it existed), and even free things (Etsy Labs was giving out really yummy tubes of lip balm. Pink Grapefruit, yum!) Overall though, I found the sheer volume to not be advantageous. It felt a bit repetitive and maybe a little diluted. (But, I have heard others say that it was fantastic.) I was seriously holding back, though. I stayed at least a foot away from any yarn that was there. (I know Corinne and Bonne Marie indulged!) There was some gorgeous jewelry. (Items with birds on branches were particularly appealing to me.) In the end, in honor of the coming holiday, I bought a little skull pin from LusterBunny and a Bat Pack (four black heavy paper bat cutouts) from a shadowpuppet vendor. That. Was. It. I swear, I've been trying to be good. I had a little falling down a week or so ago when some Sophie's Toes showed up in my mailbox and I ordered and received a Tracy Eichheim spindle. I got a Lamb Rim Spindle and have Llamas on order. (I've gotta be honest, I'm probably not going to ever spin a ton this way, but I love them as art objects.)

Of all the things one could photograph at an art fair, this is what I chose:

I'd seen this little bit of spin on the side of a garbage truck earlier this summer. So, take heart! No need to feel guilty about all of the waste we are creating that is clogging up our environment and taking up space in landfills. We are making wildlife habitats. Whew, I feel so much better now. I'm going to hop in a Hummer, drive two blocks to the store and buy a whole bunch of juice boxes, frozen dinners, and other over-packaged items so that I can help make the world a better place for wild animals. (Don't get me wrong, I love animals--but I think there could be more pleasant places for them to live and play than human waste dumps*.) That is "spin" with a capital "S"!!!!!!!! (Now, if the C1ty of Chic&go could get its act together on the issue of recycling, I would be much happier. The blue bag system is a mess (but we still try), and only certain wards now have recycling trash bins. Even if people don't use them for their intended purpose, winter is coming and people need some way to save their parking spaces!

*I once owned a used postal Jeep that I bought for $400 at the post office in New Haven, CT. I drove that Jeep up to Boston for the summer (yes, the seat was on the right, and I had a mail sorting table to my left), then down to Tuscaloosa for my first (um, only) year of grad school. When I left, I sold that Jeep to an old man in a laundromat who wanted to use it to take his dogs to play at the dump. They loved the dump and he loved taking them there. He gave me $500 for it ( a $100 profit!!!) and I took the train back to New Haven. The point of this story is that some animals do like to play in dumps, landfills, and the like, I guess.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Wings of Silk

After a minor snafu with the yarn, it arrived and I have been working on Garnet Wings. I got gauge, but I'm not feeling confident about the fit. The silk is stretchy, especially once it has been washed, so I worry about it being too baggy. (I don't want it too form fitting, either, just something that would skim the body.) I would just spray block it and then dry clean it to avoid the stretch, but there is a TON of dye transfer from this Till Tomas Plie. I'm worried if I don't soak it, I will be lobster-colored by the end of the night. Any advice or experience with this particular issue?

I'm off to Columbus for a conference. I'm bringing the Wings with me--I'm on a mission!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What to Wear

One of my last projects at my job will be our big benefit gala. We have a performance in a downtown theater, bus everyone to a hotel for cocktails and a silent auction, and end the evening with dinner and dancing to an orchestra. It is a major to-do with 600-650 people at the dinner and sometimes as many as 600 more at the show. Since it will be my last one (yea! no more stressing-out about overcooked filet or whether someone likes his/her table placement), I wanted to find something special to wear. Not necessarily special in the "oh, it's just Dolce and Gabbana" way (someone actually said that to me once, like I shop D&G all the time), but special to me. So I thought that in the two months I have, I might make something. Enter Knitter's Magazine.

It's Garnet Wings by Julie Gaddy. What do you think?
Big plus: it covers the upper arms. It looks like a simple, straightforward knit with a little bling from the Tilli Tomas beaded* yarn. I don't know that I'd go skein to skein in the body--I might alternate to avoid the pooling. Oh, and I'd make it long enough that *hopefully* my bellybutton wouldn't pooch out. I'm thinking this sweater with a straight black skirt and black boots and I'm good to go.
*I just ordered the yarn from KPixie. They didn't have the Rock Star beaded yarn in American Beauty, so I ordered Disco Lights. Even more bling! The Disco Lights might be a little lighter since the sequins weigh less than the beads, but I think the sleeves will still hang well. I hope it gets here quickly, because I am going to have to get my a** in gear to get this finished with all of the long work hours ahead of me. After that, it's babyknittingbabyknittingbabyknitting. I have several friends who are pregnant, and the other night my aunt called to tell me that she is going to be a grandmother. I'm going to be operating a Baby Surprise Jacket factory soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Frog Strangler*

No knitting today, just some freaktastic weather to report. Late this afternoon, a big ol' storm rolled through the Chicago area. The Husband works in a highrise downtown with western-facing windows, so he often gets a spectacular view of the weather headed our way. For the first time since he's been there, they evacuated the residents of the building to the core, away from windows, because there were reports of tornadoes headed toward the city. Yikes. On my way up Lake Shore Drive, I must have passed 20-30 downed trees (large and small), 20 tipped-over port-a-potties still positioned by the lakefront from last weekend's Air and Water Show (eeew), and, get this, a highrise roof, complete with several large metal air vents, sitting in the middle of the highway.
The photo above is a craptastic cellphone shot of the clouds that were barrelling by as I waited to pick The Husband up from the train. A normal ten-minute ride for him was an hour long today. Not long after this shot, those clouds opened up and the city streets turned into rivers.
*Apparently some frogs look up when it rains, resulting in their untimely demise. I don't actually know if this is true.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Michigan Fiber Festival (Part 2, The Loot)

The part you really want to know about...

The aforementioned niddy noddies.

A needlefelted cat pin that I'm going to convert to a Christmas ornament for the fiber tree. (It looks a bit like our "baby"cat, Papel.) This is the densest needlefelted item I have ever touched -- really well done.

I bought 8 oz. each of Blue Faced Leicester from two different vendors. Neither picture did it justice (it is so soft and so smooth), so here is a picture of an actual Blue Faced Leicester in its place. I'm going to try and get the wheel going and spin some for socks.

Two different colorways of Shelridge Farm sock yarn. (What looks like orange is really brown.) I kind of stalked a woman to get it. She was carrying around all eight skeins of the blue/brown and decided she only needed six. When she put two back, I counted to five and then picked them up. (I didn't want to be grabby!)

Two ounces of dyed mohair ringlets for felting projects.

Briar Rose was my first stop and is often where I do the most damage. She has a website, but it is so different buying it in person. Chris is just darling and the colors just don't show to their best advantage on a computer. These are three small (450 yard) skeins of Briar Rose Grace for socks.

Two large skeins (900 yards each) of Grace for an Icarus Shawl. Briar Rose has the most gorgeous colors, but no two skeins are the same. You can either alternate or let serendipity take hold. My guess is that I'll alternate, but I don't know yet.

I also bought some lovely handmade soaps for my girls, Sandra and SA.

After two weekends in a row of classes and shopping, I need to lay low. There is a thunderstorm and it's pouring here (I'm really glad I came home yesterday rather than driving in this mess today), so I may try to play with the wheel a bit. It's definitely an inside day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Michigan Fiber Festival 2007 (Part 1)

I am officially at the end of my personal fiber event season. (Someday I will get to Rhinebeck!)

This year I decided to go up to Allegan two days early so that I could take some classes. Because I had a work meeting Tuesday night, I had to leave at 4am on Wednesday in order to get to my first class at 9am eastern time. (I ALWAYS forget Michigan is on eastern time.) After a few snafus (detours here in Chicago, a non-functioning I-Pass), I squeaked in with just 15 minutes to spare.
My first class was Acid Dyeing, an all-day affair. I was tired, it was hot (classes are in un-air conditioned barns), and the class was a bit more disorganized than I would have liked. Nonetheless, I learned just enough about acid dye to be dangerous. We mixed primary colors plus turquoise and fuchsia and then learned formulas for mixing other colors from those stock solutions.

On Thursday, I took Advanced Dyeing, another all-day class. We went over techniques for injection dyeing, sprinkling with dry dyes, kettle dyeing, and hand painting. My purpose in taking the class was to try hand painting sock yarn, so while the instructor had provided materials and fibers for the other techniques, I focused on painting skeins of undyed yarn that I brought with me. While I may not be the next great indie dyer after just two days of classes, I was pretty happy with my results:

I was trying to re-create a Colinette colorway and a discontinued STR colorway. While I didn't quite get either, I learned enough to do better next time. (They really aren't as neon as they look on my monitor.)

Once they were dry, I re-skeined them. Let me tell you, re-skeining yarn sitting on an air mattress in a tent using your feet as a swift is hard work.

On Friday, the early arrival vendors opened at 10am, and I did the bulk of my shopping then. I went from never even using a niddy noddy to owning five:

Just how did this happen? Well, I wanted a 1 yard and a 2 yard, but the first few I came across (Kromski and Ashford), were not made in the US, so naturally they weren't in yards. I bought them anyway. Then, I found a nice handcrafted 2 yard, so I bought that. Later, I found a handcrafted 1.5 yard, so I got it, as well. Finally, I found an adjustable one that goes from .5 yard to 2 yards and increments in between, so I bought that one, too. If I had seen that first, it would have saved me quite a few bucks. That's what you get for being an impulse shopper. Oh, well, it's an instant collection that happens to go with the logo for this year's festival:

On Friday afternoon, I took a Pita Felt class, a method which utilized thin bubble wrap as a resist between layers of fiber to form a pouch. It was a new technique for me and I produced this nifty little holder for my iPod (which needs some serious blocking):

This morning, I zipped through the vendors that loaded in last night, went to visit the animals, and packed my tent for home. I was justtoo tired to last another day, wasn't in the mood for crowds, and I was all shopped out. And, even though I really do enjoy sleeping in the tent, the shower facilities there leave a lot to be desired, so I headed for the comforts of home.

On the subject of sleeping in the tent, it was hot, muggy and rainy Wednesday night, but it was downright cold Thursday and Friday. It was great sleeping weather. (In 2006, it was hot and rainy every night--nothing ever dried out. Blech.) One disappointment this year was that they had the pavilion set up for the Saturday fashion show and dinner, so people didn't gather there in the evenings as they had before. For me, part of the fun had been hanging out at night with knitters, spinners, and weavers and learning about what everyone else was doing. As a result, it felt much more solitary. In some respects, it was fine given recent circumstances that have required a bit of introspection, and it did give me a chance to finish Three Bags Full, a charming book so appropriate for the occasion. Still, I did miss some of the community aspects of the event.

I leave you with pictures of those to whom we owe our gratitude for supplying the materials for our craft(s):

This little fellow and I bonded. Seriously, one year I will come home with a rabbit.

I love those ears!

I know that these are working animals and not just pets, but the very used-looking "I'm 4 SALE" neckerchief made my heart hurt just a bit.

Next post: yarn acquisitions!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Isn't all yarn p0rn s0ft c0re?

Stitches: One Girl's Entanglements

The Haul

Ellen's 1/2 Pint Farm Merino Sock

Laceweight Merino

(I really lusted for the Quiviut, but it was $56 a ball compared to $9 for the merino. I compromised.)

New Patterns (Note the fishnets on the right.)


There's Shaefer Anne, Lorna's Laces, Tofutsies, Regia's Kaffe Fasset line, Dream in Color Smooshy and Oasis Yarns Aussi Wool in the pile, too. Aside from the laceweight, it is all sock yarn. (A little obsessive, no?)

My Saturday afternoon class on altering garments for length was very good. The session focused on fixing the problem by cutting and grafting rather than ripping. Margaret Fisher is a very clear, methodical teacher and I recommend her classes. (The class on zippers and other closures I took last year was equally helpful.)

I really cut back on my Stitches immersion this year and I'm glad I did. Two classes plus the fashion show was just enough this go 'round. Last year I took five classes plus the fashion show and student banquet. Add Market time in and it was a little intense. This year had the added bonus of spending time with friends. Thursday night, my business associate and friend Liz and I served as mutual enablers. (Liz is now the proud owner of a swift, the knitting equivalent of an in-home washing machine; you can't imagine how you ever lived without it.) On Saturday, I got to spend a few hours with Carey who drove down from Minneapolis. She double-dipped at both the comic conference and Stitches. (I wonder how much crossover there was between the two.) It was great to see her.

Next week, Michigan. I hope it's not sweltering. There is NO air conditioning there and the tent sure can get toasty.

Friday, August 10, 2007

In Stitches (Yeah, I know that's bad...)

Stitches Midwest is sharing the ever-lovely Donald E. Stephens (R.I.P.) Convention Center with a comic conference called Wizard or something. As you might guess, hilarity ensues:
  • I've heard several of the Wizard attendees referring to a knitting conference as "weird" and "strange". Hello, Pot, this is Kettle.

  • I rode the parking garage elevator with a Stormtrooper, a Pirate Wench, and Professor Snape. I was unharmed. (A poor imitation of Snape, I might add, since you know how I feel about Alan Rickman.)

  • Wonder Woman and The Joker are drawn together by their mutual need for nicotine:

(Sorry for the crap-tastic phone picture.)

I'll give a comprehensive run-down of the stash acquisitions later (modest enhancement for me, I might add), but it is worth noting that I picked up the new Cat Bordhi book. It is a good thing that woman uses her powers for good, because she is a freaking genius.

I took an EXCELLENT class from Susanna Hansson on Japanese Short Rows. Pretty fantabulous.

La Mondragon wore leopard print pants to MC the fashion show. Need I say more?