June 2005 Archives

Back from San Diego

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I have a nasty habit of showing up in San Diego during the "June Gloom" component of the year. In other words, I am one of the few people in the entirety of the US that believes that San Diego is not a sunny happy place, but is, instead, a place of grey skies and 65 degree temperatures. (Don't worry San Diegans, I know it's nicer there most of the time, it's just that the beginning of June seems to be particularly bad timing for that part of the world).

Given the cool, grey weather, you'd have thought that I got a lot of knitting done. Um. No. What did I do?

  • Caught up on work-related email
  • Programming for work
  • Took care of a work-customer problem
  • More CivIII than you can shake a stick at
  • Some shopping in La Jolla (I am now the proud owner of a very cool, very sexy, Armani Exchange top). La Jolla is a very nice place to go shopping in, if you like that sort of thing.
  • Toured a Cold War-era Soviet submarine (this was probably the very coolest thing I did, from a geek girl perspective -- there will be a short tour in a subsequent post, since the geek boy travelling with me got some great pictures)
  • Lots of good eating, including, George's on the Cove (La Jolla) and Bella Luna (San Diego)
  • Seeing Huey Lewis and the News in concert (yes, they are getting up there, but they are pretty good in concert and it was a nice flash back to my high school days

Which is not to say I did no knitting related things. I did visit Knitting in La Jolla for a few minutes (not too long, since I had a boy with me and because I just have way too much stash right now as it is). I also finished up one singular sock:

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A Rodeo of Opal Colors

I'm pretty much digging this sock with its happy Fiesta of colors (the husband, on the other hand, seemed concerned that this sock might get inflicted on him). I followed Lucy Neatby's process for the short-row garter stitch heel and garter stitch toe. I'll be curious to see how they wear. I was actually quite proud of myself, I actually remembered how to do the toe grafting without having to refer to some book to get it started!

If There Were Knitting...

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...there would be a real posting. Instead, I am just going to babble on a little bit about my life right now.

Mostly, I am amazed at how much I can get behind by taking 4 days of vacation. Especially when I did a lot of work on those 4 days. But right now, it's like a firestorm. I am one of those people who uses her email inbox to make sure that I've done what I needed to do. I don't file a message until I've responded to it appropriately. Lately, I feel like I've been playing email inbox whack-a-mole (remember that carnival game?). And I'm losing badly. Stuff just keeps flowing in, and no matter how hard I try, I'm just barely not keeping up. And I just hate that feeling like I am falling behind, so I've been very focused on trying to get caught up.

Combine that with my dearest sweetest husband having a birthday and it's a recipe for very little of interest to post on a knitting blog. I don't even have a good cat picture to show for myself.

I'm hoping the weekend will give me a chance to get myself together...

Just a Little Knitting

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With something of a maelstorm of other things rolling around me, I drew inward a little bith this weekend and found myself immersing myself in a good book, some white wine (a good choice for warm weather on my master bedroom balcony) and a little bit of knitting. I did cast on for the left front piece of Liberty, but found that it was a little too brain intensive (especially that tubular cast on) for a time when my mind is running in many different directions. Sometimes I like to listen to audio books when I knit, othertimes I just like to think through the challenges that face me. This weekend has definitel been a thinking time.

So I figured I needed something a little more simple to occupy my hands while I let my brain spin around and while I went to my niece's 2nd birthday party. I reached into my collection of goodies from MS&W and came up with this:

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Knitting on the Bias: A Little Scarf in Morehouse Merino Laceweight

This is a little bias scarf (I wish I could remember the pattern name, but it really is a straight-forward bias knit rectangle)is made out of one skein of Morehouse Merino Lace Weight in Indian Summer. My picture doesn't quite do the colors in this scarf justice (an outdoor natural light shot is definitely in order), but it's a nice collection of deep saturated reds, oranges and pinks with a shot of purple and brown for good measure. Very harvesty and very not my usual palette. But I am hoping I can get away with it for just a light and airy little scarf.

Morhouse Merino lace weight yarn is fast becoming my favorite lace weight. It is one of those yarns that I find soothing. I love the soft and wooly way if feels when I knit with it, and I love the irregular thickness of the yarn. It looks a little scrunchy right now, but once it's blocked, it will have a beautiful open weave and wonderful soft drape. I'd very much like to design a simple, drapey laceweight cover-up from this yarn in a soft, neutral color for cool summer evenings.

I hope this week will be better from a posting point of view. This week could be something of a photoblogging week.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who gave me suggestions for San Diego. I meant to write to you all personally, but it's not to be. In fact. if you leave a comment for me, or have left one recently, please know that I read them all (Movable Type sends them all to my inbox) and that they are all appreciated. I wish I could be more active with my blog right now, but there are some other things that I really can't post about on my blog that have to take precedence right now. Sometimes its difficult being a grown up.

The View from My Balcony

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Lately, my house and my little gardening attempts have been making me happy. John and I spent a good deal of time looking for some simple but colorful plants to add some bright touches to our very small back yard.

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The View from My Balcony

This is the view from the balcony off our master bedroom that overlooks the back of our house. We've got 5 long flower boxes filled with red Wave petunias (I love these guys! They grow like crazy and are pretty tough customers when it comes to not getting enough water)and some nice contrasting white or yellow flowers and then we went for purple, with a touch of red for most everything else. We also got a couple of extra boxes so that I could have some fresh basil, spicy peppers for salsa and green peppers just to enjoy.

And that strange small pot sitting just to the left of the table? That contains our attempt at raising a giant sequoia from a seedling that we got when we visited the Johh Muir Woods last year. It's actually about 6-8" tall and is spreading out at the base and getting a start on a woody trunk. We have high hopes for this little tree (no pun intended) and are having a great time watching it grow. Nothing like the thought of a mammoth sequoia growing in urban Chicago... though it will likely head off to live in my parents spacious and wonderful backyard if it survives to the point where it gets to start experiencing it's "giantness".

Can't Blog Now...

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I'm playing with a new toy...

A Little Piece of Geek Girl Heaven

Thank goodness for husbands who enter to win goodies at conferences. Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, friends and neighbors. And the most beautiful screen I've ever seen on a Palm-based device.

Could it be time to do some more Palm programming.... hmmmmm....

Gone Spinning

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You'll all be happy to know that the TapWave Zodiac adoption process is going well. I am seriously in love with the little guy and I haven't even gotten the WiFi stuff set up yet so that I can browse the web on it. Probably the nicest screen I've seen yet on a handheld. And stereo sound. Suddenly my Kyocers 7135 Palm OS-based phone doesn't seem as nifty as it once did!

After another long week, I'm about to set off on a little bit of a long weekend, that will hopefully involve both knitting and spinning. As I was digging through my photo archives, I realized I never got to show off the cool things that I dyed with Julie not too long ago.

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Candy for the Fiber Lover's Soul

There's not too much better in the world than having a good friend to do creative things with. I am always inspired by Julie who just jumps into things and tries what feels good without worrying too much about the rules. I wasn't really sure if I would like the whole dying thing, but I left her house completely inspired to spin my first Blue Faced Leicester roving into yarn. I can't wait to see how these colors work together when they get spun up and plied.

The rainbow-overdyed skein of Cascade 220 is meant to go into an experiment. Perhaps you all remember that Pooling scarf from Interweave Knits about a year ago? Well, I could never get my Schaefer Anne to do what it was supposed to do because the colors in the skein weren't quite aligned correctly. The Cascade 220 is a much larger gauge yarn than the Anne, but I'm looking forward to see if I'll be able to get it to pool using the same general method.

I had a very nice weekend with my parents in Ann Arbor. There's something wonderful about going there, with nothing planned, doing very little besides knitting, spinning and visiting some local nurserys to take a look at perennials for my mother's garden. We told my dad, when we got there, that in honor of Father's Day, we had brought no "dress up" clothes with us and weren't going to plan any major outings. This was, apparently, just the kind of weekend Dad was hoping to have.

I did get one small project finished, along with a little spinning, but that will have to wait until the light is better.

In the meantime, I've also been quite negligent about acknowledging all the very nice people who have stopped by to tell me where they are from. So I think now is a very good time to re-habilitate my...

Blog of the Day

With a trip to visit Dani at Knit, Stitch, Click. Dani is a Canadian scientist with a very lovely rendition of Frieda from one of the recent Debbie Bliss books. Very happy big cables with a gorgeous sleeve detail -- and some pointers about how to deal with the finishing work.

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A Glass of Wine, a Knitting Magazine and Some Knitted Creations at Sunset

I love the lengthening days of summer. How nice to be able to enjoy watching the sun go down and the moon come up from my balcony while enjoying a glass of wine and a new knitting magazine. And still have enough light to take a few pictures of what I worked on while on my weekend break. The scarf is the completed bias scarf made out of Morehouse Merino variagated lace weight. What you see here now bears almost no resemeblance to what is currently blocking on my long floor runner.

The sock is the same poor sock that I have been working on for ages for John. At least now I am a few inches past the point where the heel will be inserted. Why is it that I find it so difficult to get excited about these socks, while I can practically turn out a whole sock in two days when they are for me? Good thing the husband is patient and he's not feeling the need for wool socks with the warm weather we are having here in Chicago.

Blog of the Day

Today I'm taking you all on a little trip down under -- at least from the point of view of North America -- to visit Karen of curiousweaver who hails from Old Bar, New South Wales in Australia. If there was one place I would go back to visit again in a heart beat, it would be Sydney and New South Wales. I spent a week there almost seven years ago (I can't even believe it's been that long!) and fell in love with the place. My only regret was not traveling too far beyond central Sydney (due to lack of time, not lack of interest). Karen also talks about another fiber endeavor that I am very interested in learning more about -- weaving. I'm absolutley fascinated by looms. Be sure to check out the rest of her site, including the lovely gallery and her articles on some traditional weaving techniques.

Transformation

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Bias Scarf Blocked and in the Clear Light of Morning

In contrast to that scrunchy bit of red fluff that appeared on my blog yesterday, here is the Morehouse Merino Bias Scarf after a good blocking. The actual length of this scarf is well over 6 feet now! Amazing how simple garter stitch can mysteriously become lace when this yarn is soaked and blocked. In my hands, Morehouse Merino lace weight yarn definitely grows significantly. It also, if this is possible, gets softer. It goes without saying that it also has remarkable drape.

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Garter Stitch "Lace" Before and After
Click on the Images for More Detail

Since I don't think it's very clear from the large scale pictures I took today and yesterday, these thumbnails link to images of the fabric before and after blocking. I'm hoping that this scarf will make for a nice, light summer accent piece -- a splash of color that doesn't carry too much extra warmth along with it. Hopefully a fitting piece for my first completed garment of the summer season!

Liberty, Front Left

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Another Piece of Liberty

When I actually put my mind to it and work on Liberty, the knitting doesn't really take all that long. I guess it pays to focus. My problem is that I have too much to focus on, crafty and otherwise, so nothing seems to move forward quickly. Ah well, it's unlikely that I will be wearing a cashmere blend sweater until fall anyway, so if Liberty's pace is more gradual, that's fine with me.

Where did I disappear to last week? Well, work stole away one of those posts and a trip to a fabulous restaurant to celebrate John's birthday a little later than usual took up the other. Alinea
is almost deserving of a post of it's own (it was the sort of place I wish I'd had a camera in... but it's also the sort of place that you would probably not want to pull your camera out in). Suffice it to say, we loved it, it was a wonderful dining experience in both food and service. Both the food and presentation was always clever.

Blog of the Day
If you're ever looking for a source of sock-y inspiration, one place I can recommend taking a click over to is Sockbug. Be sure to check out her sock gallery (under "Sniff My Socks"). Lots of lovely patterns and interesting sock yarn abound! She also has links to quite a few free sock patterns and some excellent sock knitting tips.

Mr. Zodiac meet Mr. CyberShot

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It appears that I am awash in lovely new toys. My husband, the ultimate bargain shopper and all around greatest guy ever, found an electronic device in desperate need of a new home. Since we worry a great deal about the fate of small and homeless electronic devices, John decided that it was time to embark on another adoption. Since it comes so closely on the heels of the arrival of the Tapwave Zodiac2, and we didn't want to upset its settling in process, I had to make sure that a proper introduction was made.

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New Technology Introduction>

So far, the Sony CyberShot DSC-T1 seems to be getting along famously -- with both the Zodiac and my husband. I have a feeling that the real rivalry is going to be between the new kid on the block and my sturdy old Nikon CoolPix880.

As to me, I'm in love with the idea of having a purse-friendly camera, but will definitely have to see how it stacks up against my Nikon when I have some bright sunlight to test things out in.

Compare and Contrast

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Yesterday Claudia asked for a review of the new camera. Because no scientist can resist an experiment I set about doing the first test of the two devices: color in natural light and under flash conditions, with the cameras set to "auto" so that the electronics could select what it thought was the best option for the pictures. The outdoor test was on my back porch in late afternoon light, lots of cloud cover, but no flash required by either camera. The indoor test under one of my standard picture taking scenarios -- under the Ott lamp on my desk at night in a reasonably well lit room. Both cameras used the flash indoors at night. I tried to select a scene with a wide variety of colors to get a sense for whether or not either camera had a "push".

Outdoors
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Outdoors with the Nikon CoolPix
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Outdoors with the Sony Cybershot

The first thing you will notice (at least I did), is that the Sony is noticeably brighter. To me, the darker colors (such as the blue skein in the bowl) look a little washed out and the deeper purples in the yarn and in the dyed roving dont come out very well. The light yellow roving in the bowl is "blooming" in the Sony shot as well, even though the lighting is dull and there is no flash.

On the other hand, the Nikon is a little over the top with the reds and tends to make them a bit oversaturated looking compared to their real life colors. The Nikon shot is also a little darker than true life.

Indoors
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Nikon CoolPix Indoors
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Sony Cybershot Indoors

The dark and light issues that I noted in the outdoor shots persist here. In fact, if I didn't know better I'd wonder if the Nikon was really even using it's flash. The Sony handles the yellows better in this setting, and the reds are truer to life, but rich blues and greens just don't come across that way (for instance, the blue in the roving is really more deep teal).

Macro Mode, Indoors
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Nikon CoolPix Macro Mode, Indoors
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Sony CyberShot Macro Mode, Indoors

For a final test, I used the macro modes on each camera indoors (macro mode is the way you get your camera to focus correctly for very close up shots). This set amplifies the faults of both cameras. The reds are a little too red and some of the blues are too purple in the Nikon picture and the saturated blues are a little too washed out in the Sony. In truth, the actual color of this little bit of handspun is somewhere between these two pictures. If I had to pick one of these as representative, I would probably pick the Sony shot.

And speaking of handspun... that spindleful is important for two reasons... 1) it's from the batch of Blue Faced Leicester that Julie and I dyed up a while back and 2) it marks the first stuff I've spun using a drop spindle as a drop spindle (there would be pictures, but the husband is off busily researching how to tweak the Sony to deal with it's color and lightness issues better). I might actually be getting the hand of this spinning stuff, folks. A testimony to the what you can do with a little bit of persistence and a couple of good and patient teachers. This yarn is a little uneven, but is definitely a lot more under control than my earlier efforts. And I now know why so many folks rave about the Blue Faced Leicester. Definitely nice stuff to play with!

I Am Inordinantly Proud

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...of this little skein.

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One Little Skein of Hand Dyed, Hand Spun Blue Faced Leicester

After the camera test last night, I finished drop spindling the small remaining amount of sunset colored roving that I had. Tonight, accompanyied by a nice glass wine, I used an Andean plying bracelet to help me turn that single into a two ply yarn. On my last plying adventure, before I set the twist, I had a skein that definitly wanted to twist on itself a little bit. Tonight, I tried to focus my attention on making sure that I had a "balanced" yarn -- that is, once plied, the yarn didn't really want to twist around itself. At first, for some reason, balanced always seemed undertwisted to me. But now that I look at the skein, it seems about right. It still needs a bath to set the twist, but that is a project for tomorrow, I think.

This skein feels like my first real, something I would actually knit with, skein of yarn. Not perfect, but definitely an effort I'm proud of (ask my poor husband, he's been subjected to looking at it several times tonight). I now feel like I understand the basics of spinning with a drop spindle.

In the comments to my last post, Nik asked for some recommendations for learning. The best one I can give: go to MS&W with Cladia, Julie, Leigh and the Harlot. I know that's a bit hard to achieve, so I'd also like to recommend the book that Julie recommended on her blog a while ago:

as well as Ameilia Carlson's "Spindling: the Basics" booklet that I got from the Journey Wheel folks while I was at MS&W.

This go at spinning is actually my second. Sometime back, Julie tried to teach me and I just couldn't figure it out (and it wasn't because she was a bad teacher -- more like I wasn't really ready to want to understand the process). Being able to watch a bunch of different people with different styles helped me realize that I don't have to worry about a "right" or a "wrong" way. It also made me appreciate that in order to do it right, I needed to understand what I was doing. I guess that's the scientist in me, but I do a lot better when I'm not just "following instructions".

I also tried to take my time and not have expectations of perfection. I discovered that pre-drafting is a good thing, and that there's nothing wrong with divinding your roving into whatever size chunks you find easiest to work with. I spent a lot of time spinning and parking and letting the twist move gradually as I learned to deal with handling the fiber. I'm still pretty slow, but now that I have some of the basic motionsin place, I'm sure that my speed will pick up with time.

I also followed the advice of every spinner I have met so far and picked fibers that I wanted to touch. The reality is that sheep are not going extinct, and even if I mess up a whole bunch of lovely cormo, it isn't the end of the world. Better to work with fibers that make me happy and accept that along the path to learning I will have some things that I don't want to look at later on.

Finally, pick a spindle that talks to you. A spindle needs to be well balanced, but it also needs to be something that you want in your hands, that you enjoy looking at, that just "feels right". I'm happy that I started with the two lovely Bosworth spindles that I got and I like to think that these are endowed with special good vibes since some spinners I respect a great deal spun a little bit with them before they came home with me to Chicago.

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