December 2006 Archives

Orange Rainbow

A Rainbow of Orange

This sock is the perfect color therapy for a very grey sort of freezing rain sort of day in Chicago. I love looking at it and drinking in all the orange. It reminds me of orange juice and orange popsicles and orange sherbert and sunny days and tiger lillies and clementine oranges. Clearly the second sock needs to be cast on soon. I will have no problem passing the time on the airline flight I have to go on soon.

After finishing this sock, I weighed it: about 40 g. I weighed the ball. A bit over 60 g left. So I got to thinking about what I was going to do with the remaining 20 g. Not really quite enough for gloves. Certainly not enough for another pair of socks.

And now that I have seen Wendy's wonderful knee sock, which reminded me of Cara's foray into Sock Hop knee socks, I know exactly what that last 20 grams is going to become -- the heel, toes and possibly cuffs for knee socks that I am going to make out of my lovely Say a Little Prayer Sock Hop Sock Yarn.

I know I started a pair with a lacy motif, but I seem to have drifted very far away from them, which suggests to me that the effort level has overwhelmed the fun of knitting the sock. So I think I'm going to rip out what I've started and cast on for a toe up sock (a first for me!) that will have orange heels and toes to go with the happy greenness of Say a Little Prayer. I just love how the greens and oranges of these yarns go together... it reminds me of a fruit salad with cantaulope and musk melon or that orange and lime sherbert that I always wanted when I was a kid. Colors of summer to keep legs warm in the winter!

Time on a Jet Plane


I was supposed to have a post for you today. I even have a good picture and everything. But my plane didn't get into Missoula, MT until almost 1 PM mountain time and it took an hour to get to the hotel.

I can tell you one thing, though. Even in the dark, under a layer of snow, Montana's the Bitterroot Valley is beautiful. And the drive from Missoula to Hamilton on 93 is quite lovely done by moonlight.

I hope to get a few pictures today (I'm here on business so I probably won't have too many opportunities to sight see until tomorrow) so that I can give you an idea of what the place is like. This is definitely one of those un-sung beautiful places that you don't hear about too often.

I've also got a special -- fiber related -- side trip planned before I head home. Can any of you guess where I might be planning to spend some of my afternoon tomorrow?

Building a Log Cabin


The poll results for the log cabin baby blanket were as close as those mid-term elections in Virginia, Montana and Missouri, with the "T Keys" (#1) and "Random Squares" (#3) being the two pattern choices that were pretty much too close to separate. In fact, they also became difficult for me to decide between. The first one is kind of my own original sort of design, so it feels very personal. But the random squares are a bit simpler and require only two color changes (the squares for the key pattern would require a color change on every block). So in the interest of making sure that I could accomplish the project before the baby grows up and goes to college, I decided on the random squares.

The First Log Cabin Square

The knitting of this square was surprisingly addicting for something that is mostly garter stitch. I was able to get all of this done on Friday and what little of Saturday I had to work in while I was getting ready to go on my trip.

The T Keys are not gone forever, however. In my mind it has morphed into a much larger project. Perhaps a full-sized afghan or a quilt for a king-sized bed? It would give me the chance to create more symmetry in the project if it were larger. Clearly a big project for the future.

Mountain Colors

A Small Business with an Incredible View

Those of you who guessed that I was going to get a chance to visit Mountain Colors were completely correct. After wrapping up my business trip I headed over to Corvallis to see where a good deal of hand-dyed magic is made. Leslie, one of the owners of Mountain Colors invited me to stop by when I first mentioned I was going to be in the Bitterroot Valley on business sometime back. It was a real treat to get to meet Leslie and to get to see how their dyeing operation worked.

Unfortunately (at least from the point of view of getting to see a lot of the dyeing process in action) I got there a bit late in the afternoon when they were beginning to wrap up dyeing operations for the day. Leslie took the time to give me a short tour that started in the dyeing room. This room is filled with plastic containers and soaking yarn heat baths and dye bottles filled with rich colors and the air is filled with the smell of vinegar -- exactily what a dyeing room should be like. When I got there, they were dyeing mostly rich deep solid green.

Once the yarn is dyed and rinsed, it moves out to dry.

Drying Pheasant

This is just one of several racks full of drying yarn. What you see drying here is (I think) Bearfoot in the colorway "Pheasant" -- which I used once, long ago, in a pair of socks for my friend, Judy.

Once the yarn is dry, it is given to people who skein it up in the put-up weights that Mountain Colors wholesales. Then it moves to the packing room -- a room full of boxes with yarn store names on them. When a box is complete, it gets introduced to the UPS man who takes it on its trip across the US to its final destination.

Mountain Colors has an incredible array of yarns. All of their stock yarns have been carefully selected for good "hand" when you knit with them, and some of them have been created especially for Mountain Colors. Leslie told me that their "Wooly Feathers" eyelash yarn was designed when they found a yarn made of chicken feathers that they liked -- they worked with a mill to create a mohair/nylon blend that had the look of that yarn. The resulting Wooly Feathers is a really unique eyelash style yarn that really does evoke feathery thoughts. Twizzle is another interesting yarn. It's a 4 ply where one of the plys is a silk ply that takes up the dye differently, creating interesting color contrasts in the yarn.

Not all the yarn ends up being shipped out, however. At the shop in Corvallis you can find mill ends and left over skeins from store orders that you can take home with you. The extra skeins are sorted by color and it's a great deal of fun to see how one colorway can look very different when used with different fibers. But perhaps the best image is just getting to see so many of their beautiful colorways in one place.

A Wall of Color

This photo represents one of 4 walls of bins. There are an incredible number of colorways and solids. Leslie told me that they usually retire three colorways every year and introduce 5 new ones. Almost all of their colorways are based off of 5 (I hope I am remembering that number correctly) stock dye colors. It's always amazing to me what a skilled dyer can do by understanding how to manipulate the depth of shade and how to combine colors.

I wasn't really planning on buying anything when I went out there -- as anyone who has been in my yarn room knows, I have a fairly robust stash. But I fell in love with one of their newer yarns -- 3 Ply Wool, which is a 100% targhee wool yarn. If you remember my Sigil sweater, it was made out of Sweetgrass Targhee (also a Montana product, by the way). As a result of that sweater, I have a very soft wooly place in my heart for targhee yarn. It is soft and lofty and warm and is good for outerwear and closer to the skin garments. When I found the box of 3-ply Wool mill ends, I found myself putting together my own rainbow to remind me of Montana.

Wooly Montana Rainbow

That, my friends, is 40 ounces (just under 3 lbs) of hand-dyed aran weight targhee yarn. Just as soft as can be, and destined, I think, for a small afghan made up of random log cabin squares. I pretty much cleaned them out of the 3-ply wool mill ends, so you might want to wait a little while if you were hoping to find some of your own on a trip to Corvallis.

A big thanks to Leslie for being a very kind host and spending time with me today. I had a lovely visit, and definitely plan to get back next time I'm in Montana.

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend"

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend" Sees the Light of Late Afternoon

Right now I'm finding it a bit difficult to come up with interesting things to post about given that I am in the early-to-middle phases of a number of projects. The bobbin above is the first 4 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino top in "My Boyfriend's Back". If you remember the last time I talked about this sock-yarn-in-progress the picture had a lot more light colors in it. I've officially moved into the darker regions of the yarn which is very red-black. When I last talked about this yarn, I mentioned that for this batch of rovin and my batch of "Sloopy" it seemed like part of the batch had a lot more undyed regions in it than the other part. Teyani left an interesting comment on the post which I think bears repeating for anyone who is interesting understanding why the superwash merino is dyed the way it is, and how Teyani and her Sock Hop spinners create the Sock Hop yarn.

Yes, the white is indeed intentional - for the purpose of making the barberpole yarn. What we do is to split the hank into three sections prior to spinning - light, medium and dark, and then randomly spin from each section, so that the lightest part is spread throughout. makes for some deep striping.

In this case, I just split the batch in half -- the first half contained the lighter third and part of the medium third. The second half (which I have just started) will contain the second half of the medium third and the dark third. It's my hope that this approach will keep my final product a bit darker and thus will keep the resulting socks on the more "manly" side of the spectrum.

As with every other time I've talked about this fiber, I am still very much enjoying spinning it. And apparently I am not the only one. If you want to see the final results of another one of the Crown Mountain colorways (one that I have in my stash and can't wait to spin) Wendy has spun up a skein of two-ply "Do You Believe in Magic". Gorgeous stuff!

Square One

Log Cabin Baby Blanket: Square 1

Here's the very first square for the baby blanket. Cara is absolutely right about this log cabin square making stuff -- you can't make just one! Right after I finished this one (and I mean finished -- I even wove in all the ends), I cast on for square 2, which will have a purple center. These make for just about the most perfect mindless knitting. Just garter stitch but garter stitch that leads to a very satisfying result.

I think all that 3-Ply Wool that I brought back from Mountain Colors is likely to end up in a very large single log cabin square. I've turned all those little skeins into balls and I think I am going to just randomly grab balls out of a basket and knit onto the square. The only real question I need to face: how big should the starting square be? Some of my colors don't have much yardage and I'd like to use them more than once. I'm toying with actually just starting with a square that is about 1" x 1" just so that I can see a lot of color changing occurring in the center. Hmmmm...

Woven Squares

6 Woven Squares

So, I'm sitting in my fiber room this weekend, working on a log cabin square, when I get the sudden incredible urge to weave. Suddenly I had dropped everything, dug my Weavette out of hiding, and was "warping" my little 4" x 4" square loom with a bit of hand-dyed (Blue Moon Fiber Arts), hand-spun (my own) merino and silk blend yarn. It turned out to be an interesting exercise in color and texture for me.

The yarn I started with has relatively pronounced regions of striping, and there's a good deal of contrast between the colors. (The colorway is called "Eclipse" and you can see the finished product yarn in this old post). The very first square in the bottom right corner is evenweave (as are the top right and middle left squares). After making that square, I alternated between a square with a "pattern stitch" and an evenweave square -- the idea in my head was a small blanket or pillow that was a sampler that alternated evenweave with patterned squares. Clearly the pattern stitches don't show up all that well in this yarn, but they do create interesting texture. (All the pattern stitches came out of this book).

As I watched the squares evolve, there were moments when it didn't even seem like the squares could be coming from the same small skein of yarn. It was very interesting to me to see how a striped yarn plays out in a different fabric creating process than a knit fabric.

Each of these little squares takes about 7.5 yards of yarn, and after being removed from the loom, they are about 3.5" x 3.5" in size -- which is about 12.25 square inches. I have about 663 yards from this batch of hand spun, which would give me 88 squares (1078 square inches or a blanket roughly 33" on each side) if I were to weave it all up. Or, I could just make enough of them to enclose a standard size pillow form.

This yarn is a challenge for me to know what to do with. On one hand, it's incredibly soft and I have a sentimental attachement to it since it one of my earlier spinning efforts. On the other hand, it is not a yarn that I would consider for a garment (I can in no way,shape or form, wear a garment with so much yellow in it), and it is not particularly even or tighly spun. So I will have to think on it a bit. But in the meantime, I think I need to go make another square....

Festive Fiber

A Red Rainbow of Romney and A Lovely Little Spindle

Some days you need a little color therapy. Today was just about as grey as you can get in Chicago. Grey, rainy, cloudy. That it's warm enough to be raining is not entirely a bad thing, but its definitely the kind of weather that gets me down a little bit. Which makes it an excellent time to explore one's fiber room.

This lovely torrent of Romney roving comes from fleecemakers Etsy shop. I believe the colorway is called "Autumn Brights". What is lovely about it is that it that the seller raises Romney sheep and hand dyes the wool. And, if I am doing my math correctly, I have two lovely 4 ounce bundles to spin. Very festive, is it not?

The lovely little lace spindle with the stylized cat design and the notecards (which are hiding behind some of that fiber) come from Spindle Cat Studio. I haven't spun on the little spindle yet (I don't have a fiber delicate enough -- it's only a 1/2 ounce spindle) but it seems to be well balanced. And the cat design gets a big paws up from the felines in the house.

Many many thanks to Emma for this little bundle of holiday treasures. She and I have been trading fibery goodies almost since I started to blog and I consider her one of my dearest blogging-resultant friends even though I've never had the good fortune to meet her in person. It's taken me a little longer than I would have liked to get them on the blog -- mostly because I was hoping I'd get to spin some of the Romney and be able to talk about that too. Today, however, I realized that with all that I've got going on, the spinning might not happen in a timely fashion, and the colors were just too rich not to enjoy and share.

Square Two

Log Cabin Square Two

It's interesting to me how you can take the same three colors, change their proportions in a knitted fabric, and have an entirely different look. This square resonates much differently with me than the first one did. I like seeing that much green and purple side by side.

All of you who read my first post on this project and suggested that it would be the easiest from the point of view of weaving in ends were exactly right! Only 6 ends to weave in for each square. It makes for nice and easy finishing as I go.

And the third square is now cast on. One more and I'll have a whole third of the blanket done!

It seems I've been tagged by Sande for a meme that's been doing the rounds lately. Since this weekend was devoted to holiday cheer (two company Christmas parties on Friday, our own big party on Saturday, brunching with good friends who came in from Madison for the party on Sunday morning and plowing through some Christmas shopping on Sunday afternoon) I find myself largely without any significant knitting or spinning efforts to talk about. Thus, this meme comes at the right time for me -- although I'm not sure whether I can come up with 6 weird things, since I've done this a few times before. And I'm going to cheat on the whole tagging six new people thing...

Here are THE RULES:Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.”

  • I'm phone-o-phobic. Not sure what it is, and it didn't develop until my adult years, but I just hate picking up the phone. I don't have problems talking with people in general, but it takes a lot of inertia for me to punch in a phone number and call someone. I will happily send email all day long.
  • I like chocolate, but I don't love chocolate or any other form of sweet, really. If I'm going to get in trouble with snack food, it's going to be potato chips or barbeque Fritos or a bag of Gardetto's snack mix. Or Margaritas.
  • I tend to get bored at the beach.
  • If I could live anywhere in the world, money no object, I would probably still choose to live in Chicago, and I'd probably still choose a house in the neighborhood I live in. I might choose a slightly more elaborate house -- or at least on on two city lots.
  • Somewhere buried in my house I still have a collection of D&D compatible dice. When I roleplay on the computer or in real life (have not done that for many years) I almost always play a half-elf wizard. I've always wanted to be able to cast spells and live longer.
  • Someday, I would like to own a parrot or a boa constrictor. I am fascinated by birds and snakes, but am not sure they are compatible with cats. And my husband has made it pretty clear that they may not be compatible with him.

And now the tagging part.... heh. Well, in addition to all those other facts, I'm lazy (I didn't think that being lazy counted as something weird enough to include in the list). I also know that a lot of folks that I would probably tag, prefer to pick and choose their own memes. So, I'm going to turn this one around a bit and instead invite anyone who reads my blog and would like to play along to leave a comment in my comments telling me you're going to participate. I'd love to hear from lurkers. Y'all are more than welcome to do the tagging part, should you want to. I'll have a special follow up post to this one with all the people who left me a comment with a link to their post.

I look forward to finding out a bit more about the people who check in with me every day.

(More fiber content to come, soon, I promise!)

Still Life With Sleeves

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Rogue Sleeves in the Early Morning Light of My Fiber Room

Interestingly enough, I didn't feel so trapped on Sleeve Island while working the sleeves as the upfront part of the project. In fact, these sleeves just seemed to breeze by. Perhaps it was having the nice bit of cabling to work through? Bigger yarn? It's not clear. But both sleeves are now complete and I'm thinking about getting the body of the sweater started. (In case you would like to know, the second sleeve is the one on the left side of my blocking board).

The last time I talked about this project, I had decided to wash my yarn after finishing one sleeve with unwashed yarn. There was some concern over whether I would run into changing gauge problems, but that doesn't really seem to have become an issue. The guage measurements I was working from were from a swatched that I knit from the unwashed yarn, but then washed and dressed before taking a final gauge reading. It was clear to me when I made the gauge swatch that the yarn made a significant character change. It seems in this case that by washing the yarn, the character change occured before the knitting and I didn't see that much more change after that. Granted, it is a somewhat unfair test because I blocked both sleeve pieces into the size and shape I wanted them to be, and with the swatch I let it dry without any tensioning.

At any rate, I think everything is good enough to proceed to the next step. Rogue is going to be a cardigan, so I am going to knit the body of the sweater using the cardiganization instructions that Jenna published along with the pullover pattern.

Sheesh! Computers! I've been having blogging and computer use problems for a couple of days. Fortunately, the computer whisperer that is my husband was able to get Chaos (the name of my intrepid laptop) back into fighting form so that Chaos and I could bring you another blog post.

On Monday, I shared some "weird" things about me. I'm pleased to be in such good company with my phone-o-phobia. As I began to think about that, I came to the conclusion that it started sometime while I was in grad school. It was before caller ID, and somehow my phone number got on the Joliet State Prison dialing list and I had a number of inmates asking to make collect calls from me, in particular, a very serious individual named Tyrone. I got enough of these calls that I started screening everything by answering machine.

But enough about me! Apparently a number of my friends in blogland have some weird things of their own that you wanted to talk about. It was so fun to see some of you delurk to let me know you were taking me up on my meme invitation. So without further ado, here's some weird things about some people who come visit my blog (they are in no particular order -- other than the order in which they left a comment).

Kay, over at Kay In Stitches delurked and provides some interesting information about being a bilingual knitter.

Carole, over at Carole Knits hasn't posted anything yet (I understand completely, tis a tough season to get anything bloggy accomplished) but I do see that she has some most excellent pictures of holiday cookies. Mmmmm! Polish Tea Cakes!

Maryse, over at Bag n' Trash -- Home of Monster Yarn always saves the best for last and loves to be surprised. I wish I had that kind of resolve!

Dephal, over at Domain Dephal talks about a familial chromosomal inversion. Such cool genetic information to have! The computer biologist in me would love to know about things like that going on in my own DNA.

Sydney at As the Yarn Turns has an adorable ferret (another animal I wouldn't mind spending some time with) and shares my phone-o-phobia.

Bonne Marie, one of my knitting buds at Chic Knits, shares an awesome photo, a nick name, and a couple of tips for dealing with traffic in a Jeep Wrangler. Weird knit bug fact: When I first started blogging, I started reading Bonne Marie's blog, I had no idea she was practically my next door neighbor until she mentioned setting up a knitting group in our area. We got to know each other working together to pick a good location.

Judith, at Tofu Knits, is a relatively new blogger, knitter and spinner. She talks a lot about cooking (I might have to try that banana bread oatmeal recipe!) and shares some interesting facts about herself in her very first meme!

Gina at Knit Two Together posted her weird things list -- I have to admit, I have a similar lack of understanding of scrap booking. Though generally speaking, I figure any craft that involves collecting interesting paper can't be all bad. (Yes, another weird fact about me... I love paper!)

Michelle, another fun Chicago knitblogger at Blog-o-Rama (who is also a real life practicing composer -- how cool is that?) talks about how she met her husband as part of her weird list. She's got my meeting John via the internet beat!

Knitnana at her eponymous Knitnana blog thinks she might not ever be an advanced knitter because she doesn't like to knit sweaters, even though she has made some pretty exceptional shawls! I'd say that sweater knitting does not an advanced knitter make!

Donna, over at Sheep to Shawl (fellow Lithuanian and author of Arctic Lace and Knitted Rugs) shares my feelings about phone calls, reading material and book stores and I love the idea of a backyard full of natural dye plants. Scroll down the page a bit to find her entry!

Gaile at Gaile Online misses her 1972 VW Bug, which reminded me of two long departed but much loved cars: a 1978 Ford Fiesta and a 1982 Ford Escort. Ah, the freedom of one's first automobile!

AllisonH at SpinDyeKnit. Allison has something in common with Chicagoans -- she grew up near a lovely Frank Lloyd Wright building. Shows you how bad my FLW history is -- I had no idea he created a house in Maryland!

Dana at KnitSmith, Word Purl (I just love that blog name) has a special place in her heart for her dishwasher. I'm completely sympathetic to this, because when my husband bought his townhome right before we were married, it was his first encounter with a dishwasher. And it was love at first sight!

Flan, at Emphatic Knitting shares my love of thunderstorms. I will do the same thing, when I can. It's just incredible to watch nature in action!

I'd like to say a big thanks to the 15 folks who decided to play along with me on this meme. I really enjoyed reading your blog entries and getting to know you a little better. I hope my readers will take the time to explore and maybe make some new blog friends. There are so many creative people out there. And as I read through all of those "weird things" it makes me realize that we have so much more in common than we do in different. And that our weird things really aren't that weird at all. Just things that make us special and unique and vibrant in the universe.

Peace and Joy to All for the Season

The Beazle Waits for Santa

No matter what holidays you celebrate, may you be surrounded in warmth, happiness, peace and good health for the holidays and the year to come.

The Keyboard Biologist will be on hiatus until after the New Year. I'm going to have a house full of family next week and I suspect my fiber-bonding time will be limited. Thank you so much to everyone who has spent some of their day with me this year. I've enjoyed meeting so many new people!I look forward to showing you more knitting, spinning and the occasional glimpse of Chicago in the coming year!