Recently in Yarn Category

Treats for Inspiration

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Last year was such a low impact knitting year that it was hard for me to look at my existing stash and justify more yarn.  It was also becoming more and more clear to me that some yarns, even though I love them, don't play nice with my skin.  At the same time, I missed creating and crafting and knew I needed some inspiration.  So I decided that I would allow myself to have some treat yarn, under the condition that it was skin compatible (merinos, silk and good cashmere), truly special and inspirational, and also a small project where the yarn would actually be consumed and not just sit and linger in my stash.

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Just about the time I made this decision, Sundara offered her luxury yarn subscription.  Smallish amounts of yarn and a pattern to go with it.   I'd used her fingering silky merino in another pattern and found that I could wear it against my skin without irritation, and since that yarn, it's aran cousin and a sport silky cashmere were the core offerings, I figured I couldn't go wrong.  Small projects, wonderful yarn bases and a dyer that makes some of the most beautiful and sophisticated colorways I've ever seen.   It's hard not to want this yarn in your hands!

Of course, I haven't been as fast on the draw as I would like to be.  There were three projects in the subscription and I'm just about mid-way through the first (Saltwater, which I am working in that beautiful blue yarn you see in the picture).   The other two yarns that came in the subscription are that beautiful deep "autumn leaves" red aran silky merino and the lovely "driftwood" sport silky cashmere that captures my memories of driftwood washed up on Lake Michigan in the summertime perfectly.    

The green yarn is her "Compassion" (also in aran silky merino) -- she released it at a time a few weeks ago when that message really resonated (and still resonates) with me.  The cowl project it goes with may be next since it is February in Chicago and that color will be the perfect complement to me and my hair and February is just one of those months where we all need a little more compassion, I think. At least in the places where it is cold and we have to spend more of our time indoors.

Last, but not least, that beautiful purple lace weight is "Aurora" in "Petunia" from Jill Draper. It's a wool silk blend and it's so soft that I'm optimistic that I'll be able to wear it in the lacy cowl its destined for.  

Even though I haven't knit with all of it yet, this yarn is keeping me company at my desk, sharing it's color and it's beautiful textures with me.  It's been therapeutic in many ways.  And it definitely helped convince me to keep my needles moving.

What yarn or tools inspire you to keep knitting?

Hand Dyed Yarn in Paradise

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The truth is, that while I love Hawaii (and the Island of Kauaii, in particular) I don't really go to Hawaii to knit or go yarn shopping.  It's warm, it's humid and I'm at the beach and knitting is only infrequently on the agenda - so yarn doesn't even seem like the right kind of souvenir from Hawaii most of the time.

That said, I was so surprised to find a nice little yarn store in Hanalei (Kauai's North Shore) in the local Ukelele shop, Strings and Things that I had to stop in and look.  Imagine my surprise to find not only Arucania, but also beautiful locally hand dyed yarn, Hanalei Hand Dyed.  Apparently the yarn originates from a rainy season some time back where there was 40 days of rain.  The owners of the store, who knew how to knit, thought it would be good to find something else to do and the dying business was born.  They have some yarns dyed with local plant-based dyes.

So, in spite of myself, I walked away with some souvenir yarn that would be completely impractical for Hawaiian use (the yarn on the left is 65% cashmere, 35% silk; the yarn on the right is a bamboo/merino blend) but will be perfect for Chicago.  The dusty muted tones of the cashmere silk blend remind me of Kauai rain showers (of which there are many) and the bright sunny tones of the bamboo/merino remind me of Mai Tais by sunset. 

The shawl pin is also a local product, from njm designs (I couldn't find a website). It's labelled as "copper mandala".

There's been a little bit of knitting going on (the scarf of my last post has grown longer) but mostly it's been about the beach and the pursuit of shave ice since arriving on Saturday.  This is our third trip to Kauai... and every time we visit it feels a little more like home.

Some Mojo Rising

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One of my favorite toys ever showing off some lovely Briar Rose "grace" (a blend of superwash merino, bamboo and nylon) which is likely to become a second Rivolo (I gave the first one away). 

I have no idea why I suddenly needed to start another project.  I've been sick all week, am behind as all get out, and really didn't need to start something new.  But I had to.  So I did.  Maybe knitting will help chase the viruses away.

All Treats, No Tricks this Halloween

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Over the summer, John and I had many discussions about our things owning us rather than us owning our things.  I'm not sure why, but we both tend to descend into pack rat mode without much provocation.  Sometimes I think it's because we both grew up having to earn everything we got, so when we attach value to something, it's hard to just let it go without knowing that we'll get some of it's value back (John) or that someone will get some use out of it's remaining value (me).  Since Ms. Z became a part of our lives, the time we had to find ways to sell off old stuff, use it or give it away seems to have disappeared, so much has accumulated.  We've been giving our things a good hard look and trying to put together a plan to get rid of some of it so that it will be easier to do some minor remodeling in the spring.

My big (self-assigned) task is to examine my craft supplies and try to be honest about what I'm really using and what I am holding onto for either sentimental reasons.  Craft supplies, of course, includes yarn.  Don't get me wrong, I love my yarn and it's a constant source of inspiration, but I'm only willing to give up so much of my home to yarn, especially if I'm just looking at it and not knitting, crocheting, weaving or doing some other kind of crafting with it. 

So I made a some decisions/resolutions for the fall:

  1. To create a list of all my unfinished projects and to make a commitment to completing these projects before acquiring new yarn or material to start new ones.
  2. To limit my stash expansion to yarn that will be used immediately, might truly never be found again or is a special souvenir from a trip
  3. To shop the stash whenever possible, and to consider designing my own garments or modifying existing patterns to use stash yarn.
All in all, I've been pretty good since September about limiting stash expansion.  I've stepped back from some of the yarn and fiber subscriptions that I would love to continue.  I've started all my recent sock projects from stash yarn.  And I've created a "To Do" list for all my current projects, prioritized them, and have made a mental commitment to getting to the point where I only have a few projects going at any one time.  As much as I like to start things, I find that having too many projects in process sometimes makes it hard for me to get anything done because I just flip flop aimlessly between them. 

That said, it hasn't been a stash expansion-free Fall so far.  I had a couple of "clubs" that just wrapped up, and I allowed myself to remember our trip to NYC with some fiber souvenirs. 

20101107_SweetGeorgiaFiberC.jpgThese are the September and October installments from my Sweet Georgia fiber club sub.  The September fiber (in the back) is washable Blue Faced Leicester in the colorway "Heavy Traffic".  The October fiber (in the front) is called Panda (a blend of superwash merino, bamboo and nylon) in the colorway "Brocade".  The Panda is stunning both in hand and in color and I can't wait to try spinning sock yarn out of it.

20101107_TractorCormo.jpgThis lovely bundle is 1800 yards of worsted weight 100% cormo yarn in the colorway "Tractor" from my Juniper Moon Farms CSA share.  It just arrived on Friday.  I don't have any immediate plans for it, but I am mulling the idea of Momma and Daughter sweaters since 1800 yards should be enough for an adult woman's and child's sweater.  The farm blog for Juniper Moon is one of my regular reads.  I really love hearing about what goes on with Susan Gibbs and her farm, and feel like it was a privilege to be able to help support the farm by purchasing my share this year.  I hope to do it again in the future sometime.

20101107_KoiguMori.jpg It would have been easy to spend my whole trip to New York City trolling yarn stores, but decided to limit my stop to just two.  The first was Purl Soho.  It's more than a little amazing how much color in yarn, thread, felt and fabric is packed into that little store.  They had a large selection of Koigu Mori (a silk blend KPPPM) on 40% off sale, so I decided that I would finally make the Chevron Scarf out of Joelle Hoverson's (the store's founder) Last-Minute Knitted Gifts using these bright, happy colors.  I love silk-blend yarns and there's really not enough orange in my wardrobe, so these yarns will definitely be inspiration for clearing out some of my current projects so that I can get started.

20101107_HabuTexturedYarns.jpgMy second (and final) fiber destination in NYC was Habu Textiles.  The "showroom" is a surprisingly small room tucked away in a high rise in the garment district (at least I think that is where it is... forgive me if I've bungled the geography).  I could have spent a great deal of time here, and significantly more money than I did, but I decided to stay away from their pre-packaged kits and design a simple woven scarf kit of my own from their mill ends collections.  I loved rummaging through the three large baskets on the floor that contained random collections of different types of Habu yarns.  After picking two bags that I thought had a lot of different textures, but had compatible color palettes (and reminded me of fall colors in NYC) for the weft of the scarf, I selected the cone of silk yarn in the middle to be the weft.  I planned for a plain weave scarf about 8" wide by 60" long with a sett of 14 - 18 epi.  The weft yarns will be used randomly as my mood takes me. 

All of these lovelies will be waiting until I start to complete some of the 20 or so projects on my to do list... I've decided to try to keep myself to one weaving, quilting and spinning project at a time.

 



Transitions

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Julie and I got together for a belated birthday celebration (we both celebrate birthdays in February) and took a trip out to the Fold.   As always, it was full of inspiration for both of us.  Everywhere you look there's something new to think about.  Unusually enough for me, however, I decided to focus on three things: socks for John, Skew socks for me and something that could become a work appropriate scarf for my new job.  And I was able to find one thing that worked well in each category.

The green Trekking is for man socks -- imagine finding dark green, durable yarn with some subtle interest.  John's grey Trekking socks have held up incredibly well, so it's nice to find some more Trekking that will fit his color range.

The little red bundle is a Crazy Zauberball -- I think I'm probably the last one to this party, but I think it will be interesting to watch the striping in the context of the Skew socks (something else I am also coming late to). The socks are cast on and I'm looking forward to to seeing how the construction works out.  So far, it's not too fiddly, and it's toe up -- both of which are primary considerations for yours truly when making socks.

That gorgeous BFL from Fiber Optic Yarns, dyed in the colorway "Black Light" is the foundation for the scarf in the third category.  I love love love deep electric blues and purples.  My goal is to spin a fine two ply that can be knit up into something simple and narrow that will work in an environment that requires more formal business attire.  I've been itching to pull out my wheel, and I'm hoping this fiber will be the inspiration that gets me back there.

Oh, yeah, and about that new job thing... I'm going to be the director of operations for a brand new health care IT-focused not-for-profit.   I look at my blog as a more or less work-free zone, but I will say that I'm excited and looking forward to a number of new challenges.  And that it's very likely that posting will be a bit more irregular as things get underway.  It's a start up organization with a mission and I expect it to keep me pretty busy!


Pretty Colors

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I was going to whine a bit about the weather in Chicago, and the purgatory on Earth that is driving on I-90 when it snows, and the fact that I still have far too much holiday shopping to do, but my dear blogging buddy Emma has saved you all by surprising me with some fabulous color that would make anyone forget about grey weather, at least for a little while. 

Emma and I have traded yarn for some time (which reminds me that it might be time to send what I have been collecting back across the Atlantic), both of us looking for things that are more likely to be found on our sides of the pond.  Every time I get a package from Emma, I'm surprised at what great stuff she finds.  The UK hand dying community is clearly a deep one when it comes to quality and talent.

From left to right, the yarns are: Violet Green, Socrates Super Sock in "Burnt Orange".  It's a blend of 80% superwash merino and 20% nylon, and appears to be a 3 ply yarn.  Just about as perfect a combination as you can get for socks.  Posh Yarn, Martha in "Glade".  This yarn is 80% merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon.  It has an incredible hand to go along with the beatuiful, subtly variegated green color.  It's a 4 ply yarn, which I never would have guessed if I hadn't just unplied a bit to check.  The last yarn is Skein Queen, Squash in "Rose Red".  It's 100% superwash merino and a 4 ply yarn.  While I'll turn anything with a little nylon into socks, 100% merino yarns need to be dedicated to different projects.  I think the colors in this skein would be beautiful in a small shawl or scarf, worn near my face.

I'd like to take the last bit of this post to wish you all a very happy holiday season.    May you all have a peaceful, joyous time with family and friends and find plenty of time to indulge yourself in the things that make you happy.  We've got a lot of family activities planned, so posting here may be sparse until after the New Year.  It's been a pleasure to be able to share my crafty pursuits with you all for another year. I'd like to thank everyone who drops by for their interest and attention.  I'm looking forward to a 2010 full of crafty goodness and I hope you'll all continue to share in the fun with me!

Guess What? It's More Yarn!

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I was almost about to apologize for the lack of significant crafting going on here. I was almost going to, but I'm not.  Not for the standard "this is my blog and I'll do what I want to reasons", but because taking a little break from crafting while I did other things has helped me really start to get excited about the crafting projects I want to tackle. There have been bits and bobs of knitting and weaving when I'm hanging out with the kid and watching TV,  but most of my free time is still going into Dragon Age.  What's funny, now, though, is while I am still enjoying the game a great deal, all the great new yarn I have been acquiring has starting to shift the balance of what I want to do.  I've gotten to that point where I know the end of the game is coming relatively soon, and I'll be okay with that since there are so many other fun things waiting for me once it's complete. 

Okay, Yeah.  So that means today there's still precious little knitting to discuss.  But there is new yarn.

Julie and I headed out to Marengo to pay a visit to the Fold.  I have to say, I always feel like going out to see Toni is a little bit of a pilgrimage if you love fiber or yarn.  There's always something new to see and Toni has a real knack for finding hand dyers who make beautiful stuff.  My primary mission for the trip was to acquire some more Mountain Colors 3-Ply wool to continue my diagonal squares blanket.

20091213_BlanketWool.jpgMission accomplished! 

This was one of the most fun and fast color selection processes I've ever done.  I spread my completed squares out on a table in the sunlight, started grabbing hanks of yarn and tossing them on top.  Keeping some, returning some to where they came from.  I want this  blanket to be big and very patchwork feeling when it is complete, so I looked for harmonious colors, but also a fair amount of variation.    Most of these yarns fall into the dark jewel tone end of the spectrum, but I absolutely love how the yarns with the rich gold jump in and out.   I would love to end up with a full size or queen-sized blanket when all is said and done -- I think this project is going to be my mindless TV knitting project.  Honestly, there's nothing you have to pay less attention to knitting than a garter stitch square.

But, no trip to the Fold would be complete unless I found a few unexpected treasures that I just couldn't leave without.

20091213_ScarfSilk.jpgThe yarn on the left is Blue Moon Silk Thread II -- which to my eye looks roughly equivalent to 10/2 perle cotton, thus making it a yarn with the potential to be a spectacular scarf warp.  I think it is the ST-2 colorway.  The yarn is 100% silk and there's about 1200 yards, so if I was feeling ambitious, there is actually two scarves worth of warp there.  Clearly I will be thinking about suitable weft and weave patterns to complement.  The Luscious is another 100% silk yarn, but more of a worsted weight preparation.    I haven't talked about it much, but over the last 9 months or so I've been dealing with eczema.  I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that I might be developing a little bit of a wool sensitivity (something that it is paining me greatly to admit to myself).  Right now, it's incredibly easy to send my into a frenzy of itching.  But I've discovered that many of my silk and silk blend things can be worn next to my skin without making me feel like I want to take the top layer of my skin off and slather myself in steroids.  I've wanted a simple, luxurious black scarf for a while now, so the Luscious jumped right into my hands and never jumped out.

And while I will never say never about yarn acquisitions here chez Keyboard Biologists, I think it's fair to say that my basket overfloweth at the moment and I'm going to try to be a good deal more reserved for a while. 

And now I'm off to rid the world of corrupt nobility and darkspawn.  See you on Wednesday!

Color Therapy

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This is the time of year in the mid-western US when a few hours of non-grey skies during any given day feels like a gift.  Not only does it start getting dark around the depressingly early hour of 4 pm, but the clouds roll in, and even if it doesn't rain or snow, they don't roll out.  And with all the living flora having given up it's leaves, died or gone into hibernation until spring, it can start to feel pretty dreary.  When late fall starts to give way to early winter in Chicago, nature is fading and you've got to find other ways to bring color into your life.

20091129_VesperKaleidoscope.jpgI like it best when that color bursts in on you as a little bit of a surprise.  Sure, I know I have a Vesper sock club membership, but monthly installments give you just enough time to forget that you have it, and then be pleasantly surprised when something absolutely amazing and wonderful shows up in your mailbox. 

This burst of color is the called "Kaleidoscope" and it's the sock club colorway for November, 2009.  When I opened up this little package today, it was like having a burst of summer blast back into the room.  My first thought when I saw it, though I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit it: This yarn is all for me!  I'm not sharing with anyone!  Yes, I like it that much!  The only real question is: feet or neck?  I'm in love!  It's like having a Wee Skein Kit all in one skein!

Thank you for all the suggestions for kids knitting.  Sounds like I'm going to have to get my hands on both the Lucinda Guy and Melanie Falick books and see for myself.   I'd like to give her one of those books along with a pair of US 8 straight needles and a couple of skeins of Cascade 220 superwash and then see if I can't help her get started on a garter stitch scarf.  It was very nice to hear that some of you have started with children younger than 6 and had good success.

If it Wasn't For Neat Yarn...

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...sometimes I just wouldn't have anything to talk about.

20091105_SockClubVesper.jpgPretty, Pretty Vesper Sock Yarn

I consider myself fortunate and fast on the click to have gotten in on the Fall 2009 Vesper Sock Club.  The first installment arrived last week: a skein of kettle dyed yarn called "Midnight Air" .  This yarn could also be fairly named "Favorite Old Blue Jeans", because that is what it makes me think of.  When you look at it, the colors are very evocative of the faded blues you see in a well worn pair of jeans.  It's possible that this could end up becoming socks, but right now its speaking to me about being something I could wear around my neck.  I've been into blues and purples when it comes to my wardrobe these days, and I think it would look lovely paired with a chocolate colored turtleneck (my go to top when it starts to get chilly out).

The Zebra Striper sweater continues apace.  I've gotten started on the button bands, so I feel like I am now in the home stretch for this project.  There most l likely will be a trip out in search of buttons on Saturday morning. 

Looking at the project queue...

  •  I've promised myself that the next project to be completed, come hell or high water, is going to be Rogue (how appropriate that my last entry for this project was November 8, 2008).  I started this project in the Fall of 2006, and while I know I'm not in contention for any "longest WIP ever" prizes,  it's making me crazy that it's so close to completion (I-cord edging for one side, sleeves to be set in, zipper to be sewn in) and hasn't crossed the finish line.  
  • After that, I think it's going to be the Francie socks
  • And then probably my Kushu Kushu Scarf.  Both projects are close to the finish line and just need a little effort and patience to get them completed. 
  • After that, I want to find some skeins of Mountain Colors 3 Ply Targhee to use to complete my blanket.  It's not going to be quite as random as I had hoped, because I don't seem to be able to get my hands on any more bits and bobs of mill ends.  So I'm trying to decide whether I should go with a "solid" (read single colorway) background and throw my current squares into it randomly, or get a broad collection of skeins and try to maintain some of the random idea.
Of course, this doesn't include any of the new projects I want to start.  But I've told myself that until I knock of Rogue and the Francie socks, there will be no new projects.  We'll see how well my will power holds out on that one!

YarnCon Stash Additions

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20091015_Sophie'sToesYarnCo.jpgOn Saturday afternoon, whatever powers that control the weather in Chicago finally decided to give us a little sunshine.  It made for a lovely day to head to YarnCon with Julie.  Both of us did a little stash enhancement at the Emily Parson's Sophie's Toes booth.  And on Sunday it was not only warm enough to take pictures outside, but I even sat and worked on Elijah on my balcony. 

I've been fondling the cashmere blend Sophie's Toes that I purchased earlier and was hoping that Emily would bring some more man-friendly colors with her.  I already have a skein of the regular merino yarn in "Walnut" (the lovely brown yarn on the left), but after sadly saying goodbye to several pairs of merino only socks, I've come to the conclusion that, at least in my house, if a yarn doesn't have a little nylon, it probably won't survive very long unless it's also very tightly spun or has more than 2 plies.  So I will save my original skein of for another project and use the cashmere/merino/nylon blend skein for the socks I had originally planned.  So, with any luck, John will get two pairs of nice new socks this winter.

The skein on the right is "Lagoon", also in the cashmere blend.  It's a much deeper, more saturated teal in real life, but still isn't dark enough for man-sock duty, so those socks will be destined for my feet.

The biggest prize, however, was the "Magic Ball" (the center pull cake in the center of the bowl).  Emily's Magic Balls are made up of sections of multiple colorways.  This one is called "Enchanted Forest" and features all my favorite jewel tones.  When I first laid my hands on it, Julie told me "Those are your colors!"  Yep.  Deep colors with purply-blue undertones go well with my skin.  Perhaps this ball is destined for a new scarf for me... with all the different colorways available in it, I've been thinking something modular might be fun.

I wrapped up the weekend with working steadily on Elijah (he now has a head, body and two legs) and even got a few rows in on the second Zebra Striper sweater sleeve.  My conversation with Julie, who is trying to decrease her unfinished project pile, has inspired me to go back to my UFO list and figure out what I can start finishing up...  

If in Doubt...

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Lead with a cute baby, pet or nice new yarn.  Lucky for me, sometimes I can do best two out of three.

20091006_HocusPocus.jpgWe're back from our Texas hill country adventure.  Z was an angel all day today, even though she spent a lot of time "bonding" with her car seat.   This was a complete contrast to Sunday night when we had a tantrum that seemed to us like it must measure a 9 on the Toddler Tantrum Richter Scale. 

When we got home, a little package was waiting for me: my Knitterly Things "Hocus Pocus" Vesper, which is a loverly combination of a purply-blue, lime green and muted red (the picture doesn't capture the red very well).   I talked Ms. Z into "modeling" it for me tonight.  Unfortunately, you can't hear the audio that went with the photo: "I have Momma's yarn.  Now I can knit." 

I hope that she holds onto that thought for when she can comfortably hold needles!

Kitchen Sink

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It's been way too long since I've had a post with a picture in it.*  And there almost wasn't one today, since I got home from work much later than I expected last night.  I decided to look at bad lighting as an opportunity to play with my camera and my "daylight" fluorescent bulbs.  I think it kind of has a late night, artsy sort of effect.  The colors are pretty good, just a little darker than they would be in real life. 

This lovely yarn is part of the treasures I took home from shopping at the Renegade Craft Fair that happened on nearby Division Street two weekends ago.  While Renegade mostly seems to suffer from an overabundance of T-shirt and eclectic jewelry vendors, buried here and there are booths that a knitty girl can appreciate.  While I have been known to give in to the occasional artsy screenprint T-shirt vendor, my favorite booth had to have been that of Kitchen Sink Dyeworks.  I thought her color palettes were lovely and complex.  Most of them had a soft, watercolor quality that makes you want to pull them out of your knitting basket on a quiet, rainy afternoon. 

The bottom skein is "Luxe Merino Fine" in "Cary" which is 80% wool, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon (a perfect sock blend, if you ask me).  My eyes were immediately drawn to the soft blues, purples and greys.  This yarn is not destined to marinade in my stash for very long.  Once I can find it a few more friends, I'll be booking it on a long trip across the water. 

The top skein is "Merino Bamboo" in Leona.  It is composed of 60% superwash merino, 30% bamboo and 10% nylon.   I've been wanting to try a bamboo blend yarn, and I thought this one was absolutely beautiful in a bit beyond pastel versions of fall colors: rose, lilac and gold are the primary hues in the skein.  It will make something lovely when its time comes.   She claims that her method of dyeing prevents pooling and striping. -- and the samples she had in the booth seemed to bear that out -- so I'm thinking it will be time to dig out my pattern book and look for something fun to go with with it... a twisted stitch pattern, maybe?

And, speaking of knitting, it's time for me to get back to that, now isn't it.  Maybe tonight is the time for Z's second Zebra striper sleeve to get cast on....



* And I'm particularly excited about posting pictures now, because my blog posts are in a wider column and my pictures can be about 100 pixels wider.

Otto, Elijah and Sophie

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20090903_OttoSophieElijah.jpgWow, you're all thinking,  another picture of yarn in a bowl.  Certainly she can come up with something different to post about than more yarn.

Well, actually, I probably could. But at this point, I don't think of this as a bowl of pastel yarn, I think of it as Elijah, Otto and Sophie (from top to bottom).  A good friend of mine is expecting her second son to arrive in the next couple of months, and while I would love to knit the impending arrival something similar to what I made for his older brother, I decided that it might be nice to make the new little guy something that was special and all his own. 

I haven't made very many toys.  Z got a Baby Bobbi Bear and a Doddy and my nephew received Celestine, but those are the only three I've ever started and finished.  Generally, when I've tried to knit toys, I find them kind of fiddly and get frustrated when joins and closures don't look as clean as I want them to.  But after watching Z with her ball and after knitting Celestine and realizing that it's very important to have a pretty tight gauge, I've been thinking about giving it another try.  And Ysolde's adorable little creatures kept popping back into my browser.

So, Monday night, I purchased all the patterns, ordered the yarn and was pleasantly surprised when it showed up lightning fast and the colors were what I expected them to be.  Because I'm knitting for a little boy, I tried to select colors that fit into a little boy's palette -- except for the white.  Otto is a polar bear, and I just couldn't see that one in any other color.  Fortunately, this is Cashsoft Baby and the yarn is machine washable, so all the toys will be able to get a bath here and there when they need them and will still be incredibly soft. 

The other big reason I'm posting that yarn picture is because it's a commitment -- I will get these toys done before the child is too old to be interested in them!    

To all of you in the States, may you have a lovely long Labor Day weekend (I will be enjoying mine in Ann Arbor with a Georgia Reuben from Zingerman's and the company of family).  To everyone else, I wish you a lovely weekend as well, even if it's only two days instead of three. 

Cashmere Sophie

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20090901_CashmereSophie.jpgIn my never ending quest to search out luscious, man-friendly sock yarn, I bring you today's post. 

What do you get the man who has (almost) everything for his anniversary?  The man who tells you he won't wear any other jewelry but his wedding ring?  The man who tells you he wants something for his computer and then gives you the exact SKU number and location to purchase it from?  The man who, though he has several hobbies, has no hobby that really allows for stash accumulation?

The answer: handknit cashmere socks. 

I've been entranced by all the cashmere blend sock yarns I've seen lately.  Stunning hand paints, soft merino blends.  But when it comes to my husband, hand paints are not compatible, and merino is nice, but not durable enough to hold up to a daily winter Chicago Public Transportation commute.   So a cashmere treat seemed out of the realm of possibility until I got an email from Emily Parsons that her Sophie's Toes line of sock yarn was going to have a cashmere blend that contained an critical component: nylon.

The yarn stock that she uses for her cashmere blend is 10% cashmere, 80% merino and 10% nylon -- a perfect blend of warmth, softness and durability.  Not only that, but one of the other reasons I love Emily's yarn is that she has a range of man-friendly colors.  The "Charcoal" colored yarn on the left side is both man- and knitter- acceptable.   (The other skein, aptly titled "Mossy" is a little treat for me) as well as being delightfully squishy and soft.

The next part of the project will be to pick out a suitable pattern -- I've trolled through my Barbara Walker books and I think I have a good candidate.  Something that will be interesting to knit, but not too complicated, and should work well in the round.  Once I finish up Damson and Z's Zebra Striper sweater, this project is going to be the next one up.

Dreaming of Color

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While I am working my way through the last of a forest of cream colored stitches, hoping that I can will my way through the last very long row of the crochet border of Lotus and still have time to get the sweater assembled before leaving on my island vacation, I am dreaming of a little color.

20080622_VesperYarn.jpgI am not quite finished with my first Vesper sock, but that could not stop me from finding a bit more to add to my stash.  The lovely pinks, purples and yellow of the appropriately named "Jelly Bean" colorway will become stripey warm leggings for a little girl, come fall.  Simple tubes with ribbed openings, I know the colors will delight her.

20080622_VesperWeeSkein.jpgThe mini-skein kit is destined to be another pair for me, but configured differently.  After taking these pictures, I was struck by how well these 4 colorways go together.  I can't tell you why I think so, but I think Julia's got incredible color sense.  I can easily imagine how these striping yarns will play together.

20080622_VesperWeeSkein2.jpgPerhaps they will come to the island along with me?  I am just beginning the process of thinking about what projects I will bring along.  My goal is to travel light, knowing that I always over estimate how much I am motivated to work on while I am listening to the waves roll in.

Some Wild Blues

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I don't know what it is as I get older.  I just hate the grey days.  There were times that I used to like the cozy feeling of being indoors and knowing I was protected from the rain coming down.  Now it just leaves me feeling sort of blah and unmotivated.  Unless, of course, I get something inspirational in the mail.

Enter the last installation of yarn from my Sundara Yarn Seasons subscription  -- three skeins of her aran silky merino yarn dyed in "Wild Blueberries" a feast for the eyes and the fingers, as this yarn is as nice to touch as it is to look at.  Especially if you're a girl who can pick out a silk yarn at 1000 paces in a crowded fiber festival.  Silk just calls to me.  And the handle of this yarn is luscious.  Add in the rich colors of warm summer blueberries* and for me you have a yarn that is not only a winner, but also instant sunshine.

Maybe if I put it close to the window, it will coax the real sun to come out!

*And as far as I'm concerned, I was raised in the best blueberry growing state in the nation, Michigan.  Michigan blues in the summer, eaten near the farm or while picking are just about the best things ever.  IMHO, the berries that end up in the grocery store just can't compare. 

Vespers

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It turned out to be a quiet weekend for us, in spite of having to brave the crowds of SuperBowl shoppers to make sure we could re-stock some basics.  John and I spent most of the time feeling a little under the weather.  My big excitement was unlocking a couple of fun balance games on my Wii Fit.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we live big Chez Biologist.

It is long since time, however, that I share some pictures of the yarn that I haven't been able to move from my desk to my stash.

20090201_VesperAcquisition.jpgThe acquisition of this yarn was really quite serendipitous.  To be honest, I can't quite remember what convinced me to take a look at the Knitterly Things website. But whatever it was, it brought me there just at the perfect time to place an order.  I have a skein of AquaMelon colored fingering weight merino, but it isn't superwash and I just can't cope with socks that can't easily go into the laundry.  I've always really wanted some of the superwash version of the Vesper yarn. Now I am set -- in spades.

20090201_TwitterAndRaw.jpgThe yarn on the left is "Twitterpated" it is a beautiful collection of orange, blue and green.  The yarn on the right is "Rawhide" and I think the blue, black and brown would make a very sophisticated sock for the right man (no, not my man... this would still be far to wild for him).  But I think my best score was something else:

20090201_VesperWeeSkeins.jpgThis is a Wee Skein Sock Kit  -- 4 skeins, each with 8 stripe repeats, perfect for making a pair of wonderfuly, wildly striped -- and even identical -- socks (the colors in my kit are Astro, Twitterpated, Crew and Love Stinks (Yeah, Yeah).  It is taking most of my will power right now not to drop everything and cast on with one of these.  About the only things stopping me at the moment is that I can't decide which yarn to start with and the fact that I already have three other pairs of socks for myself in action. 

And I am not the only one who is fascinated with this yarn:

20090201_ZandVesper.jpgShe has good taste, no?



Winter Flamingo

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Just a short post today.  I am suffering from a toddler who decided that 5 AM was the perfect time to get up Tuesday morning -- and it was my turn to hang out with her since she wouldn't go back to sleep.  Needless to say, not much knitting is happening Tuesday night* since higher brain function is all but non-existent.

On the positive side, the sun did come out today and we had a lovely, if cold  (sunshine in the winter only heralds cold weather) January day.  I got a little more warmth and sunshine from another recent fiber arrival.

20090113_SundaraFlamingo.jpgSundara Fingering Silky Merino in "Flaming Flamingo" (oh the interesting images that conjures up!).  Bright, happy and sunny -- exactly what I would expect from the "Summer" colorway collection for the Seasons subscription. Certainly a sweet confection to enjoy in the depths of a Chicago January -- almost too precious to knit. 

*John's first sock might get finished... it's all done but the ribbing.  But odds are not good, at this poinf for completion of the pair by Thursday.  I still have high hopes for the weekend though!

Enter: Another Camera

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If you've been following my photographic trajectory for any length of time, you probably suspected that eventually there would be another quantum leap from the point and shoots I've been using up to this point.  It seems only fitting that right around my 6th Blogiversary the leap would happen.  My Canon D-450 Elph now has a much larger companion: a Canon Rebel XSi (450D).

To say that this is way more camera than I know what to do with at this point is an understatement!  However, it's also very inspirational.  One of the things I have discovered about myself as a result of blogging is that I really enjoy the photographic component of it.  I love to write, too, but there are somethings that can really only be captured with a picture.  I like to think that my photography skills have improved since this blog's inception, and the new camera is about taking those skills to the next level.

When I was growing up, I always remember my dad as "the guy with the big camera" -- he took classes, had a dark room, and a Canon SLR with a big ol' telephoto lens.  He also enjoyed getting on the ground and getting up close and personal with nature.  I think some of my appreciate for macro mode shots must be genetic as my dad's portfolio also includes many lovely close up shots of flowers from all angles.

Coinincident with the arrival of my new camera was the arrival of some lovely new yarn.  I signed up for the last half of the Sundara yarn "Seasons" subscription and selected the "Summer" color theme.  On Saturday, my first installment arrived -- Sock Yarn in Cerulean Seas.  It is most certainly evocative of summer and also a lovely photographic subject (I'm not quite up to fast moving toddlers yet!).

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20081012_CeruleanSeas5.jpgCara and Bonne Marie I am not, but I think being able to alter the plane of focus is absolutely fascinating, and I love the monochrome setting that mimics old black and white film, but, even better helps the knitter/spinner in me get a good perspective on depth of shade.

I feel like this camera opens up all sorts of interesting new doors and avenues for me to experiment with. Hopefully it will help to take my blog photography up a notch as well and encourage me to think about my crafts from some new perspectives.




Of Candy Corn and Calico Cats

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This weekend was a serious reminder that fall is not only coming, it's here and planning to stay for a while.  Saturday was a lovely sunny day, but it was also definitely sweater weather as I made my way over to Yarn Con.  Chicago may not be close to Maryland or Rhinebeck, but for those of us who haven't been able to make it to the eastern side of the country for a full on fiber festival, Yarn Con was a pleasant surprise. There were a remarkable number of indie dyers and spinners to go along with all of those who also made wooly goods and knitting notions. 

It seems to me like the best part of these festivals, big and small, is the opportunity to meet the people who make the lovely goods that make the crafting experience so much more pleasurable.  I have made several purchases from Emily Parson's Sophie's Toes and have had a couple email conversations with her as well, and try to keep up with her blog, but had never met her in person before the weekend. 

20081006_YarnConPurchases.jpgEmily was truly delightful to meet and talk to, and I hope I'll get the chance to see her at more local Chicago craft events.  My only regret was that I didn't get to talk to her at all about her quilting!  I was ever so pleasantly surprised that, in spite of my late arrival time (everything co-ordinates around a certain someone's nap these days) she still had both some Magic Balls and some "Candy Corn" colored sock yarn.  I've been stalking the Magic Balls on her Etsy shop, but I have had a hard time getting to that party on time too, so I never was able to get one in my hot little hands.  But I had better luck at Yarn Con and got this lovely "Calico Cat" Magic Ball.

20081006_STMagicBallCalicoC.jpgFor those of you who, like myself, didn't know what a Magic Ball was until recently, it's a skein of Yarn that Emily creates by joining lengths of yarn from a variety of different colorways.  It's a bit like a hand dyed version of Noro in a lovely soft sock weight merino.   Emily has a fun scarf pattern that she uses as a model, but she also showed me a Baby Surprise Jacket that was absolutely adorable.    I think mine has a scarfy destiny...

20081006_SophiesToesCandyCo.jpgI love to take closeups of hand-dyed yarn because you can really see the details and appreciate what makes a yarn special this way.  In this case, the lovely speckles of orange and yellow that take this yarn from being just another Halloween themed colorway to something that is quite artful as well as being fun. 

Emily also has something else that sets her apart where her dyeing is concerned: she makes a remarkable number of really delicious and still man-friendly colorways. My husband has recently corrected me to say that it's not that he doesn't like color in his life, it's just that he doesn't really like too many colors and he doesn't really want his socks to be bright.  I could have brought home a whole basket full of colorways that I think he would have been okay with  (and that doesn't mean that there wasn't plenty of brilliant color at Emily's booth!)  

The other fun find from Yarn Con was the set of Pattern Tamers I purchased.   It seems like I am always knitting and looking for a ruler -- these Pattern Tamers come complete with ribbonized ruler and not only help me keep track of my spot on a pattern but help me check my gauge, too!  Hard to go wrong with that.  They've already gone into service helping me keep track of the hood cables on my Rogue. 

Many good things have come into my house in the last couple of days -- I'm particularly excited about a particular new toy that arrived yesterday but that will need a few days to test out and introduce myself to.  It's going to be a busy fall!

Socks of the Future

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Last night I got so busy with an old project that I forgot to actually blog.  It's been a little while since I got really lost in my knitting, so I let myself go with the stitches and actually let myself dream of having a new fall sweater. 

Looking over my other projects, I can say they are all progressing.  I have finished the body of the skirt for Ms. Z's Zebra Striper jumper.  My Kusha Kusha scarf is increasing in size slowly.  My walking is resulting in the better part of a toe for my walking socks.  And I have another, more detailed sock project that I'm very happy with -- the first sock is almost finished.  I'll blog about it when I the first sock is complete.

Thus, I am left to talk about something that I have been indulging in a little more this summer than I did last summer: buying sock yarn.


20080826_Smooshy.jpgOne day a couple of weeks ago, Ms. Z and I were out for a walk and I popped into Nina's (one of two stores that I can consider my LYS) to see if I could find any books with good baby garments.  While I was there, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she is now carrying Dream in Color yarns.  After picking up some Smooshy, I was completely able to understand why so many people are raving about this sock yarn.  I let Ms. Z help me pick out a couple of colors to take home for inspiration.  The blue is Some Summer Sky and the red is Ruby River.  I think it's very likely that one of these skeins will become a pair of Francie socks once I finish up the patterned socks I'm working on. I've been in a bit of a sock knitting rut lately, and I think those socks look like something that would get me to think a little bit along with being fun to knit.  And since Z helped me pick them out, if there are any left overs, she's going to get some socks, too.  Baby Dragon socks, anyone?

20080826_SundaraSockLilac.jpgI have to show off this next skein because I don't think I've ever worked harder or clicked faster to purchase sock yarn.  I swear, getting this stuff is harder than getting tickets to a Hannah Montana concert.  It's Sundara Yarns Sock yarn in the Lilac colorway.  After getting hands on with some while visiting Claudia I got bitten by the need for some of this yarn.  The lilac wouldn't have been my first choice if I could have picked anything, but as it turns out, it's still a pretty nice colorway.

20080826_SundaraSockLilacCl.jpgThis skein was enough to convince me that I would like to have a little more in my stash.  However, I just don't have the time any more to arm wrestle several hundred other virtual knitters for the chance to whip out my PayPal account for a share of the goods when this stuff gets posted. So, I decided to take the plunge and splurge on being a part of the last half of her Seasons yarn club.  I'm looking forward to a couple more skeins of sock yarn as well as a couple of different weights of the silky merino.

While I know I am not knitting very quickly right now, I am really feeling inspired by my knitting lately and I am enjoying surrounding myself with new colors and textures that make me want to pick up my needles in any free moment that I have.  



A Bowl of Yarn

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No Friday baby pictures, but I do have a bowl of baby pink yarn to share.  This yarn is Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton.  It's a beautiful cotton yarn, in DK weight, and it has a lovely sheen.  It's perfect for babies because not only is it organic, it's also been dyed with natural dyes.  Ms. Z is showing the same sensitive skin issues that her mother has, so it's wonderful to be able to find products where I don't have to worry quite as much about chemical compounds that might cause her some irritation. 

I absolutely love the color of the yarn and I picked it without really thinking about its pinkness.  But I do have to admit that lately I have been picking out girly colors for Ms. Z's clothes because so many people still come up and ask me if she's a boy -- including the parents of other baby girls!  I know at this age, this question doesn't bother the baby, but for some reason it bothers me that her identity as a girl is not clear. 

20080619_ZInAnnArbor.jpgOkay, maybe one baby picture, taken last weekend while we were in Michigan.

So now I am in search of a good basic template sweater pattern that I can use to create her a fall cardigan.  I'd like to find something simple and raglan that I can use as background so that I can play with the details myself -- for instance, she looks so sweet in bell sleeves and I'd like to add my own simple lace motif.  Any suggestions?  I've made a first pass through Ravelry, but nothing is jumping out at me.  And my Ann Budd book of basic sweater templates doesn't quite go small enough (although it would certainly be easy to shrink one down if I needed to -- I'm just feeling lazy right at the moment). 





Yarn with an English Accent

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One of the best things that being a knit blogger has brought me is making connections with people around the world.  In particular, with Emma, who, very early on, encouraged a very newbie knitter to keep going and to try new things.  She was really the one who lit my fire for knitting socks.  Quite a few years now (though it hardly seems that long) she started what would become a very fun yarn/fiber trade back and forth across the Atlantic by gifting me with my very first Opal sock yarn.  Since then, we've traded back and forth without any real schedule or time line, which means that every now and again a wonderful surprise ends up on my doorstep completely unannounced.

The last couple of trades we have done have focused on yarns that are special or local to where we live since there are so many wonderful independent dyers and spinners out there in both the US and the UK.  So when I opened up my most recent special delivery from across the pond, I wasn't surprised to find it stuffed full of indie dyer loveliness from Emma's part of the world.

All the yarns are incredibly fabulous.  And they are, from left to right:

I love putting these posts together because I get to surf through a wonderful festival of links.  It's like taking a short tour of UK hand-dyers booths at a festival. 

The yarns from OxfordKitchenYarns and the Natural Dye Studio were hand dyed using all natural dyes.  The OxfordKitchen Yarns call out for some lovely textured socks, I think, while the Cobweb from the Natural Dye Studio clearly calls out to be lace of some kind.  The yarn from MiddleEarthKnitter is not only delightful in both hand and color, but comes with a little stitch marker attached to the label.  While the Blush yarn from Skein Queen could clearly become socks, I think I would enjoy the cashmere much more being soft and warm around my neck.  It's going to make for a beautiful project with the right stitch pattern.  The Scarlet Macaw was Ms. Z's favorite -- she grabbed it as soon as it came out of the package.  Her mommy likes it a lot, too.  So fun and happy it might become my next project.  And the Lavender Field yarn from the Knitting Goddess is delightful and soft.  I'm also thinking that it may be a striping yarn given the way the stretches of color look in the skein.   It will definitely be a fun surprise to find out when I knit with it.

Getting this package is like getting a bag of inspiration handed to me.  I just want to run off with my stitch pattern guides and start knitting socks! Thanks again, Emma, for a lovely trade!

Is it Thursday, er, Friday Already?

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I am beginning to think that when you have a child, something happens with your personal space-time continuum and everything just speeds up.  Someone of you physics type scientists out there must have done some studies of the localized effects of childbearing on parental quantum physics.  If you have, please send me a link to that manuscript.  This must be the case, or otherwise how could Thursday (and my post) have gotten past me without much notice on my part?

The Phil'Onde top is almost finished, but probably not exciting to look at until it is modeled by a small person, so today I am going to show off some yummy yarn I got not too long ago (well, a month a go, but given my space-time warping problems, it doesn't seem like too long ago to me!).

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The fact of the matter is, I don't buy much commercially produced yarn without a specific purpose in mind -- I have too much of this yarn in my stash right now that I am not sure what I am going to do with, so I've been avoiding places like Elan and Webs unless I have a project in mind.  But I still indulge in special, one-of-kind, made by individual people kinds of yarns from time to time.  This yarn is Sophie's Toes, the Layers of Color collection.  The blue yarn (totally destined for me!) is the Cerulean colorway.  The dark yarn is burgundy over green and is going into my "man acceptable yarn stash" -- and it's decidedly more lovely than my camera was able to render it on the day that I took the picture (what looks vaguely grey in the picture is really much more green in person; the yarn reminds me of end of fall colors).

What made this yarn even more fun and more special, was the response of a certain someone to it. Emily (who actually lives not too far away in the greater Chicagoland area and is an amazing quilter as well as dyer of yarn) sent along some nice words about Z on the invoice, so I had to give Z the opportunity to enjoy Emily's handiwork.  You see,  Ms. Z's given name is the Polish version of "Sophia" and the nickname we use for her is the Polish version of "Sophie".

20080214_ZWithSophiesToes.jpgShe made a beeline for that yarn.  And then thoroughly inspected the label.

20080214_ZWithSophiesToesTa.jpgAh yes, nothing like getting them hooked on the good stuff, early.   And she already likes to watch me knit.  After I finish a few other projects on my list, I might have to get her some of her  own .  Emily has some beautiful stuff in her shop right now.  I think the "Love" colorway would make an absolutely adorable baby sweater!

Man Sock Inspiration

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A Small Dark Collection of Socks that Rock (Mediumweight)

It's always nice to get out to the Fold when Toni has had a recent delivery of yarn from Blue Moon. Way back when my Dad and Mom were visiting a few weekends ago was one such occasion. And so I bought myself some treats:

1) Obsidian
2) Stormy Weather
3) In the Navy
4) Lagoon
5) Puck's Mischief

The first three are for a gentleman that I live with who is very specific about his sock color requirements. I actually bought the Obsidian (the mostly black yarn) as a bit of bribery for encouraging In the Navy use, even though I have sworn to him up and down that I will never knit him a pair of black socks. Fortunately for me, the Obsidian has a good deal of depth that isn't immediately apparent. With the right little bit of detail, I think it will make a nice pair of socks, and won't be totally evil to knit with.

The Lagoon and Puck's Mischief are both for me -- or at least won't be used for Man Socks. I've been thinking about turning one of them into a pair of "Here There Be Dragons" socks because it would be kind of fun to have a pair fo those for myself. But who knows? Sock yarn that ends up in my stash always seems to change its final destination at least once...

A Hand Dyed UK Sock Yarn Sampler

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A long time ago -- almost 4 years ago! -- Emma and I established our own little yarn swap. There are no particular rules or requirements or time frames, the idea is just to put together a box full of goodies that we think the other person would enjoy. On Christmas Eve I received a treasure box from across the ocean. Sometimes, it's like Emma can read my mind. This box was a beautiful sampler of hand-dyed UK sock yarns. How could I not love that?

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A Treasure Box of Hand-dyed UK Sock Yarns

A box like this is really too good not to share, especially since I know that there are a lot of sock yarn junkies out there just like me who are always looking for wonderful new sources to feed their addictions with. So, starting with the peachy colored yarn at the top center and working my way clockwise...

  • Blue Faced Leicester sock wool in peachy-pinks, purples and a bit of red from The Natural Dye Studio. This lovely yarn has been hand dyed with dyes from natural sources. I'm not 100% sure, but I think the colorway might be "Burnt Ruby". No matter what it is, it's a beautiful two ply yarn. And the two skeins are definitely enough for a pair of socks.
  • Lucia Sock Yarn from Posh Yarn, colorway unknown (maybe Evening Star?)-- the colors are very similar to the BFL, though. This yarn is 30% cashmere and 70% merino. Yum! I can tell you right now, I'm not sharing this stuff! It's just about as soft as you might imagine it would be.
  • Fyberspates Sock Yarn in Heather Mist. This yarn is a 15% nylon 85% wool blend, but you would hardly guess there was any nylon component given how soft it is. Given the way this yarn is dyed, it will definitely have lovely purple and grey stripes. Very fun!
  • Peace of Beauty Sock Yarn in Mountain Fruit. This yarn is 100% merino superwash and is 100% absolutely luscious. Of all the yarns in the box, I've probably fondled these two skeins the most. I can't quite explain what draws me so far in with this yarn. The color is extraordinary, it has the quality of being both rich and faded. The presentation is beautiful. The hand is very nice.
  • Colinette Jitterbug Sock Yarn in Bright Charcoal. This is also a 100% merino superwash yarn and it was a treat to see because just the day before I got the box I had read about the yarn and was wondering where the best place to find some would be. I guess it surprises me that it took Colinette so long to get into dyeing sock yarn. And this stuff doesn't disappoint. I have a sneaking suspicion that Emma snuck this one in to help me on my quest for man-friendly sock yarn. This colorway is definitely boy compatible. But who knows if I will actually share?
  • Curious Yarns Sock Yarn in Igloo. (Unfortunately, their website seems to be down right now). This is a 4-ply 25% nylon 75% wool yarn with some of my favorite faded blue and aqua colors. It's very soft (once again, softer than you'd expect from a yarn with nylon content) and the dying is lovely. Very evokative of early spring mornings.

Tucked under the Jitterbug is a lovely little keychain "sock blocker" with instructions to make a mini sock to put over the blocker. What a fun thing! Certainly beats the metal ring I've been using for a while. That will definitely be a fun little project for a gloomy Chicago winter weekend.

I hope it goes without saying that there's not one thing in this box that I don't absolutely love. And, believe it or not, most of these colors are completely under-represented in my sock yarn stash. This box was a fantastic introduction to a collection of hand-dyers that I had no idea were out there. The world is clearly full of beautiful hand-dyed sock yarns!

Mountain Colors

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Do You Habu?

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About a month ago, at the same time Stitches Midwest was going on, Nina's had a a very fun trunk show: Habu Textiles. Nina's is the only place in Chicago that I know of that carries Habu yarns, and even she only keeps a small selection on hand, so I was pretty excited about getting the chance to see more of the fibers up close and personal and to have a chance to see how one might use a stainless steel and silk blend or paper yarn in a garment. The trunk show featured most of the garments that you can see as kits on the Habu website. And there's really nothing like having the chance to get up close and personal with a unique fiber/fabric combination.

As you might suspect, most of the garments are relatively simple in texture and design since the yarns themselves are so unique. Instead, most of them have an interesting twist on the shaping that shows off the yarn to its best advantage. Habu yarns are a very tactile experience. There were many pieces that I was drawn to but would never wear. But there were also a few that really seemed clever and as if they might fit in my wardrobe. Combine that with a 20% discount on all kits that night, and it's no stretch to understand why a little shopping was done.

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Do You Habu? I do! I do!

With the stylistic guidance of the divine Ms. B I ended up with two kits. The olive green and navy blue cones on the left are 100% GIMA cotton tape yarn for Kit 76, the GIMA Cotton Cardigan. This is one of those garments that doesn't look like much in the picture on the website, but that I really liked when I put on. The combination of the two colors of yarn held together with the very open basketweave stitch creates a lot of depth. It will be nice over a turtle neck in the winter or something with shorter sleeves in the spring. Clearly, it's more of a decorator piece than something that will provide actual warmth. But a girl needs a little decoration every now and again.

The second set of cones are for the Kushu Kushu scarf. The grey cone is a blend of stainless steel and silk, while the black cone is a 100% merino. Both of these fibers are exceedingly fine, and for most of the scarf they are worked together. The unique aspect of this scarf is that the area with the merino is meant to be felted to give the scarf extra texture. But what really sold me on this scarf? The stainless steel does these crazy wild shaping things. And it stays put. So very very cool. Once again, not practical, just decoration. But a most excellent decoration, I think.

One thing that you might want to know if you are interested in these kits, is that the patterns are in English, but the instructions are definitely Japanese in style. The Jacket pattern is almost entirely schematics, as is the scarf pattern. The scarf patterns have instructions similar to the French instructions I've worked with in Phildar patterns that tell you how to perform any shaping. Also, at least for the cardigan, there is only one size provided. So if you want it to be bigger or smaller you would need to get out your calculator and make the necessary up- or down-scaling. I've heard that this one size per garment is very typical of Japanese knitting patterns. The knitter is expected to know how to manipulate the sizing to get what they want, given all the structural information.

The cardigan will probably be the next project up in my rotation for myself. It's colors have a lovely, if somber, fall quality to them and except for the texture, it is a simple garment to construct. And I think two cones of cotton could travel very well on vacation if it didn't get finished before the vacation got started!

P.S. The needles in the foreground are the Lantern Moon rosewood circulars that I found at Nina's when I picked up my cardigan kit. They don't have the sharpest points on them, but they are wonderfully smooth, have very nice joins and a flexible cable that doesn't require steaming. Kind of pricey, these needles are, but I very much like knitting with them, and can definitely see myself gradually adding a few more sizes (this is an US 8 on 29") in the future.

Good People

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Some days I just can't wait to come home and find out what might be waiting on the back porch. Today was one of those days. You see, a very kind blog reader, Gwen (sadly blogless) has shifted her focus from knitting to quilting. And in order to make way for more fabric stash (which I can completely understand, since my mother's passion for fiber tends more towards fabric than yarn) she decided that she wanted to send some of her yarn stash out into the world to see what it might become. It turns out that I am very fortunate, because Gwen, who has read my blog for a while, thought some of her lovely stash would find its future with me.

I love surprises, and while I knew the box was coming, I had no idea what might be inside. After getting all my stuff inside the house, I grabbed the box and my scissors and took it all up to my favorite place to be in the early evening: my upstairs balcony. I love the light and the breeze and the odd view I have of the Sears Tower. I spend most evenings out there when the weather is tolerable. And tonight I had a mystery box to explore.

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A Beautiful Box Full of Color

After opening the box, I got bathed in more color and texture. I just had to spread it out so that I could take it all in and do some serious yarn petting. I've seen Malabrigo before, but I'd never picked it up and realized how soft it was. And here were two skeins in a beautiful blue/green colorway. Ditto for the beautiful rich purple Karabella Aurora 8. With 4 balls, I can imagine a lovely special occasion scarf (I've read that Aurora 8, while lovely, does what most merino does, and pills a bit when it gets used a lot). And then there's the sage colored Classic Elite Premier and Attitude -- pima cotton and tencel and pima cotton and silk blends, respectively. Both are soft buttery yarns that remind me that I don't usually give cotton blends enough of a chance when I knit.

On the flashier side (in the center of the picture) are 3 skeins of one of my all time favorite yarns, Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb. The colorway, Watercolor, is suble shades of some of my favorite colors and just calls out to be in a special project. And it's hard to miss the Colinette Prism in "Jamboree". I'd love to try spinning a yarn like that myself -- if ever I could convince my fingers to make a bigger diameter, fluffier single.

Just too much good stuff to list!

Lately, I've been feeling kind of uninspired about knitting, but this bountiful box of color has really got my brain whirring away... What could be the best use of 10 skeins of beautiful chocolate brown Jo Sharp wool? Is it cool enough to start on a pair of socks for myself in Mountain Colors Bearfoot? Is the pima/tencel blend a good substitute for the pima cotton yarn called for in Annie Modesitt's crochet cardigan pattern from the last Interweave Crochet? I just want to bury myself in my fiber room and start thinking about all the possibilities.

Thank you so much, Gwen. I am still overwhelmed in the best possible way by this treasure chest from your stash. I promise to give your yarn a very good home. Every time I knit with it, I will remember your generosity and that there is so much good energy and so many good people in the fiber/fabric/crafting community. And someday, I will brighten someone else's doorstep with a special gift in your honor.

Edited 8/19/2006 -- I'm turning off the comments for this post because it seems like the spammers have found something to love about it. Must be that spammers like gift yarn as well!

Too Hot

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Right now its really hot here in Chicago. It was 100 degrees when I was out running some errands around lunch time and it only dropped to about 97 degrees at around 8 pm. According to my constantly updating weather ticker (courtesy of my Google desktop) it's cooler in Houston, Texas right now. And we even had a brief power outage this afternoon -- probably because of all the air conditioner use on the grid right now. And when you go out, you don't see many people. That's a strange and eerie thing in a big urban environment. But clearly people would rather be indoors with whatever climate conrol they have access to. Yeah, baby, it's warm outside.

Which is a very long lead in to me telling you I haven't been knitting much. I have been knitting some. I'm about 50 rows further along on Dad's vest. Only another 36 to go before the armhole shaping. No photos, because I don't suspect that it would look significantly different than the last picture. I've also turned the heel and finished the gusset for my second Broadripple sock. Second dark blue sock partway done? Boring picture, I decided.

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Blue Moon Socks that Rock, Medium in Amber and Sock Hop Say a Little Prayer

So you get sock yarn and some more spinning commentary instead. The STR is the real yarn that will flesh out that pattern idea I gave you a glimpse of a short time back. Because the pattern and my idea have some "directionality" and because the directionality does change the interpretation I'm considering doing this pattern in both a top down and toe up version.

The Crown Mountain Farms Sock Hop yarn, colorway "Say a Little Prayer" came to me as a result of a marvelously lucky break. When I got to the website after the new yarn was announced, I got there late (I hate it when a business meeting gets in the way of yarn purchasing, but sometimes there's no help for it) and the shopping system would only let me put one skein in my cart. So I just left a little note that I really did want two skeins and I'd be happy to wait until there was more available (if you go to Teyan's blog you'll see that she invited people to pre-order/place a custom order if they were willing to wait a few months, which I was, since I have plently of sock yarn to keep me busy). Apparently I lucked out, because when I placed my order, there were actually two skeins of Say a Little Prayer left in stock and they winged their way to my door step on Saturday (I have to make a side comment here to say that Teyani and her husband must have some special connection to the post office, because the yarn shipped on Thursday and I had it on Saturday. From Washington. And it's come equally fast when I ordered the Corriedale pencil roving and the Sloopy superwash merino).

I've been asked in a couple of comments how my hand spun Sloopy sock yarn (made with the same startin fiber that Sock Hop is made from) compares to the Sock Hop yarn. Since I didn't have any yarn to compare it to at the time, I really couldn't tell you. Now I can provide a side-to-side comparison.

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Sloopy and Prayer Comparison

This picture makes me think of orange and lime sherbert....one of those things I used to love as a kid, when I judged the quality of a frozen confection by the brightness of the dyes used to color it.

Overall, the yarns are very similar. They are both very soft but still relatively tightly spun and plied. My yarn, however, is a bit thicker in diameter than the Sock Hop. Both yarns have the delightful variability that tell you that it was someone's hands and not a machine, that brought this yarn to life. Makes you realize that sometimes perfection does not have to mean complete uniformity.

Shopping in Maryland

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For some reason, I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts about Maryland.  For me, even though it was only two days, it's really hard to sum up all the people and colors and animals and fiber that were part of the trip.  I love travelling with Julie.  We always end up having a good time together and we're pretty good at rolling with the punches (like doing a U-turn on a bridge going into Baltimore after discovering that 895 only connects to 195 going outbound from the city).  Not only that, but we each tend to be drawn to different things and different colors, so as a result, I think we both see more things than we might otherwise.  And then there's the real joy of getting to see old friends and meet new ones. Claudia, Silvia, Norma, Liz (my CVM enabler), Jen, Cassie, Laurie, Jodi (who gave us some most excellent "KNIT" buttons), RockChick, Cara, Juno (who's Canadian production wheel with purpleheart accents was both beautiful and interesting to spin on), and Rachael (who has an affection for woodworking tools that my father could appreicate) all made the event a special one.  The more of these festivals I go to, the less it becomes about stash acquisition and the more it becomes about enjoying the company of creative and interesting people.

But, of course, there was a good deal of acquiring.  I was more reserved than in previous years, but I still found some special things to come home with. 

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The New Yarn Collection: (starting from the top right and going clockwise)
Cormo/Nylon Sock Yarn from Foxhill Farm, Duet Yarn from Brooks Farm, and 2 skeins (a 4 oz and a 5 oz) of Laceweight Merino from Morehouse Merino  

 
I was very moderate with regards to yarn.  In fact, I had originally decided that the only place I was going to buy yarn at was going to be the Morehouse Merino booth.  I can wear their laceweight against my skin, which is relatively rare, and I think their colorways are wonderful for scarves and shawls. I got a 4 ounce and a 5 ounce skein to use in bigger scarf/shawl projects.  I'm particularly taken with the brown/gold colorway, which is from their Monet colorway collection and is called "Grand Canal, Venice".  The smaller skein is either their Blossom or Sugar Plum colorway (it's not labelled and it's not easy to tell from their website).  The Duet (from Brooks Farm) is a Mohair/Fine wool blend.  Since I did use up a skein of Brooks Farm yarn making a scarf for my mom, I figured it was okay if a new skein got added.  Anyone who knows me well, knows my love for the luminous blue.  And this yarn was just too luminous to pass up.    Scarf? Shawl? Pet rock?  Who knows what this skein will become.  But it makes me ever so happy!  The final skein, that plain white skein, is the most incredible cormo/nylon blend sock yarn from Foxhill Farm (one of my absolute favorite places to buy fiber from, as you'll see very soon).  The yarn is probably closer to DK than sock weight, but, no matter, it will still be lucsious on the feet.  Julie got herself a skein, too, and we are thinking that some self-striping sock yarn dyeing may be in order for this lovely wool.  If you've never sampled a little cormo, you should treat yourself some time.  In my mind, it's equally as wonderful as nice merino.

 

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The Spinning Fiber Haul, Part I: Wool
(starting from the top right)
Undyed 100% Cormo Top from Foxhill Farm, 2 bags of Hand Dyed Cormo/Silk blend Top from Foxhill Farm, Hand Dyed Cormo/Silk/Alpaca Blend top from Winterhaven Fiber Farm and Cochineal and Madder Dyed Corriedale from Handspun by Stefania.

 

My spinning fiber purchases can be divided into 2 categories: wool based blends and silk based blends.  Most of the wool based blends contained Cormo.  Did I mention that I like Cormo?  Our first stop at the festival on Saturday morning was the Cormo Association, where Alice Field of Foxhill Farm was selling some of her incredible fiber.  Alice, in addition to being a treat to talk to, has spectacular Cormo wool.  In fact, one of her fleeces took Reserve Grand Champion for the entire show, in addition to winning in a number of other categories.  Her Cormo/silk blends that I took home last year were so wonderful that I knew I needed to have more this year, in addition to just some straight up Cormo (I'm curious to see how the silk changes the spinning of this fiber).  In keeping with both my blue and cormo obsessions, the soft blue balls of fiber come from Winterhaven Fiber Farm of Indiana.  If cormo and silk is good, then cormo silk and alpaca should be a real treat.  Finally, that beautiful deep red/burgundy roving is Corriedale dyed with cochineal and madder by Handspun by Stefania. While Corriedale isn't quite as soft as Cormo, I think it's just a blast to spin since it has so much loft and spring to it.
   

 

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The Spinning Fiber Haul, Part II: Silk
(starting from the top right)
Two Sets of Dyed Bombyx Silk Hankies from Spinner's Hill, Dyed Tussah Silk Top from Shadeyside Farm in "Breeze" and an unnamed colorway, and 2 ounces of a Silk/Brown Cashmere Top from Shadeyside Farm

 

If you hang around with Julie and I long enough, you learn two things.  She has an incredible radar for alpaca and I will almost always put my hands on anything containing silk.  Maybe it's the brilliant luster, or the soft hand, but silk is one of my absolute favorite fibers.  I've been very curious about spinning with silk, so I decided some more top and some hankies were in order.  The hankies (left in their protective zip loc bags come from Spinner's Hill (they have some incredible hand dyed top and roving, their colors are just to die for, if you'll forgive the pun).  The silk top came from Shadeyside Farm in New York.  By now, it probably shouldn't be surprising that my colorway selections leaned towards the blue and of the spectrum.  The top is delightful to the touch and drafts very effortlessly, so I am hoping that I will enjoy working with this fiber on my wheel.  The last little treat, that really doesn't come across as beautiful as it is is the 2 ounces of Silk/Brown cashmere top.  This is a 50/50 blend and is the sort of thing you'd like to fill up a bathtub with and just dive into.   There really just aren't enough superlatives to describe this stuff.   It will take me a little while to get up the courage to spin it, I think!

And speaking of spinning... I did try out some wheels from Robin Wheels, Golding Wheels and the Merlin Tree.  By doing this, I learned that when you spin at a fiber festival, you will draw a crowd.  Everytime I Julie or I sat down in front of a wheel, people started to gather.  The Golding wheel was lovely to spin on, it seemed to almost treadle itself, but I had a hard time getting a good rhythm going with the Robin and Merlin wheels, though I thought the Robin wheel was absolutely beautiful.  We also got to spin on a wheel fitted out with a Woolee Winder, which I really liked the feel of.  Can you say "possible anniversary present"?  Hopefully John will.  Such a clever device.  Clearly we need more engineers to think about spinning wheels.

Whew!  That was a lot of typing and linking.  Now I'm off to go bond with my wheel.  I really missed my wheel while we were in Maryland.  I can certainly spin on a drop spindle, but I don't enjoy it nearly as much as spinning on my wheel.  A shame she doesn't fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane... 

Old and New Obsessions

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Saturday was a big day. Such a big day, in fact, that there's too much to talk about in one post. Julie and I headed out to Marengo, Illinois to the Fold for a day of dyeing with indigo and general fibery goodness (my car tried to thwart that effort by blowing a tire just after Julie and I met up in Schaumberg, but thanks to a helpful insurance agent, a punctual tow-truck driver and the fact that Julie had a car, too, we were able to get to our ultimate destination and were only an hour or so late). Because I don't have my finished fiber photos ready yet (there's still a bit of soaking and drying that has to occur), instead of starting with the indigo dyeing, I'll start with the goodies that came home with me. Because no trip out to the Fold would be complete without some purchasing of goodies.

My big purchase was this:

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Lendrum Wheel Bag from the Bag Lady

After one trip out to Julie's house without my wheel in a protective covering, I decided that a good bag would be a good investment. As it turns out, these bags are good for both protecting the wheel and making the wheel easier to carry around, since the bag has a nice shoulder strap. The Lendrum DT isn't that heavy -- just about 13 lbs (not much heaver than some desktop replacement notebooks on the market right now!), but it is awkwardly shaped for carrying when you have a few other bags to attend to. This bag is made of a sturdy denim material and has a thick vinyl bottom.

Terry commented in my last post that I needed to "flash" any new Socks that Rock that came home with me. So here goes:

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From Left to Right: Blue Moon Socks that Rock Medium Weight, in Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain, Blue Moon Socks that Rock Light Weight, Beryl and 2 skeins of Blue Moon Sock Candy in Ambrosia

The Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain are for me for later when I get back to brightening up my sock collection. When I asked for brighter sock yarn suggestions Liz and Lindsey both mentioned Fire on the Mountain. This yarn is incredibly vibrant and just a rainbow of color. I am in love with the beautiful contrasts of gold, red, blue and grey in the Crazy Lace Agate. The Beryl skein is so that I can finish up John's Dragon Scale socks. And the Sock Candy is so that I can have a pair of Dragon Scale socks of my own someday. They aren't quite orange, but they are as close as I could find in this yarn.

Believe it or not, the STR was not the highlight of the trip. I have fallen in love with a new motor-driven device.

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Pat Green Drum Carder

If I remember correctly, the label on this old beauty is "Patrick Green". Drum carders were never something that excited me until Saturday. I enjoy spinning, but I still really hadn't gotten to the point where I thought I would want to prepare my own fiber. A while back, though, Liz kindly sent Julie and I some small samples of some very nice washed fleeces so that we could try out some nice fibers. Julie and I are fiber prepping newbies, and we weren't quite sure how to get our little treasure trove into something that we could spin. So I emailed Toni and asked her if she new of anyone who would prepare roving from small batches of fiber. Toni invited us to bring our fiber when we came to the dyeing class and we could try out her electric drum carder.

Now I understand why people get obsessed about drum carders. It was almost magical to feed that uncarded fiber into the machine and to have fluffy bats come off the big drum. Julie and I were mezmerized by this process! And after working with it for just a short time, it was easy to imagine all the fiber and color blending possibilities it could bring into my life. I think I'm going to have to start being a very good girl now, so that I can ask Santa for one of these lovely machines for Christmas...

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Grey Coopworth Batt and Brown CVM Batt

Julie and I split the fiber in half and each of us got a nice fluffy batt of grey Coopworth and brown CVM to take home with us. There are still more samples to try in the box Liz sent us, but these two were the only two we could finish in an hour. Once I get finished spinning the first bobbin of itty bitty Cormo/silk thread that CVM is going on my wheel!

While we were working on carding our wool, we got a very special treat: the Fiddlin' Fool from Two Sock Knitters came in looking for a spinning spinning (Julie and I worked hard to be good enablers, and he now also has a Lendrum DT) and before he left he brought out his fiddle and treated all of us in the store to a lovely lilting tune. Talk about a wonderful ending to a great day!

Mail Call

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Yesterday did not turn out to be a day that involved much knitting. It did turn out to be a day that involved a bit of computer babysitting and some excellent Belgian ale. So excellent that it required another attempt with the phone camera, even though people do tend to look at you funny when you are taking pictures of beer.

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Belgian Kwak

But now that I have set the dangerous precedent of phone food photography, you can bet that there will likely be more. Because really, I have to say, I enjoy eating out in Chicago almost more than I like pursuing the fiber arts. Chicago is a most excellent food town.

But, as I mentioned, there was not much knitting to show for the day. Oh, I did try to knit after that nice Belgian beer, but it resulted in dropped stitches and ripping back a Dragon sock and playing with size 0000 needles to get everything back in order. Clearly, I was not meant to make any knitting progress yesterday. Sometimes a girl has to listen when the powers that be are telling her to abandon certain activities.

I've gotten a few neat things in the mail lately, though, and this seems a good time to share them.

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Debbie Bliss' "the club" Membership Project

I am probably the last person to go out and join Debbie Bliss' club , I resisted last year, but when I discovered the free knitting kit involved her Casmerino Astrakan, I decided that this was a good time to subscribe. I've seen a few folks blogging about it, and it just seemed like really nifty stuff. This kit is the perfect entry into playing with a new yarn, I think -- how can I go wrong with two skeins of yarn. And I know it's enough yarn for at least one project. This yarn is not entirely my color (being a bit of a yellowy green) but I might be willing to ignore that fact to make the scarf. The Astrakan is very soft and has a really lovely texture in the skein. Not sure when I will actually knit it -- probably when I'm travelling and need a small project -- but I'm sure I'll enjoy it when the time comes

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AquaMelon Vesper Sock Yarn

I consider myself just a little bit lucky to have happened upon the Knitterly Things Etsy Shop just in time to be able to pick up a skein of Julia's lovely hand-dyed self-striping sock yarn. I first learned about it when Monica over at passionknit blogged about her new sock yarn obsession (be sure to go to the bottom of the post and click on the links to see some lovely socks made in this yarn). Since I, too, feel sated with my level of Socks that Rock (and I feel safe in the knowledge that if I really need any, it's not too hard for me to get out to Marengo to get some), it seemed like a good time to join Monica in her Vesper obsession. Now that I have the yarn in my hot little hands, I am not disappointed. The colors are lovely you can click here for a closeup (even if my camera wants to oversaturate the reds) and are such a flashback to my preppy '80's high school years, how could I resist?

LIke I've said so many times before, a girl can never have too much sock yarn.

I have to admit that I don't get to read as many blogs as I would like to. But in the past weeks or so, I've noticed here and there people talking about the etiquette of posting pictures of gifts received, goodies from trades or yarns and tools purchased for one's self. It seems that some folks think "flashing your stash" is a breach of good behavior and/or a sign of uninspired blogging. Others feel left out when reading the blogs of people who receive gifts from friends or other bloggers. I try to stay off my soap box most of the time, but this is one case that touched a nerve and where I would like to share my thoughts (in other words, this post is going to get really long, so you may want to stop now, should this subject not interest you).

First off, let me just say that yes, you're seeing pictures of yarn today because I do lack a bit of inspiration, and I certainly lack any exciting knitting or spinning to show. I won't dispute that. It happens some times. As much as I would love to be able to show off the creative works of my hands everyday, it doesn't always work out. So then I try to look around my life and my fiber pursuits and see if there is something else interesting to talk about. A new yarn, a new tool, a book perhaps. I absolutely love finding out about new things -- if others didn't do a little "showing off" then I might never find out about some things that are really useful or lovely. I'm all about using Google to find things that interest me, but there's nothing quite like finding out about something new and then getting some helpful opinions about both the product and the vendor. And I like to think that periodically, when I'm showing off something new to my little treasure trove of fibery goodies, I might provide some useful information to someone else. Generally, I tend to only post about the things I like (life is too short to spend too much time focusing on the negative), but I will try to be balanced in what I say.

I look at gifts and trades in more or less the same way, but with an added twist. As with things that I might buy for myself, I like to share if I think there is something interesting about what I received. But I also like to post about them for other reasons. First off, gratitude. No matter how many times I trade with people, no matter how many times I receive a thoughtful gift, I am always really touched that someone took the time to do something nice for me. And I almost always want to try to share that feeling. I've never found a group of people as thoughtful as fiber folks when it comes to this kind of thing. Secondly, I like to let whomever I got the trade or gift from that their gift arrived. I know I could just send email, but I like the blog medium. I like making that journal entry and taking the pictures and sharing a public thank-you -- it might soudn strange, but that part is a lot of fun for me, and makes the items received doubly enjoyable.

But, that said, it's still easy for me to see how this sort of thing might make others feel left out. Growing up, I almost always felt like I was the unpopular kid that no one wanted to do anything with. It took me a long time to realize that if you want to be part of a group, you've got to put yourself out there a little bit, too. And believe me, I know (man, do I know), that can be really hard. But in the knit blog world, I think there's definitely plenty of ways to get involved and there are so many remarkable and friendly people to meet. Like someone's work or want to encourage someone? Leave 'em a comment on their blog. I've had some great email dialogs and friendships develop this way. Fall in love with a yarn that's hard to get where you are? Perhaps you could ask the blogger that posted about it if they would be willing to try a little trade -- but try not to feel hurt if its not the right thing for that person at the time. Got stash of your own that you think would be happier somewhere else? Offer to trade with others. Maybe you're stash poor but time rich? Host a knit along or share a knitting design or start a knitting group in your local area. Be genuine, be willing to exert some effort, and you'll be surprised what develops over time. After almost 4 years of blogging, I know I still am!

Christmas Presents

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Thank you again to everyone who left me good vibes, hugs and happy wishes. It is truly appreciated, more appreciated than I'll ever be able to express well. I wish you all a happy, healthful, peaceful and joyful 2006.

This holiday brought me some lovely gifts courtesy of my family and friends, as well as some goodies to create gifts for other people. Today I thought I'd post a little sampling of some new things in my book and yarn stash.

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Artyarns Ultramerino, Some Inpsiring Books and a Skein of Luscious Alpaca

I won't spend too much time talking about the Artyarns Ultramerino 4 and 6 since I talked about the Ultramerino 4 not too long ago. The Ultramerino 6 is a thicker yarn (US size 6 needles recommended) and is provided in a 100g hank instead of a 50 g hank. (From what I can tell the "4" and the "6" represent the recommended US needle size on which to get gauge with the yarn). Now that I have both of the components required, I'll be able to get started on a double knit scarf pattern from Handknit Holidays. I'm looking forward to both trying out a new technique and seeing how these two different weight yarns work together.

The big skein of chocolately brown yarn is a new find (at least for me) that I discovered at Flying Sheep Yarns in Ann Arbor. For Christmas this year, I offered my aunt a scarf out of the yarn of her choice. We found this Alpaca with a Twist "Baby Twist" yarn and none of us could stop petting it. 100% baby alpaca yarn in DK weight (I think it's actually in between DK and worsted). This stuff is fabulous. Not only that, but at 549 yards (250) for $28.50, I thought it was a pretty good deal as well. My goal is to design a special scarf for my aunt... probably something with a cable design. I'm hoping there will be enough left over for a hat or at least wrist warmers. Definitely good stuff for keeping warm with in the winter.

I'm hoping to look to Knitting Over the Edge for some inspiration for that scarf design. While I'm not a big fan of most of Nicky Epstein's garment designs, I do think she's incredibly creative when it comes to knitted forms and shapes. I've only given this book a relatively quick pass-through, but there's definitely some fun stuff in there -- and the photgraphy of the stitch patterns she presents is very good. It makes a really nice companion to Knitting on the Edge which I already have in my library.

And finally, because right now I need a little humor in my life, it was a real pleasure to get the Yarn Harlot's New Book. I've been reading Stephanie's blog for a while now and it's hard not to get caught up in her infectious sense of knitting humor.

There are a few other special goodies I'm looking forward to showing off, of both a fibery and technical nature. More as the week proceeds.

Knitting and Coughing Don't Mix

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Yesterday was all about working out my diaphragm muscles. You know that when people at work start to feel sorry for you and tell you that you need to go home that you really must sound pathetic. And that's pretty much where I was yesterday. My major mission of the evening was to find a new filter for my room humidifier (Chicago + cold weather = extremely dry, bad for upper respriatory tract). One good thing about the holiday season: having stores open late. A humidifier filter wasn't exactly on my Christmas list this year, but, as it turns out, it will probably be one of the best presents I get for the holiday, since I actually could sleep last night. Hooray for humidifiers and patient husbands.

Thus, yesterday was not exactly a knit-friendly day. I looked longingly at the Jaywalker sock project, but that was about as much energy as I had for it. Thus, I am forced to go beyond knitting projects into my stash for something to talk about today.

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Winter Acquisitions: Fiesta Yarns La Boheme, Rowan Kidsilk Night and Artyarns Ultramerino 4

Believe it or not, this is all the yarn I have purchased since MS&W -- except for the two skeins of Ultramerino 6 that are on their way to me from Toronto. Perhaps not surprising it's almost all for projects in Handknit Holidays, a book that I'm kind of glad I didn't wait for Christmas to get for myself -- I would probably consider making about 75% of the projects in this book!. The La Boheme (in colorway Raspberry Mocha) is for a modular scarf for me. I've been dying to work with some of this yarn ever since I saw it in Handpaint Country a couple of years ago -- it's a two stranded yarn with one strand of rayon boucle and a second strand that is mostly kid mohair, so you get shiny and fuzzy in the same yarn. Tthe Ultramerino 4 & 6 are for a double knit scarf for John -- this stuff is, dare I say it, softer than Koigu and should be perfect for the guy who can't stand having things that aren't soft near his skin. The Kidsilk Night is just a little special thing for me so that I can have something sparkly around my neck this winter -- what can I say? I couldn't resist when I found it in Nina's).

The whole scarf thing may seem a little lame from me right now, but I gotta tell you, when it gets cold in the midwest, there's nothing like having something soft and warm and special around your neck -- when you're bundled up in a goosedown parka or trench-coat a special scarf is often all the bling you get to show!

Looking for a Tip

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This isn't really a post, but a request for information.

So I broke down and bought Handknit Holidays for myself (I had a Amazon gift certificate buring a hole in my pocket, so my good Christmas resolutions just didn't make it for this one). I really like this book. It's rare that I can go through a book like this and find something I would love to knit on almost every other page. I love the cabled tree skirt in Lopi, as an example. I'm also smitten with the Stained Glass Scarf -- a double knitting project that also received the cold man who has to wait for a bus in a windy city seal of approval. And he liked the colors.

Of course, there's no yarn store in my 'hood that carries the Artyarns Ultramerino. I managed to find the Ultramerino 4 in the desired color at WEBS but had no luck with Google or Froogle finding the Ultramerino 6 (that's not completely true -- I did find one place that sold whole bags, but I only need two skeins). Does anyone out there know of a store that sells this stuff and ships. I'm not that concerned about price -- it's only 2 skeins and its for my favorite guy -- mostly just about finding someplace reliable that has the Ultramerino 6 #3113 (brown) in stock.

I'm going to start calling suburban stores, too. But my one attempt to visit only turned up the Artyarns Supermernino which isn't really the same animal.

If you have any suggestions -- or have some that you'd be willing to sell -- please let me know!

Socks that Begin to Rock

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I seem to have developed a mild case of startitis in the past week. Maybe it's just the cool weather in Chicago and watching the leaves fall from the trees and knowing that the real chill will be coming soon. I just can't help myself. I had to start another pair of socks for my winder wardrobe. Do you remember this yarn
? I've been petting it on a regular basis since I got it well over a year ago. I finally got tired of petting and decided that it was time to skein it up and move those socks from yarn stash to my sock drawer.

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Socks that Rock" in Tiger Eye

This picture marks the sum total of my sock-ly accomplishments yesterday. I'm knitting these socks on size 1 needles, and I'm getting 8 stitches/inch in the stockinette portion of the sock. This yarn is a nice, thick, soft merino yarn, so I chose to go down one needle size from where I might have been tempted to start to help maximize durability, even though it means that the overall fabric is a little denser. For this sock, I'm going back to my old sock knitting ways -- 64 stitches cast on using the Twisted German Cast On, followed by 2 inches of K2P2 ribbing and then 6" of leg, a Dutch heel, and straight ol' stockinette down to the toe. Since the pattern the yarn makes is so lovely, I don't think it requires any special knitting to dress it up.

And just a little pointer for those of you who haven't experimented with the Twisted German Cast On -- my recommendation is that you do the first round of stitches after the cast-on in all knit stitches. The "twisted" part refers to the fact that the stitches end up twisted on the needle after you cast them on. It's a real pain to deal with purl stitches on that first row, and you can't tell the difference anyway, so you can save yourself a little pain and suffering just by knitting that first row all the way around.

Happy fall socks to everyone!

P.S link to Twisted German Cast On is fixed now.

After the Sunset

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I'm spinning like a fiend right now -- all my drop spindles are whirling as fast as I can make them go. If I could make two spindles go at once, you know I would be. Dyeing wool is painting on an empty canvas, but it isn't a finished product, at least not to me. The real magic doesn't start to happen until the wool becomes yarn, and until the yarn becomes a fabric.

This weekend, my goal was to get the first of the Sunset rovings to a two-ply yarn and to get my Hawaiin Shore roving (which I have taken to calling "Blue Hawaiian" in my head) spun into a single. I accomplished both goals. Each is it's own story, however. And since the Blue Hawaiian remains to be plied, the Sunset gets to the blog first.

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Sunset BFL Single

Unlike the spindle shot from Friday, this image shows off all the colors in this single. Truth be told, I wasn't really looking to have all that pinky stuff in the yarn. I also wasn't intending to concentrate it all in one place. I wanted a more random color distribution, but this happened because of the way I split pieces off the roving as I spun. I split the roving in half, width-wise and didn't realize that the sides weren't balanced very well. As a result, most of the deep gold ended up on one side and most of the pinky stuff ended up on the other. Lesson learned. I will now prepare the whole roving for spinning before starting and randomize the pieces a bit better in the future. I'll probably also stick to horizontal instead of vertical stripes. I dyed this roving this way as a learning experience, and i can definitely say that I learned something from it!

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Sunset BFL Single as Center Pull Ball

This is just another gratuitous pretty yarn shot. I thought it looks so nice and happy in that center pull ball. It also gives a better idea of where the individual stretches of color are concentrated.

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Sunset BFL Two Ply

Here's the yarn after being two-plied. I like the colors in this a great deal, but would like a little more gold, a little less pink. I did a wraps-per-inch measurement and get about 23 wpi , which makes it a fingering weight yarn. It doesn't really seem that fine to me, but I can see it knitting up nicely on US size 3 needles. Ninaclock asked on Friday what I was going to do with a mere .5 ounces. Well, intially I wasn't really planning to do much with it at all besides see if I liked the result. But this stuff calls out to be knit into something, I think. I'm wondering if I have enough for a small scarf/lacy neck warmer....

Makes me glad I took notes and know how to reproduce the colors!

So now I have to think about what I might knit up with it.

The Yarn Haul

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If I told you that I didn't buy any yarn, would you believe me?

I didn't think so.

What if I said I was reserved and conservative in my yarn purchases?

Okay, I didn't think I had much chance of success there, either.

So how much am I going to 'fess up to?

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The Stash Expansion from Maryland

Starting with the top center, you can see two skeins of Harmony from Brooks Farm. Both the red and purple skein are 500 yards of subtle beauty in the shape of a 55% mohair, 22.5% wool, 22.5% silk blend. Really delicious stuff. Only one is for me, or should I say, is a going to become a gift for someone special. The other skein will be taking a trip, but it's destiny will be in the hands of another.

Moving clockwise, the first thing you come from is a wildly colored sock yarn from Tess' Designer Yarn. I decided to stay away from the brightly colored variagated yarns for big garments, but I decided that for socks it's okay to go a little wild.

Continuing clockwise, is a little batch of yarn from the Morehouse Merino people. After a very positive experience with their laceweight last year, I knew I needed to add a little more to my collection. The deep berry colored skein is a worsted-weight destined to be a headband for my dear sweet husband. The three lace weight skeins are for a couple of scarfy projects. The skein with the orange and green isn't quite as vivid as it appears, but it's still pretty out there and happy. It had to come home with me.

Moving right along is my purchase from the Cormo Association booth. Never heard of Cormo sheep? This fiber is definitely worth feeling up if you get a chance. The lace-weight white skein is Running Wild Yarn's "Corpacamere" -- a blend of Cormo wool, Alpaca and Cashmere that you just have to feel to believe. 900 yards of incredible softness is what that skein amounts to. I think a pretty shawl may be in order.

More yarn from Tess' Designer Yarns as we round the corner. Three skeins of the microfiber ribbon yarn to make a ribbed tank top (notice that I avoided those rainbow colors in favor of something that could comfortably go to work) and two skein of the Cultivated Silk and Wool blend. The black is just sublty variagated and is destined to be a Christmas gift for my sister-in-law. The other is just me indulging both my love of blue and of silk wool blends.

And last, but not least, in the top left corner, a little hank of laceweight cashmere for a small neck scarf from Hunt Valley Cashmere (she doesn't have a website, unfortunately, but she does have lovely cashmere yarn in a variety of natural and dyed colors).

Some of the colors didn't come out very well in the pictures, so I thought I'd try see if I could get a little more fidelity in a couple of closeups.

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Brooks Farm Harmony
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Morehouse Merino Laceweight

See, I wasn't too bad.

Okay, okay. I was a little bad. But I don't think I've added more than a year's worth of knitting to my stash...

Of course... that's not quite all I got.

Silk Delight

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Given my imminent trip to Maryland, I am trying to resist the urge to add too much more yarn to my stash. But what is it about spring that makes stash enhancement seem so reasonable and appropriate, even when one's stash room is already overflowing with goodness? Thus, when I was visiting ThreadBear over the weekend I decided that magazines, bags and other such goodies were perfectly fine (this may seem very resitrictive, but if you've ever visited Rob and Matt, you realize that this leaves you with plenty of ways to get into trouble), but yarn purchases must be limited to only something truly special, something perfectly suited to me, and then no more than a skein or two.

When you're in a store as large as ThreadBear, it's not always that hard to find something truly special, with colors that were meant to be near my face.

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Silk Delight and Reading Pleasure

No picture can even begin to do this yarn justice. This is the first time I have ever purchased Great Adirondack yarn. Not because I don't think it's lovely (most of it is gorgeous), but because I usually end up deciding that it is too expensive per unit of yarn and something that is likely to end up sitting in a decorative bowl, rather than in a garment that I love. Enter the Silk Delight display. This yarn is 100% silk (so you know I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame) and my absolute favorite color palette -- deep to electric blues and purples with a hint of green for punch. It goes without saying that it is divinely soft. Probably the only thing I can compare it to from a softness perspective is Art Fibers Chai -- but that is where the comparison ends, because the yarn is evenly spun and dyed with a completely different range of colors.

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Amethyst Silk Delight Shows Off Its True Colors

The color here is a little washed out by the bright sunlight I took the photo in. The yarn has a deep sheen and is a little reflective. It's almost like this stuff glows from within.

The frugal knitter in me is pleased that the skein has reasonable yardage -- 263 yards -- which I am hoping will be enough, perhaps, for the Flower Basket shawl (Interweave Knits, Fall 2004)-- or at least my own, smaller version of it that I would use more like a scarf. This inspiration comes directly from the Yarn Harlot and her beautiful version done in the Chai I mentioned above.

Blog of the Day
Today's feature took me to Abington, VA to visit Fiberphile (I love that name!) Barbara. She's just finished a beautiful version of Hush Hush from last summer's Knitty. She's also another blogger who's heading to MS&W. And, like her, I really would like to know just how much yarn could be fit into a Mini... (I don't have one, but if I had a practical reason to have such an adorable little care, I'd be thinking about one!)

Fair Isle Anyone?

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Everyone should say a little thank you to Emma today. Something I got in the post from her is saving you all from another pink sleeve shot.

Isn't this yummy?

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A Fair Isle Sweater in the Making

Emma has decided to hold me to a long long ago resolution to get comfortable with two color knitting. In that basket is a lovely collection of Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift for this cardigan out of the first Jamieson's book:

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Winter Sunset Cardigan

Quite a lovely design, is it not? And definitely the sort of design I can see going to work in during the winter. The funny thing is, I've looked through this book a thousand times since getting the book and didn't remember this sweater. Some part of my brain just must not have been working correctly, since it's the sort of design that would be perfect for me (and doesn't look to be too difficult for a starting experience).

And just as welcome in this house is the Opal that came along for the ride. These skeins are from the Rodeo collection. I love the bright happy colors Emma picked. I wear my hand knit socks all year round (I've been surprised so far at how well they wear) and love to have that little bit bright color by my ankles.

The lovely blue fuzzy stuff (which, forgive me, Emma, reminds me of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street) is GGH Gracia and is very lovely and soft. It should make a very nice scarf to go with my denim jacket when it starts to get a little warmer.

Thankyouthankyouthankyou, Emma! Definitely another set of perfect selections. Now it's my turn again to see what kinds of lovely goodies I can find to send back across the water!

Yarn Pageant

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Ladies and Gentlemen, let's have a big round of applause for the fibery finalists competing for a chance to be involved in a brand new sweater design project. These finalists have come from around the world to show off their stuff and demonstrate why they should go from being beautiful skeins of inspiration to the foundation for a creative sweater experience...

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Finalist #1: Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Deep Marine

Contestant #1 Hails from Holmfirth England. This Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Deep Marine is no longer commercially available, but this cotton/microfiber blend is known for it's exceptional stitch definition and durability and three season wear. As versatile as this yarn is durable, this yarn can often be found in both chunky cables and simple lace and can be substituted in almost any pattern calling for worsted weight yarn. Please give it up for the All Seasons Cotton!

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Finalist #2: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in Blue Flannel or Medieval Red

Contestant #2 Comes to us straight from Mitchell, Nebraska. This Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted weight yarn is a beautiful wool/mohair blend that provides exceptional warmth and has a lovely deep sheen. Known for it's value and it's ability to substitute for several yarns originally used by She Who Cannot Be Named this Lamb's Pride this evenly spun yarn excels in both Aran and Gansey stylings and just loves to be found in cold weather gear. Let's hear it for the Lamb's Pride!

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Finalist #3: Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool in Lava

Our Third Finalist just arrived off a slow boat from Italy. This Lava colorway Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool is a soft and luxurious DK weight wool/silk blend. This yarn loves to be worked up into finely detailed Viking cable patterns and has a tweedy texture that adds an extra level of sophistication to almost any garment. The almost 35% wool content ensures that this light-weight yarn will have both a wonderful drape and provide extra warmth to the wearer. Let's give a warm welcome to the Silky Wool!

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Finalist #4: Jaeger Chamonix in Limoges

Finalist #4 also made the long journey from Holmfirth, England. This Jaeger Chamonix in Limoges is as soft and gorgeous as it's color is subtle. A divine blend of angora, merino and microfiber, this yarn goes beyond conventional spinning into cabled strand that makes for plenty of cloud-like softness and warmth when knitted up. An ideal candidate for winter garments which call for a bulky-weight yarn and have simple textural details, this yarn is guaranteed to make any garment a luxurious wardrobe addition. Please show your appreciation for the Jaeger Chamonix!

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Finalist #5: Sweet Grass Wool in Natural

Contestant #5 is a hardy wool from Melville, Montana. This Sweet Grass Wool is unscoured goodness from Targhee sheep and was milled into yarn without the use of harsh chemicals or bleaches. With a touch of lanolin left in its fibery twists, this yarn has a softness that, combined with with a delightful springy-ness makes it hard to put down. This robust and bulky yarn is happy to be the foundation for outerwear and jackets that are meant to keep the wearer warm and protected from the elements but also has suprisingly nice stitch definition that will bring simple design elements to life. Please put you hands together for the Sweet Grass Unscoured Targhee!

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Finalist #6: Noro Cash Iroha, Color #80

Our most exotic entrant has journeyed all the way from Japan to participate in our pageant. This Noro Cash Iroha is a soft and sophsiticated blend of silk, wool, cashmere and nylon and definitely knows how to shine without being flashy. An ideal choice for garments where both light weight and warmth are desired, Cash Iroha's slightly variably spun width means that it can bring texture as well as color and drape to a garment. Almost any worsted weight design that doesn't need a lot of structure would go from delightful to divine in Cash Iroha. It's time to welcome the Noro Cash Iroha!

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Jamieson's Chunky Shetland in Eider Duck and Rosewood

Our last entrant comes from the Shetland Isles and is know for it's rich depth of color and soft, wooly texture. Jamieson's Chunky Shetland is a 100% wool yarn whose colors simply can't be done justice with digital technology. This yarn was born to be included in ganseys, arans, and simple sweaters that need to have a big personality. Definitely not a warm weather yarn, this yarn is almost guaranteed to make the wearer feel warm and happy apres ski! Let's let this Jamieson's Chunky Shetland know we're glad it's here.

Well there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen, all the outstanding entrants in our rich yarn pageant. They represent 3 continents, a spectrum of color, and an incredible array of fibers and textures. Which one will be selected for the highest honor a yarn can know -- inclusion in a destined to be loved sweater? Just stay tuned...

Thursday Night Serenade

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In spite of it not being a weekend day and not a day that involves a date with my husband, Thursday is one of my favorite days. It's a day that reminds me that a little break is just around the corner, a night when we almost never plan anything and I can just park myself in front of the projector (one of the very much appreciated man-introduced items in the house, on my own I couldn't even figure out how to convince it to talk to the cable box -- and there's nothing quite like watching Alton Brown or CSI on my own personal "silver screen") and knit or do whatever else feel like.

I made good progress on Cerys tonight, but yesterday something arrived in the mail that is more deserving of "last post of the week" billing.

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Plassard Creole and Some Yummy French Treats

This lovely little package from a certain kind blogger in Lyon, France lit up my living room when I opened it -- almost literally. This yarn has a silky sheen and is very reflective in a good way. And I had to chase my husband out of the very yummy taffy like treats that came along for the ride. To be honest, I had to chase myself out of them too so that I would have a few left to photograph tonight.

Becky apparently knows of my love for ladder-style yarns. (I love the way they look when knit up and even though I've knit way too many garter stitch scarves out of the stuff, I can't help myself and buy more). I know -- it doesn't look like a ladder yarn, it looks like a boucle. But the yarn is lying to you! Sneaky sophisticated stuff. Take a look at the Creole up close:

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Creole Unmasked

A ladder yarn if I ever saw one. But a delightful, classy and playful one that I'm looking forward to turning into a soft and shimmery scarf.

But I'm going to finish Cerys first.

Oh yeah. Right. Like anyone believes that...

When I started blogging I had no idea that I would get to meet, trade, share tips with and come to be friends with so many people all around the world. A little project that started out to just be a journal of my knitting progress has come to have a much more significant role in my life. So while I am most definitely saying thank you to Emma who sent me the lovelies below, I also want to take a moment to say thank you everyone who has become a part of my life because of this blog. (As an aside, I am way way behind on my blog-emailing, so if you are expecting a response from me... be patient, I need to get into my holiday vacation zone).

Emma, my most long-term trading buddy (can you believe it's been almost 2 years now?) sent me a little something in the mail. I subscribe to the notion that you can never be too rich, have too many friends or have too much Colinette in your stash. What a fabulous set of treasures.

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A Little Winter Festival from Emma

The Silky Chic (in Raphael) has to be petted to be believed when it comes to softness. Absolutely wonderful it is. And it couldn't have come at a better time! I won't show any pictures of my neck, but lately I've been having a lot of irritation that I think could be do to some kind of wool/fiber sensitivity, so I'm trying to stick with cottons or synthetics for a little while as I test out my theory. These two skeins are destined, I think, to be a lovely, and soothing scarf.

The stitch markers on the right of the photo are far too lovely not to have their own close-up.

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So Pretty They Deserve a Close Up

Just like candy they are!

But perhaps the most dangerous thing that came across the ocean is the Colinette Wayfarer book that has this zip-front cardigan on the cover:

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Does my Shimmer 5 Really Want to Be Cerys instead of Margot?

It takes the same number of skeins as Margot does... and I have this nagging feeling that because of Margot's neck line, she is never really going to be the sweater I want her to be. Am I just chasing after another pretty, but unattainable face with Cerys? This cardigan is also shaped at the waist.

Decisions... decisions...

P.S. to Emma... Sometime, when you least expect it (even I don't know when) you might get a little something on your doorstep, too!

Scarfy

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Scarfy Possibilities
Top Center: Lion and Lamb in Pewter, (moving clockwise) Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, Lang Tonga (in red and green), Plymouth 24K, Angel, a Strange Baby Yarn from Filatura di Crossa and a laceweight merino from Emma

I can't say that I've been on a yarn diet this fall. I wish I had the resolve of Monica and Lynette and their no yarn buying agreement. Instead, I've tried to limit myself to small portions. Since I have a pretty impressive sock yarn stash, it seemed reasonable to buy yarn for scarves.

I've gotten a lot more interested in scarves lately because of a wonderful book,

While I am normally skeptical of scarf books, this one goes beyond garter stitch into some wonderful and creative patterns. There are at least 4 or 5 that I want to try. If you don't have this book already, it's definitely worth putting on your holiday wish list. The Lion and Lamb is meant for the wonderful curly scarf pattern. I think the pewter color will make for a metallic shimmery scarf. The Angel (also in pewter) is meant for a simple K2P2 ribbed scarf for John. Both of these yarns arrived from ThreadBear in Michigan. (And the Angel has been man-approved by the man who will be getting the scarf).

The Lang Tonga came from a new yarn shop in Chicago -- Nina's. I now have a yarn store that is truly in my hood. Not only that, but I think she has the broadest selection of knitting needles around: Mango Moon, Crystal Palace, Bryspun, Skacel and Clover (I think she may have additional varieties as well, but those are the ones I am remembering). She also has a very nice, very hip selection of yarns, including Rowan, Manos, Lang aand Lorna's Laces. I'd never had the opportunity to see yarns from Habu Textiles before, and I'm trying to figure out an excuse to go back and buy some. The red Tonga is being worked up into my favorite ladder yarn scarf pattern and the green will likely be used for the same purpose. (For those of you who might need a quick holiday gift for someone, I've given away several of these scarves and they never fail to please. Not only that, but even the guys where I work comment on the one I made for myself. It may be a little on the flashy trashy side, but it still knits up into something that people love.)

The Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk sort of jumped into my basket when I was at Knitting Workshop not too long ago. Is this stuff soft, or what? I'm thinking it needs to become some sort of keyhole scarf. Perhaps this one? And the Funky Baby Yarn that I think is a Filatura offering (I'm too lazy to run upstairs and find the ball band) is going to be something for my 18 month old niece. This yarn is strange stuff -- imagine Rowan Calmer with some strange poofy tufty things attached. Not quite sure what kind of pattern I'm going to use... something that will both lie flat and show off the poofy bits. I saw a shop model using the Plymouth 24K yarn knit up into a skinny scarf using Purse stitch and decided that it would be a fun touch for my wardrobe. It's a ribbon style yarn with a gold fiber wrapped around to add sparkle. And best of all, it's only $10/skein, which makes it a very affordable wardrobe addition as well.

And last, but certainly not least, that purply lace weight merino (which I am also unable to identify absolutely correctly because of the distance between my couch and the yarn band), something I got trading with Emma. It's destined to be a lovely lacy scarf that I can wear to dress up with or just add a touch of color to a standard work outfit. I never really thought of myself as a lace girl before, but more and more I find myself wanting to use it as an accent. And I enjoy having one project with a reasonable amount of complexity in my ongoing project collection.

So I've shown you mine, now you tell me about yours! Got a favorite scarf yarn or scarf pattern? I'd love to hear about it. It's definitely the time of the year when a scarf can be an easy to make and much appreciated gift, either to yourself or to someone else.

Side Trip to Lansing

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One of the very nice side effects of Rob and Matt moving to Lansing is that it is not so hard to pay them a visit whenever I am in Ann Arbor. Last Friday afternoon, my Mom played hookie from work and while my Dad and John trolled electronics stores, Mom and I paid a visit to the new ThreadBear location. The store is really looking great and there's almost too much yarn to really take it all in.

While I was there, I got to model one of their most recent Dale sweater arrivals:

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Y'All Know I Didn't Knit This... Right?

That sweater is in one of the new Dale books (don't ask me which one). It's almost enough to make a girl want to get serious about doing some two color knitting. I even liked the scary little flowery hat.

While I did do some stash enhancing, I think I was actually pretty good. I came there wanting to find yarn for Rogue (I've decided the All Seasons Cotton is just going to be too heavy), socks in U of M colors for my Dad, and a couple of scarves worth of yarn for myself. And I pretty much kept to my list.

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Top Left: Bartlett Yarns, 2-ply in Larkspur, Top Right: Diakeito Diadomina, Color #301, Bottom Left: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in UMich, Bottom Right: Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb in Tahoe

The Bartlett yarn is a wonderful purply-blue heather with flecks of pink that I hope will make up a beautiful Rogue. Not only is this yarn lovely and wonderful, but it's very affordable, too! A whole hooded sweatshirt for less than $40! The Diadomina hopped into my basket, inspired by Julie's version of Karen Baumer's scarf.

For anyone from Ann Arbor, I don't need to even explain the reason why my Dad, the U of M College of Engineering Alum needs a pair of maize and blue striped socks (I never went to a Division 1 football powerhouse school, so I still consider Michigan to be my alma mater when it comes to watching college football -- Go Blue!). And the Lion and Lamb? Well, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that there is actually one more skein -- I just couldn't keep my hands off the stuff (it's a wool/silk blend and I am a complete sucker for silk yarns) and got Clapotis started on Saturday night.

All in all, I think I was pretty good. But I really am going to have to get serious about knitting some of the yarn I've been stashing lately. Good thing it looks like Butterfly is going to be a relatively fast knit!

Acts of Kindness

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The world knitting community is a remarkable place. Not long after I joined the blog ring, I got a special surprise in the mail from Emma, my very kind and encouraging blog neighbor. (It is one of those amazing and special magicks of the ring that Emma and I still have adjoining blogs even almost two years after joining the ring. She has blog number 178 and I'm 179.) You just don't expect people across the ocean that you have never met to send you something to encourage you to try something new, like sock knitting. Yet one day, in January of 2003, I found myself surprised by just such an experience. And to be honest with you, even though I know knit bloggers, and knitters in general, to be kind, generous souls, I never figured that the same wonderful thing would happen to me again.

But yet it did.

Every evening after I get home from work, the first stop I make is the mailbox. Lately I've been hoping that the latest Rowan would show up (has anyone in the US with a subscription received their copy yet?). But what I found on Friday was much nicer than any Rowan mag:

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A Special Gift from Karen

This lovely sock yarn (Lang Jawoll Color) in harvest berry and pumpkin colors with just a little bit of sparkle, came from Karin, one of the participants in the Audrey Knit-Along (you can see her lovely finished sweater here). She sent it along because she enjoyed her Audrey experience. I am really very touched! The yarn is an immigrant from Switzerland. I will definitely try to show it a good time here in the US. It's wonderfully soft and will certainly knit up into a wonderful pair of socks! Thank you so much, Karin! You brightened up the end of my week. I've had a great deal of fun hosting the Knit-Along. It makes me feel good to know that others have enjoyed participating.

Yarn Orphan

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Do you remember this (ahem) little purchase?

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11 Skeins of Cash Iroha and Some Manly Sock Yarn

Well, apparently I didn't dig through that box of Noro well enough. Look what mailed itself to me and arrived in my post box today...

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SGS In Search of Like-Minded Group

I can't believe I separated this poor little skein of Cash Iroha from his 11 best buddies. How insensitive and cruel of me to orphan Cash like that! Yarn abandonment at it's worst. I am sure that this will go on my permanent record!

Fortunatelty, this story does have a happy ending! Cash has been re-united with his band of fibery brothers, and seems none the worse for wear. Cash and company are already discussing the nuances of fall sweater design. And I've been smiling since I brought in the mail.

Thanks guys! There's no better way to end the day than getting a smile from special friends.

P.S. The lace jacket front marches on! 5 lace repeats down, 6-1/2 to go...

Treasure

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As everyone probably suspected from the beginning, it would have been neigh on to impossible for me to go to see the ThreadBears without doing some stash enhancement. I don't feel too bad about this. In the past month or so I have finished the Chai top and Lucky and the Biscotti top. So I am making a dent in my stash.

Here's the first pile of goodies:

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Bamboo DPs, A Sheepy Tape Measure, 40" and 52" Denise Cords and Some New Library Books

It might surprise everyone to know, especially after I have complained so many times about double pointed needles, that I got the size 0 and 1 set specifically for the purpose of trying to make socks on them. After my success with Lucy Neatby's garter-stitch short row heel, I've decided that I need to give them another try. I've tried short-rows before on two circulars and they just didnt't turn out as well as they did with the DPs. So now I am actually feeling bold enough to take on a pair of socks on a set of DPs. Watch out! The world may stop turning on its axis.

I have a zillion tape measures, but it was hard to resist this sheepy tape that comes from Mango Moon. Just pull on the sheep's tail and away you go.

I didn't actually get the Debbie New book from the Bears (it came from my Mom's LYS, Knit A Round), but since it showed up in the same weekend, I thought I would show it off. Talk about an inspiring book! I can't imagine making almost anything in the book, but it's hard not to look through it and be in awe of the clever things inside

Domino Knitting has been around for a while. It's one of those books that I had thought about buying many times before, but just didn't have a reason to. Matt helped find a reason for me (see below) and so it came home with me to. The Book of Sweater Patterns is Anne Budd's newest offering. Another great template book with lots of tips and tricks. I think it will likely be useful when I try to decide what to do with this:

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11 Skeins of Cash Iroha and Some Manly Sock Yarn

Rob and Matt don't have too much Noro left (lots of chenille, some Silk Garden odds and ends -- probably enough for Karen Baumer's scarf, in a few colors). I consider it a real find to have gotten my hands on 11 skeins of Cash Iroha in a color that I can actually wear. I've been hankering for some of this stuff for a long time, its an incredibly soft yarn. I'm not completely sure what it will become (there's only 1200 yards, so it will have to be something relatively simple) but I can't wait to knit it up. It really is just that luscious.

You can guess who the grey sock yarn is for (according to Rob they stock Trekking in part because of the good manly colorways). The green brown combination may be for him or for me. It depends on how "radical" it looks after being knit up -- the fact that I could even get him to consider it is a pretty amazing step in a new direction for my sock-color challeneged husband!

But none of that was what I actually had in mind when I headed to Lansing on Saturday. This was what I really went for:

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A Koigu Rainbow

I've been thinking for quite some time that I wanted another project using some Koigu. The Keepsake shawls I've been seeing were particularly inspiring, but I really don't wear Charlotte enough to justify another shawl. I thought, instead, that a throw might be a better option -- one that would give me a chance to indulge in a lot of color, but that could also be modular and portable and not terribly difficult knitting.

Initially when I started out, I had mostly happy blue tones. But then I discovered the third skein from the right (you can see a closeup in the third strip below). Matt worked some of his incredible color magic and helped me come up with some thing almost, but not completely, unlike my original vision. But his vision was so much more dynamic and insipiring than my original one that I couldn't believe I had ever wanted the original one in the first place.

Matt also suggested that Domino knitting might provide an excellent means for creating a reversible throw that could go together in smaller pieces. Now that I've tried my first domino square, I'm inclined to agree. I want to play with the Domino technique a little bit more before I commit completely, but I am already 95% of the way to convincing myself that its the right way to go.

Since the picture above is a little small, I thought a closer view was in order:

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p831, p121, p128, p113, p121
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p432, p615, p513, p527, p201
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p203, p858, p144, p609

I lovely the purples, blues, greens and pops of yellow that run through the skeins. It reminds me of the best of spring and fall, my two favorite seasons. The order of the skeins is still in the air. I have one recommendation from Matt, but I will likely play with them myself. I think it's good for me to challenge my own color sense to see how different colors work together.

And that about wraps up my little weekend trip to Michigan. I'm putting myself back on my yarn diet again for a little while. I've got to get at least three more projects finished before I consider any more stash advancement. Good thing I've got a lot of good things to choose from right now.

I'm hoping that August will see the completion of my ArtFiber's Mousse top, at least one pair of socks and my Snakes and Ladders cushion. We're having some unseasonably cool weather in Chicago, and I'm already feeling the pull of fall knitting. I keep reaching over to pet my Phil'Eponge swatch. Wanna take bets on what my next sweater project will be?

Phildar Phrom Phrance

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Sorry about the bad alliterations. I just can't help myself when it comes to showing off this box of goodies that arrived this week from Lyon:

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Phil Eponge in Camelia, Wonderful Linen Yarn from Russia and Phil'Onde in Jeans and Ciel

How can I not be happy when I get a stash update like that? Yumyumyum! The Phil'Eponge is for me so that I can make this sweater. The Phil'Onde is for both me and my mom. I'm going to make this for my sweetie and mom is going to make the sweater on the right for herself. (Just in case you are concerned, the Phil'Onde Ciel is not quite so baby blue as it comes out in the picture, the color is much closer to the snapshot below). The beautiful natural yarn in the middle of the picture is a very special gift from a woman that I work with. She just travelled to Russia on vacation. It is a 100% pure and beautiful laceweight linen yarn. And it smells absolutely delicious. It's much softer than you might imagine. I'm not sure what it will become yet. I don't know if there is enough for a tank top if I use it doubled. But there might be enough for a lacy scarf. It's certainly going to be a lovely summer treat.

I thought some closeups were in order of the Phil'Eponge and the Phil'Onde.

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Phil'Eponge and Phil'Onde Up Close

The Phil'Eponge is a *very* neat yarn. It reminds me a bit of a much finer, boucle version of Cascade Fixation. It's soft and very springy to the touch. The color in the picture is a bit more intense than in real life. After Audrey, this stuff will be next up!

I've already said a lot about Phil'Onde, so this shot is just to show off how sophisticated the Jeans and Ciel colorways are. It's going to be all I can do not to start playing with the stuff.

In relatively few hours I will be on a jet plane to San Francisco. Art Fibers is, of course, on my list, as is a long visit with a good friend who I haven't seen in ages. I won't be meeting up with any other bloggers just because I'm not sure a knitting festival would be all that fun for the sweet guy I am flying out to spend the weekend with. We're flying back home on Monday, so I don't have as much time there as I would like.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend Everyone!

Never Enough Treats from the UK

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Let's just say that I am not on a yarn diet, and leave it at that. These lovelies arrived in the mail last week from Marie. With all the stuff from Maryland Sheep and Wool to talk about, I didn't get a chance to post about this box of fun stuff.

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Left: Opal 188, Opal 1040 (Magic), Opal 1041 (Magic), Fortissima Colori 18
Right: Colinette Cushion Kits Snakes and Ladders in Amber and Chequers in Travertine
Center: Colinette "BackStage" and "Comfy Cosy" Pattern Leaflets

Inspired by my first adventures with Giotto and needlepoint, I decided I needed to have the other two cushion kits in what I hope will be co-ordinating colorways (I'm doing the colorway on the cover of the Chequers kit, but I selected the more subdued colorway for the Snakes and Ladders kit -- if you can call any Colinette colorway "subdued"). I'm going to turn them into wall hangings instead of cushions (three creatures with fur and claws remind me that ribbony pillows are not likely to have a long half life in my house). These are not difficult projects and make for the perfect outlet when you don't have enough brain power to dig into a knitting project. Whenever I need a pick-me-up there is almost nothing better than bathing in a little color a la Colinette.

And I've decided that (in spite of a previous post) that you really can't have too much sock yarn. Opal is one of my special favorites because knitting it up is often an adventure. The color to the far left is numbered "188" and I've never seen it here in the US before (it looks like a Jacquard colorway from the picture). Anyone know whether it's an oldie-but-goodie or something new? The other two Opal skeins are from the "Magic" collection. The 1040 is a nice, subdued blue and grey colorway that I am hoping might interest my husband someday (I know he won't go near it now, but maybe in the future...), the 1041 is most definitely for me, as I have no vividly minty green socks in my collection. The Fortissima Colori was a little treat that Marie snuck in the box after hearing that I liked the cotton wool blend yarns that I had tried. It's a nice blend of maroon and white and black that should make for a really nice pair of fall socks.

I have to stop now and tell you that Marie has a connection to some of the neatest cards. I love the one she sent with this box. It's sitting on top of Colinette's "BackStage" book and a little treat for Bonne Marie -- the leaflet that contains the Flounce Trimmed Jacket (if you want to see an awesome rendition, take a look at Jennifer's Jacket). And, last but not least, a bar of "White Chocolate Mousse" soap that smells absolutely edible.

Which cusion should I start next? Vote in the comments. I'll start the cushion that gets the most votes first!

It is really nice to think that my last midterm ever could be done and over with. I say "could" because, while I really feel like I am done now, I am a bit of an education junkie. I have to admit that I actually like the feeling of being in classes. Except that part about taking tests and doing homework.

But now that the testing is done I have more time to share the rest of what came back with me from Maryland.

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Morehouse Lace Weight Merino and Foxhill Farm Cormo/Silk in Cathedral

I just can't get enough laceweight yarn these days, so it was almost impossible for me to walk past the Morehouse Merino booth without sticking my head in and coming away with something. In fact, I came away with two somethings. The first something is the Gigi scarf kit with a yarn in lovely autumnal colors -- deep pumpkin orange, rich dark raspberry, end of season grass green and slate grey/blue. Anyone who knows me knows that I can't wear these colors, but I do know one special person who can. The second something is the Belladonna Scarf Kit. This yarn has some of my favorite colors in it -- purple, blues and greens abound. One thing that sets these Morehouse yarns apart from other lace weight yarns that I have found is the texture of the yarn. It has thick and thin regions that give the yarn a lot of depth. Almost like laceweight Manos. I'm looking forward to knitting up both colorways.

As you will see in the picture below as well, I am pretty smitten with blues and purples. Our first stop on Saturday morning was the American Cormo Sheep Association booth. I was trying to be good, but I was unable to put the wool/silk blend from Foxhill Farm down. Cormo wool is just about the softest thing going and the silk gives the yarn a luster that only silk has. Thus, the blues and purples in this yarn are very deep and rich -- the yarn is almost iridescent. From a price perspective, this yarn was probably my biggest splurge. It will need to become something special. I'm waiting for it to tell me what it would like to be.

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Yarns from Tess' Designer Yarns

The one booth that I just couldn't get enough of was Tess' Designer Yarns. This booth is just a wonderful riot of color and texture. It's hard to walk past without wanting to bury your hands into all the wonderful fiber. And the colorways are a perfect match with the kinds of colors I like, as many of them fall into the jewel tone range. This whole batch was the result of two trips to the booth -- one on Saturday and one on Sunday. In the top left corner is a hank of an Angora/Merino blend in the color way called "Lime Splash". It's destined to be a scarf for my sister-in-law for Christmas. Just to the right of it, also in "Lime Splash" is a skein of Tess' sock yarn. It reminds me of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. The front left and right yarns are Microfiber Ribbon yarn in "Lime Splash" (left) and "Confetti" (right). The Lime Splash was a present for the wonderful secretary at my company who has really helped me out a lot in the past year or so and who also loves to knit. The Confetti is for me. Two hanks is enough to make a lovely tank top (a pattern by Jill Ramos) with a slip stitch detail. Yes, it's bright and out there, but it's for summer. And the microfiber ribbon is machine washable. It's hard to beat that for something I want to wear next to my skin.

So that's it for my unpacking project! More about the Festival and my travelling companions tomorrow. It's going to be hard for me to focus on my current projects with all this good new stuff looking at me longingly. Especially the Confetti. And little tank top season is just minutes away...

Digging into my Suitcase, Part 1

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I have a midterm in my programming class today, and this week is going to be a busy one, so I thought I'd talk about Maryland Sheep & Wool and the goodies I brought home in stages.

So what was in the top of my little black travel bag?

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Koigu Kersti, Zircote Lucet, Dzined Hemp Sock Weight Yarn and Some Luscious Mohair from Brooks Farm

Originally, I promised myself that I wouldn't bother fighting off the crowds at the Koigu booth. Most of Saturday there was an almost impenetrable collection of people tucked into their stall. After all, I figured, I can order almost anything Koigu from ThreadBear. But the opportunity to buy small hanks of Kersti at about half the cost per gram as retail was too much for me. I bought four skeins in colors that I think might be compatible with my skin tones so that I can swatch for a turtleneck sweater that I would like to design for myself.

From left to right the colorways are K801, K513, K105 and K823. K105 is my favorite, but the colors in it are a bit yellowy. I'll be swatching these little samples when I need a break from other projects so that I can do a color check and plan for how much Kersti I might want to order. Kersti is lovely and definitely not cheap, so I want to make sure that I don't order more than I need and that I absolutely love the way the color will look on me.

Next in my circle of goodies is a new tool/toy that I've wanted to try ever since I saw Claudia talk about them in a post that I can't find quickly tonight -- a lucet. This particular lovely lucet is made by the folks at the Rouge Lucet and it's made out of a wood called "Zircote" from Mexico. Lucets are used for making a firm cording. I've tried playing with it a little bit already, but have decided that I need to set aside a little more time to be focused with it before I say too much more about it.

I encountered Dzined when I went to the Michigan Fiber Festival last summer. I haven't knit with the skein I bought there yet, but I couldn't resist this skein with it's lovely harvesty colors -- sagey greens, golds, berry purples, teals and indigo blues. It's really hard for me to turn away from hand dyed sock yarn. Yarns from Dzined are wool/hemp blends and Bonne Marie swears that they wear like iron, which would seem perfect for a sock experience.

The last skein up there is much more impressive in person than in the picture. It's a very subtly colored (blues, muted purples, greens, soft teals) 100% kid mohair yarn from Brooks Fiber Farm in Lancaster, Texas. Forget everything you ever thought about mohair being scratchy, this stuff is completely soft and neck-skin friendly. And the sheen of the yarn is just out of this world. It was one of the last things I bought on Sunday -- at a point when I had decided that I was finished buying. But it was just love at first sight when I found it and I had to bring it home with me. And at $30 for 500 yards (8 oz) it seemed like a real bargain. It's destined to become a lace scarf of my own design once fall rolls around. If you want to see a somewhat better rendering of the color (and the email address and phone number of the Brooks folks), click here.

That's it for tonight. But it's definitely not all that was in my bag. More to come after my midterm exam!

It was a wonderful early spring weekend here in Chicago. And it was marked by my first fiber festival of the season, the Stephenson County Fibre Art Fair in Cedarville, Illinois. This is a fair put together by a local community group and not a huge fair by any stretch of the imagination. But it was a wonderful drive out to Cedarville and it's always nice to find out about a little more about the state I live in. It was also a blast to see some people I have met through the KIP as well as meet Tina, who is one of the Audrey KnitAlongers, in person. Tina had a fab version of the Lo Tech on. She found another way to make it look great with out a hood by adding a lovely seed stitch collar!

Even though it was a very small show, I did find some goodies to bring home. The most "blog worthy" find came from "The Fold" a store in Marengo, IL. They carry yarn and rovings from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. WOW is the best word for the sock yarn and silk and merino blend rovings she had on hand. I couldn't leave without grabbing some of this to take home with me:

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Socks that Rock" in Tiger's Eye

Definitely a new color direction for me. It reminded me a lot Interlacements Little Toes. It's 100% superwash merino with a strong twist. You get 200 yards on a 2.75 oz skein -- more than enough for a pair of socks for a guy with big feet -- and it was a real steal at $9/skein.

When I got home and went to put it in a nice, safe, cat-free place, I came face to face with a shocking discovery: I have an awful lot of sock yarn. Don't believe me? Well just take a look here and here. In the interests of full disclosure, I must point out that the bottom shelf in the first picture is two level's deep and that I didn't even take a picture of the Cascade Fixation knock off yarn that I just bought from Elann.

I just can't help myself when it comes to sock yarn... usually it's only a couple of skeins and the colors are often just too yummy to walk by.

I really need to stop buying yarn for a while, tho. I'm going to Maryland Sheep & Wool and I know I'm not going to be able to restrain myself when I am there...

European Accents

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All things considered, it was a pretty nice weekend here in Chicago. The temperatures were reasonable and even though we got a little rain, we also got some sunshine in the mornings that let me take some good color pictures of some lovely new spring yarns that Becky was kind enough to help me find.

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A Lovely Assortment of Yarns with a French Accent... From Left to Right: Phil'Onde in Chlorophylle, Phil Ruban in Cassis, Plassard Louinie in Black and Phildar Relief

It's really too bad that it is so hard to find Phildar yarns in the US. It's hard for me to believe that they aren't distributed because they wouldn't sell. I think the colors and textures are lovely. Since it's hard to get a good look at the Relief, you can see a close up if you click here. I found a similar yarn in a very expensive yarn store (Caroline's Fine Yarns in Winnetka, IL) last summer and thought it would be neat stuff to play with. But passed it up because it was too expensive to play with. The Phil Ruban (click here for a closeup) is a 100% cotton tape yarn with a relatively fine gauge. I'm very taken with the color and think it looks just dandy sitting next to that springy green Phil'Onde. And you know... there just happens to be a springy green colorway in Phil Ruban. You can see it here Chez Silvia nestled with some lovely magenta and white fabric. The Plassard Louinie will get put in a safe place in my stash until it gets cold again, when it will be used as an accent on something special.

But the star of the show, at least for me, right now, is the Phil'Onde. Phil'Onde is a textured cotton blend that actually decreases in color intensity and you knit through the ball, giving the impression of a shading gradient. The yarn itself (as you can hopefully see below) has a rippled texture to it and is actually composed of two strands, one twisted around the other.

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Phil'Onde in Chlorphylle Up Close

Call me an easy mark, but once Bonne Marie started putting her Onde-Along together, I just couldn't resist getting on board. Here, I thought, was the perfect chance to get to do something in a springy green, where the green wouldn't be too close to my face. This green turned out to be even better than in the pictures -- it's got great bluey undertones that I can totally wear near my skin.

It's taking all my will right now not to swatch the stuff!

Actually, there are a lot of things right now that I am fighting the urge to swatch for. Right now I have something of an embarrasement of riches when it comes to my spring summer yarn stash... here's the projects that are on deck for the warmer seasons...

  • Audrey from Rowan #35 in Rowan Calmer in NightSky (want to knit along?)
  • Rogue designed by Jenna in Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Deep Marine
  • Le Pull from Phildar Famille in Phil'Onde Chlorophylle
  • Polka Purl Dots from Spring 2004 IK in Butterfly Super 10 in magenta
  • Salt Peanuts from Spring 2004 IK in Muench Bergamo in Hyacinth (I got my colors wrong in the previous posts).
  • ChicKnits Eyelet Cardi in Lion Brand Cotton Ease in strawberry cream
  • Tank Top from Phildar in Phil Ruban in Cassis
  • Top to Be Determined in Colinette Enigma (color also TBD)

I'm not exactly sure what project will be up after Audrey... but the Phil'Onde pullover is definitely high on my list.

Fiber Therapy

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Gosh by golly do I like getting packages from friends in the mail. As always, I am stunned and delighted by the pretty things that Emma found to share with me!

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A Host Of Earthly Delights from Emma

Starting from the top (and working around clockwise) ... two balls of Yorkshire Tweed Aran, one ball in "Wild Plum" and one ball in "Hero", one of Jamieson's wonderful pattern books, a beautiful skein of Artisan NZ Merino Lace Weight yarn in the "Grape" colorway along with a scarf pattern that is making me wish it was still fall! Two skeins of some smashing Opal Royal sock yarn with lovely sparkly bits, and last, but not least, some Colinette Skye in Fresco (a color I couldn't find on the Colinette website, but the picture is pretty true to life!)

The Yorkshire Tweed is much softer to the touch than I ever would have guessed it would be and the colors are very rich. 'Twould be lovely Roguey yarn methinks. And after I finish with my lace jacket, I might not be able to stop myself from knitting up a scarf in the Artisan NZ yarn. I am in love with lace weight yarn these days and this yarn is delightfully soft and deliciously colored. I was so disappointed when it disappeared from KnitPicks before I could get some. Emma must have been reading my mind once again!

I now have quite a wonderful bit of Skye in my collection. I am thinking that it would make the beginnings of a colorful and wonderful swatch afghan.

And speaking of wonderful and colorful... what could be more wonderful and colorful than a Colinette shade card?

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More Color Than You Can Shake a Stick At!

This shade card is like a rainbow explosion on my desk. Rich color every where. It's the sort of thing you want to hang on your wall for inspiration. It also has a sample of the new Enigma yarn. Will I need some of that someday? Oh, yes!

Finally, have a look at this...

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Dreaming of Jamieson's for Fall

It is a gorgeous sweater project from the Jamieson's book. Emma saw it and thought it might work well for me. Lovely cables and an interesting shaped neckline. How could I resist? I'm thinking it could be my first project for fall. Perhaps in green? Hmmmm...

Thank you so much, Emma, for all your thoughtful and lovely selections!

(Now, you'll all have to excuse me while I go off and fondle my new fibery toys... and have dreams of Technicolor sheep)

Speaking of Rainbows

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A little sunshine peeked through the snow clouds today and everything seemed a little more vivid and cheerful. But sunshine is a mixed blessing in the midwest in the winter. The absence of grey is wonderful, but it also means a cool down since the protective cloud layer holding in the warmth (and what little humidity we have right now) disappears. Coming back from our date night dinner, the car thermostat said 6 degrees Farenheit!

So, of course, I came home and fondled the rainbow of warmth that arrived from Wales last night from Marie. I sent her some goodies from this side of the ocean and this is what made the return trip:

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Colinette Skye: Florentina, CopperBeach, Velvet Bilberry and Lapis (from left to right)

I absolutely love Colinette's aran weight yarn. It's soft and springy and is exquisitely colored (this picture is a little dark). I can already imagine a sweater for my mother out of the CopperBeach -- which is a little lighter in person and has the most beautiful cominbations of brown and red and green. I am just stunned at the difference between the Florentina Giotto and Florentina Skye. And as a lover of almost all things blue I can't help but want to get started with something in the Lapis. A cowl perhaps?

Not too long ago I bought Jenna's Rogue pattern. I love the cabled hoodie idea and even if I don't knit it this year, I wanted to have the pattern in my library. It calls for aran weight yarn... and I'm thinking that maybe the Velvet Bilberry would make for a lovely comfy weekend hoodie.

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Velvet Bilberry Skye Up Close and Personal

There's definitely color variation, but I think it's subtle enough not to obscure the pretty cable work. I'd love to hear other people's opinions.

But that's not all that was in the very fab box Marie sent me. Here were the other goodies that came along for the trip:

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The Mahjong Cushion Kit in Opal, Some Awesome Sock Yarn and Some Delightfully Soft Striping Eyelash

I must have Giotto radar... I had no idea that the needlepoint cushion kit was stocked with three different colors of Giotto to use as "thread". Yum. I'll be starting that one soon. I think it will be a good carry along project. This will be my first stab at needlepoint.

And you can't tell from the picture, but that lovely big ball of sock yarn has the most wonderful sparkly thread in it. The little fuzzy bundle is a skein of Brazilia, made by the same folks who make Regia sock yarns. According to Marie it stripes! And it is very much against the skin soft. Do I need another scarf? Of course not. Will I make another one out of this stuff? Most definitely!

Thank you so much, Marie! What a wonderful way to warm up a cold January day!

And speaking of warmth... I started knitting the first sleeve of the BRDP. I just couldn't resist since the knitting goes so darn fast. Sorry, Dad... I'll be picking up the LoTech again just as soon as it is finished.

P.S. to all you Chicago folks -- the KIP at Letizia's is tonight at 7pm. Hope to see you there!

Bits and Pieces

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Chicago and Siena

I was feeling scattered today and you can see it by the stuff on my desk. In the foreground is the next version of Chicago. I'm working my way towards the shaping, but the base of this bag doesn't have too much shaping to speak of. Behind Chicago is the left front of Siena. I probably would have gotten farther on this, but I got annoyed with juggling two balls of yarn after I decreased to create the ruffle and set it aside.

In the far back of the picture is something that is not knitting, but is fun. For Christmas Mom got me a stocking stuffer -- a Kirigami Calendar -- which is the Japanese art of folding and cutting paper. You can check out this site to play with a virtual Kirigami tool (be sure to read the instructions before you head into the program... it will make it a lot easier to play with). Since it's early in the year yet, all the shapes have been pretty simple to fold and cut. All I need is my fingers and a pair of little scissors. As they get more challenging I will probably need an exacto knife. When I am not playing with yarn, it's an awful lot of fun to play with paper.

Speaking of playing with yarn... guess what I got in the mail yesterday?

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Plassard Merinos and Louinie

Isn't this fab? It hopped across the ocean with a skinny rabbit. The lovely fuzzy stuff is Louinie -- the stuff Becky used when she was constructing the brim of her perfect black bucket hat. I just adore the color -- and the nice note Becky enclosed said the Louinie color was a special run that's not likely to be made again (they didn't even make labels for it). So I will have a very special hat indeed -- made from lovely yarn from a very nifty new knitting friend. How could such a project not have good vibes?

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Louinie Up Close

One thing I think is important to say about the Louinie -- it's not your average novelty furry yarn. It has a very sophisticated quality to it. And rather than the eyelash being a separate strand wrapped around a wool core, the eyelashes are somehow a part of the wool strand. Very cool and very classy indeed.

Once I finish Chicago, I think it's going to be Bucket-O-Chic time.

Christmas Presents

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I can almost never complain about my family's ability to pick out good presents for me. This year, instead of going the electronic route they chose to indulge my creative side. My brother and sister-in-law bought me two wonderful books: "Kaffe Fassett's Pattern Library" and "The Business of Bliss". Ever since I read about "The Business of Bliss" on Denise's blog, I've been dying read it. I'm not planning on giving up my day job any time soon, but it's nice to dream.

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New Entries in the Library

"Knitting in the Old Way", by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Montse Stanley's "Knitter's Handbook" were purchased with a gift certificate they gave me to my mother's LYS. "Knitting in the Old Way" is just packed with interesting information about the designing sweaters in a more holistic manner. Stanley's book is one I've wanted to add to my reference collection for a while.

The magazines were just little gifts to myself. I wouldn't have picked up the Knitter's except for Elsabeth Lavold's sweater. I don't spin (and don't want to right now) but I love looking through Spin Off for color ideas and patterns. But the real score for me was InKnitters -- I don't think I would do any of the patterns, but there's some great pictures of doing one handed two color knitting Continental style, and a number of other technique discussions that made this one leap into my hands.

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A Basket Full of Goodies

My mom put together a very nifty felting basket for me. In addition to the lovely little sheep ornament (which I may hang above my washing machine to scare away the negative energy felting pixies), there were two zippered pillow protectors, a wonderful little steamer (in the box), a Janet Scanlon pattern and 5 skeins of fabulous Manos del Uruguay in colorway 110 and color "X". How did mom know exactly what colors I wanted and exactly what bag I wanted to felt next? Apparently she had a little help from Rob, who remembered what I had been fondling when I visited the store.

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Up Close and Personal with Manos del Uruguay Colorway 110

The colors in the 110 look pretty drab in that picture, but this closeup is closer to reality. The flash has made the colors a little brighter than they should be, but all those colors are definitely in the wool, just subtler.

I just can't believe how many fun felting projects I have ahead of me:

I'm not sure which one will happen next, but I really really do want a warm, felted bucket hat to add to my winter wardrobe...

Exhausted

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I really did have the best of intentions to come home from work and get something in my knitting basket finished.

Really, I did.

And then I got a last minute email from my company's most important customer. I've spent most of the evening talking remotely to their computer, talking to people from work, sending emails, trying to figure out how to make everything work out right.

It's a fitting ending, I suppose, to a day which started out with one of my cats projectile puking in two or three places throughout my house, me forgetting about a glass I was filling with water and ending up with a small flood in my kitchen, and one of my neighbors trying to run me down as I pulled out of my garage this morning (Oh, the joy of Chicago alleyways and people with expensive fast cars).

And there's going to be more fun tomorrow. Ah well. At least I am pleased with how I handled things tonight. And I got to do something technical, which seems to happen more and more rarely for me of late.

So there's really no knitting to talk about. But I did get some goodies in the mail. They don't violate my diet since I traded out of my stash to get them.

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Opal 158, 21 and 160; India Color 08

The middle Opal is Mexiko... but does anyone have any idea what 158 and 160 look like knit up? Deb (who sent it to me) didn't know.

The India is an absolutely spectacular ribbon yarn (thanks, Michelle!) . I don't know if it's destined for scarfdom or little pursedom yet. Or I could just leave it on my desk where I can enjoy it's shinyness. Oh yes, I like shiny things. At heart I am a crow.

Countdown to Columbus.... 2 days.... 2 DAYS!!

So Much Fiber...

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Not much knitting related to talk about today... yesterday was all about work and about all I got time to do was sew in a few ends on the textured scarf before John came home and we headed out for our date and a little victory celebration for both of us (we both had good work days).

But I did get some goodies in the mail yesterday from ThreadBear Fiber Arts that I just have to share:

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The Haul

Two copies of the new Lavold book (one for Emma!), the new Lucy Neatby sock book (which I haven't dug into exhaustively but which looks to be jam-packed full of helpful and interesting sock making tips and creative ideas), two skeins of Classic Elite Ibis in two colorways, a sagey green and a nice burgundy, destined for scarfhood. This stuff is just incredibley soft and inviting and there's a pattern for a simple scarf on the ball band. A skein of fun orange Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille for the flowery washcloth in the last Interweave Knits. A skein of Moutain Colors Bearfoot in Midnight Sapphire (which has the husband seal of approval for being dark and manly, but fits my criteria of being lovely and interesting to knit). And last, but certainly not least, some more Lorna's Laces Angel -- this time in the Aslan color way.

Because I am in love with this beautiful subtle colorway (which is also destined to be a special gift for a special person), here's a closeup:

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Aslan Angel

This will also become a scarf, in K2 P2 rib (I think). Angel is a wonderful thing to wrap around your neck. It's so luxurious, it just makes you feel good all day. In case you are interested in this wonderful yarn, it does have to be special ordered, but the ThreadBears have very good pricing ($3 less/skein than I paid locally).

Lately I've been all over the place with my yarn buying. I've also had a hard time settling down on one project and getting it accomplished. I think this is because I have too many things to choose from. This always happens to me when I have too many projects at work, often I don't get much done on any of them until I hunker down and get few of them completely taken care of.

So, at the risk of damaging the worldwide yarn economy, I am joining in on this:

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Not sure how long I'll be able to do this, but I am shooting for no new yarn for me until after my birthday (February 5, 2004) -- or until I complete the projects in my sidebar, whichever comes first. This diet will not include books or tools or things like buttons. And it will not preclude trading -- since this is just substitution, not addition.

Don't forget -- the ChicKnits KIP is tonight! If you're in Chicago or the surroundings, check in with us at Letizia's, we love to meet new folks!

Wanna Trade?

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Well... I've made a lot of acquisitions lately. I never regret buying yarn, but I have gotten to the point where I know that there is some yarn I am simply never going to use. Today I got my act in gear and set up a trading blog. This is where I am going to post all the goodies that I'd like to de-stash.

All of this stuff is good stuff -- if I do say so myself. I'll trade for yarn/other knitting goodies or cash. If you're interested in something, make me a fair offer and we'll swap.

Charlotte in the Home Stretch

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Thank you so much to everyone who left anniversary wishes. John and I both appreciate them. I'm fortunate to have a great husband and to be part of the wonderful Internet blogging community. I wish I could share these with everyone!

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4 Dozen?!?

My mom and dad actually share our anniversary date with us. They came in from Ann Arbor to celebrate with us and to see the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai that is currently in Chicago. (This is a great show, and I would encourage anyone who has a chance to see it to go!)

Of course, Mom and I took a quick trip out to Knitting Workshop. They were having their end of the season sale and a number of summer yarns were discounted between 50% and 70%. I didn't find much of interest because I am pretty done with cotton and cotton-blend yarns for the year, but I did pick up a few things:

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The Trendsetter Fizz was $3/skein and there were three skeins of the lovely Denim color that will be meeting their destiny as a fall scarf for me to wear with jeans. As to the Rowan Plaid book, all I can say is that there will be some Plaid in my future. KW had a whole treasure trove of it and it feels wonderful. I'm particularly taken by the Lavender Mist, but I think I need to do a littl stash decreasing before I order yarn for another project.

Along those lines, I did bring another project close to a close: Charlotte's Web. Here's a picture of my unblocked accomplishment:

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I am so taken by the colors and how they blend together. Matt of ThreadBear fame helped me pick them out and I am even more convinced of his color genius now that I am mostly finished, than I was when I first got the yarn. I'm particularly amazed how you almost can't tell where I am changing colors -- the way these skeins mixed it almost looks like I had 10 skeins instead of 5.

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4th and 5th colors

Here's what the colors look like on the skein, placed next to where they are in my shawl:

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I only have one last thing to sort out with this shawl -- what color will the crochet edge be? I really don't have enough of either of the last two colors to do the edge and still have a little yarn for the tassles. Here's the options I'm left with:

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Right now I'm leaning toward edging it with the color used for the very first "stripe" -- the green/rust/brown skein on the bottom of the picture above. I think it would be both subtle and tie the whole thing together. But then there is a part of me that says I should be more adventurous and use the bright red/orange/yellow skein (the top one in the picture above) -- that this would bring out the rusty colors in the 5th color and make the edge of the shawl look fiery and vivid. There are three crochet chains... I could do one in each color... so many things to think about!

Opinions and comments are welcome!

Fabulous!

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It just doesn't get much more fabulous than this!

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I am very fortunate to be able to trade fibery goodies with Emma. After a long day at work filled with all sorts of operational and financial issues, it just made my day to come home and find this lovely padded envelope sitting on the counter waiting for me. Is there anything better than diving into a bag of fiber?

Not very many, at least for me. And especially not when it's a bag full of Colinette. You should have seen my jaw drop when I ripped open that padded envelope and pulled out this astounding stuff. I kept bringing skeins up to John and telling him how incredible it was. They sat on my desk all evening and I kept reaching over and picking one up and imagining what it could become. Truly wonderful stuff. Emma -- I can't say thank you enough for taking the time to put together something so beautiful and inspiring

Just so you all know... the front skein is Mercury in color #139 (which I think might be blue saturn, but I am not sure). It reminds me of Tai without the wide and narrow parts. The skein on the far left is Tagliatelli, a wool tape, in "Neptune" -- even taken in the sunshine, this picture doesn't do justice to the deep rich turquoise blues and greens of this yarn. Interestingly, my normally non-bright color loving husband took a liking to the Tagliatelli.

The next two skeins are Skye, a 100% aran weight wool. The one on the left is called "velvet olive" the one on the right is "jay". Both are stunning and soft. They would be gorgeous in a felting project. But they might end up in some special winter scarf pattern for yours truly (I'm not sure I could bear to felt them!). And the velvet olive actually received the husband seal of approval. I've been thinking of designing a sweater for him... and this stuff would be perfect and gorgeous. Large gauge, but not too large, and soft enough for him to wear against his skin. I'll be putting my pennies away for that one!

Last, but certainly not least, the three skeins on the right are Giotto in "Jay". The picture doesn't do this spectacular yarn justice. If you haven't seen Giotto, run, don't walk, to your LYS and take a look at it, it's amazing stuff the way it reflects light.

All I can say is: Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow!

Thanks, Emma, for all this inspiration. I can't wait to put your next goodie bag together!

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