Monday, January 31, 2011

Good News/ Bad News

The Good News:  The spinning wheel will be in tomorrow!

The Bad News: I work all day, and then we're supposed to have a 2-3 day snow/slush/freezing rain storm.  It is not likely that I will be able to get it.

Now I have watched cupcake dog too many times and his freaky eyes are freaking me out.  Must be bedtime.

PS. I bought a car that I can't drive. WHO DOES THAT?  It won't take me that long to learn, right?!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Week of the Wheel

I hope, anyway, that this will be the week my spinning wheel arrives!  I've been doing a lot of daydreaming about it, and Althea has already said that she's going to dye fiber and have me spin it for her - which I think will only be the most fun!!!

In other news, I've completed Christopher's socks, his Jackalope, and just last night I finished my 198 Yards of Heaven shawl.  I was on a roll!  I was excited!  And then the fear set in.  How many projects did I have on my needles?  Just two?! But I didn't want to knit intimidating lace or an amigurumi tomato!  Gathering my fortitude, I blocked my projects and went to bed. 

This morning, I had the perfect plan.  I cast on this lacy snood, from Our Quiet Place - another blog.  I'm knitting it out of Royal Bamboo in a pretty pastel yellow.  Good winter knitting.

The last couple of weeks I've been having wonderful Sundays - getting Thai brunch with my pals Tillie and Althea, and then knitting the day away.  I think we should continue to do that.  I like Thai food, I like the gals, and I like knitting!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the needles?

Part of what I love about listening to knitting podcasts is the commonly-present On The Needles segment   I find it intriguing to know how people prioritize, organize, and plan for their knitted items.  Another thing I love about podcasts? Their super cute accents.

My method seems to be thus:  Have one of everything on the needles all the time so I have knitting to suit any mood.
For example, on my needles now are:
1. Amigurumi Tomato
2. Secret Christmas project.  Pictures soon, I promise!  Chris is so patient - partly because my gift isn't done yet either.  At this rate, we'll end up having fake Christmas in July.
3. Lace shawl with worsted weight
4. Lace shawl with lace weight
5. Two at a time toe-up socks
6. The Talia vest, which I cast on during our Snow Day Outsourced Marathon.  But I cast on in acrylic, and do I really want to do that?  It's purple and soft (Berrocco Comfort), but wouldn't I rather work with wool or something that I'll like better?  But it is machine washable, so. . . I just can't decide.

Some people have even more projects on than even I do, I have found.  Jasmine over at the Knitmoregirls Podcast seems to have all the projects ever - and socks hiding around every corner!   Not all of them are active, but there are still many.  This sounds like a wonderland to me, where your house is just full of beautiful half-knitted items and you can pick and choose as you like. Meghan at Stitch It! Podcast said early on (I'm still catching up) that she can only ever have two things on the needles. . . which sounds much more productive to me, but then I would have to choose!

The spinning wheel update is that it will ship this week, so I should be able to pick it up at the shop the week after.  Two weeks!  I am practicing deep breathing.  Two weeks is only a very small amount of time, right?  Right?!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Impending Snow Day

These blizzards make me wonder - why have no fireplace and an electric stove in your New England home?  Even if it is theoretically a summer home?  I guess we have a good quilt, and a grill, and my parents don't live too very far away!

I called about my spinning wheel today - and she hasn't heard back yet about the wait time.  It must be weird ordering things from New Zealand, since they're all opposite-land over there.  I'm so excited even just to hear some word about when my wheel will be here!  I feel like having a time frame will make it feel less like some fantastical dream.

I finished a project yesterday - no, not my Christmas knitting.  I needed a break from all the i-cord and short rows, so I picked up a cropped sweater that I finished knitting in August and have been putting off seaming.  I did the seaming and picked up all the stitches to do the finishing rows around the outside and the sleeves.  Now all I need to do is block it!

I also learned a very sproingy new bind-off, because Sunday night be parents had a turkey dinner!  Backtracking a little. . . they had a turkey dinner and my aunt who knits was there, and I bound off and the edging was the very tiniest!  It squeezed my armpits!  She showed me a new bind-off and I brought it home and did that instead, with needles two sizes larger than the ones I had been using.  It worked wonderfully, and I'm going to try to find a video of it for you, or maybe make one!  That will be a project for tomorrow, when I will likely be snowed in.

Remind me to tell you how Louie went on walkabout this morning, ok?  Because she explored the house pretty thoroughly, and I can't be mad that I was late for work because her ears are so dang floppy.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snowy morning photo shoot

Two-at-a-time toe-up socks for Christopher. Yarn: Happy Feet.

The Simply Graceful Laceful Shawl by Barbara Patricia

Handspun on my tiny spindle, fiber from Spunky Eclectic.

My Ice Queen cowl from Knitty, also on Ravelry.  Yarn from Knitpicks.

198 Yards of Heaven shawl, made of Handmaiden's Lady Godiva in the Rose colorway

Tomato - from the book Amigurumi Knits by Hansi Singh. Yarn: Berocco vintage

Damson, by Ysolda Teague. Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Archangel.

Guernsey Wrap by Jared Flood, made for me by Christopher's mum (I think she likes me!)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Spinning Wheel Shopping

My kitchen doesn't look like an episode of hoarders anymore, so I feel that I can come back to posting.  Louie has just had her last dose of antibiotics, and we are both relieved.  Well, I am. . . she would be if she understood what I was saying when I told her it was the last one!  Mostly she's just snoozing in a cardboard box under the table.

On Thursday evening, I went straight from work after applying some mascara, slapping my face several times (not really), and changing into a sweater instead of my usual work kangaruchka*.

*My Russian Russian professor (as opposed to the American Russian professors I had) told us that a hooded sweatshirt with a pocket on the belly is called colloquially a kangaruchka.  I hope she wasn't making that up, because it's the cutest.  Get it, like a kangaroo?

My semi-local spinning shop is about half an hour from my house, and is run out of the owner's home.  We spoke a few times over the phone, arranging my visit and whatnot.  She asked which wheels I wanted to try, and I said "The Kromski Sonata, and. . . probably the Majacraft wheels just for the heck of it because they're so beautiful!"  The owner is a distributor for most of the major spinning wheel manufacturers, teaches classes, and raises alpacas and sheep.  She is very sweet and we chatted about everything from dogs to spinning and back to dogs while I spun - her elderly golden retriever kept coming in to snuggle.  She was also very, very patient with me!  The owner, not the dog.
I went over thinking that I was going to fall madly in love with the Kromski Sonata, and assuming that I'd be bringing one home with me that very night.  The Sonata was indeed lovely, and although I have no spinning wheel experience to speak of I found it very pleasant to spin on.  It's a beautiful mix of old and new fashions, with traditional lines but an efficient, foldable castle structure and a well-padded carry bag.  The factory finishes were all stunning, and I would have gone straight for the Mahogany (to match my harp, of course) if all my best laid plans had not been derailed. 

We spun in the living room, where all of her wheels live.  I tried hers, rather than any she had stored away in stock, because they were all set up.  I played with the Sonata and loved it, and thought it was just lovely.  I did have an occasional sensation of vertigo, which for me is often brought on as a combination of having my head bowed with bad upper back posture - understandable yet intimidating for spinning on a wheel.  I had some panicked moments where I wondered if it would happen with all the wheels, and if maybe I just shouldn't be thinking about buying one.

But the more I spun, the more I loved it.  I've never spun on a wheel for more than a couple of minutes, but it was so calming and enjoyable and so fast after spinning only with one small drop spindle.  I lifted my head to take a break, and my eyes caught on the Majacraft Rose.  "Do you want to try it?" she asked me.  "Oh, sure," I said, thinking it would be good research, anyway.  It would be nice to know why people speak so reverently of them.

I spun for a bit on the Rose and then tore myself away and went back to the Sonata.  Both wheels were fantastic to use, but there was no way I was letting myself consider the Rose.  I spun and spun, and switched back to the Rose.  I thought about what finish I would get for the Sonata, and then I went back to the Rose again.  I put both wheels beside each other, set up and with tails of roving hanging down ready to be spun.  I spun on the Rose, and I switched to the Sonata like I had to go from one to the other as quickly as possible - the owner of the shop laughed with me.  On the Sonata I got vertigo.  I switched back to the Rose and it went away.  I switched to the Sonata and got vertigo.  I switched to the Rose and it was like we were soul-mates and I got all warm in my belly like it was meant to be.  I won't say I heard angels singing, but that's only because it would make me sound like a crazy person.
 I was fully expecting to want something more traditional looking like the Sonata, with its classic tapered spokes, round orifice and hook, and the multiple hooks on the flyer.  Surprise!

"Yeah," I said, somewhat ruefully, "It's this one."  I didn't stop spinning on the Rose until I had to get my purse and write a check for the deposit so she could order one for me.

The nicest thing about the whole experience was that the shop owner was so patient and never said a word trying to influence me one way or another.  She has been spinning on her Rose for more than fifteen years, and she loves her Sonata for traveling.  Up until I made it clear that I was really considering the Rose, she was all about the Sonata - telling me how good a value it is for the money, and how great the bag is, and how well it spins.  Very delicately, she was reassuring me that if I didn't have the money for a more expensive wheel, I would have no regrets about the Sonata.  I don't mean she assumed I was poor, but I'm young and the economy is the worst, and she was very tactful.  I think that a sales strategy like that is just wonderful.  Once I decided on the Rose,  she admitted that it is one of the most versatile wheels on the market, and that I would never outgrow it.
She also told me exactly what she did not like about both wheels.  Her only complaint for the Rose is that the flier will bump the left pedal when the wheel is folded up, and it can leave a mark.  For the Sonata. . . I honestly can't remember now, I am so fixated on my once and future Rose.

Yes, those are cracks in the soundboard.
As to how I am justifying the expense to myself. . . maybe someday, I'll tell you the story of The Harp Lesson, as we like to call it.  The much-shortened version of the Harp Lesson is: If you're in the market for a harp, get the one you want with a warranty from a real store, no matter how much money you think you can save by buying one on Craigslist from a family who seems nice and then keeps $3,000 of your money because you were naive and thought that because they have two young daughters of their own they wouldn't swindle you by selling you damaged goods.  Yeah, that really is the much-shortened version. . . it's actually much more dramatic than all that.  It goes without saying that there were tears and discussions of legal action and all of that fun mess.

The even more shortened version: If you want something, get it good.  Get it from a reputable source, save up if you can't afford it to start, and don't short-change yourself in the name of being overly responsible with money.  I try to keep the Harp Lesson to heart, and Chris (the Boy I spoke of) reminds me constantly that I work hard for my money and shouldn't feel guilty for making good investments.  Look at me, justifying my purchases to a blog audience.  Must be time to go and do some belated Christmas knitting (I'd tell you what it is, but it's a secret!) while being delighted by the second half of Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth, of course).

If anyone in the New England area wants the name of the spinning shop I posted about, please comment or e-mail me!  I'd be happy to share, I am just overly cautious about privacy on the internet.
And to see some beautiful photos of the Majacraft Rose, pop over to Hello Yarn - a blog I found with the most stunning pictures!

My Bangs are Poking My Eyelids.

They look cute, but they poke my eyes.  I got a headband at Wal-Mart (ech) yesterday with a big bow on top, so that helps. . . but I look a bit like a little girl playing princess. 

So, spinning wheels.  I love them.  But I feel I should begin with the beginning of my Fiber Romance, way back in the third grade.

In school, I was stressed.  I was a high strung kid - an overachiever who wanted to do everything just right while simultaneously refusing to speak and pretending to be a cat.  I mean, who hasn't been there?

School was pretty awful.  In pre-school in Maine, I did pretty well.  We played kitchen, there was a deer farm next door, and we went sledding in the snow.  We ate broccoli with ranch dressing at snack time.  All was well.
I have a vague recollection of a place. . . a horror of a place. . . where they Made you eat the crusts of your sandwich and they Made You Nap.  I used to be afraid of sleeping.  I was bad at sleeping, slept maybe 4 hours out of 24 altogether (and never all at once) and then I went to a place where they made me lie down and take a nap (not that I could sleep).  I'm not sure where that fits in on the timeline, probably before the Good Pre-school in Maine.

When we moved, pre-school was fun too!  There was a big swing set, and we learned to write some things, and we did the usual crafts where you make paint footprints on fabric with your name written next to them, that sort of thing.

Then, public school.  We still use a system in this country that was designed to basically educate future factory workers who had no hope for higher education.  It's not my place to be preachy about it,  and I'm sure there are some people who like it. . . I just don't know any.

In Kindergarten, my teacher told us on St. Patricks day that she caught a leprechaun in a paper bag.  There was glitter all around her desk, and she would shake the bag as if her prisoner was acting up.  She told us that if we were good all day, the leprechaun would come out and meet us.  At the end of the day he was gone, and I remember weeping like my heart was broken because I had so wanted to meet him - and it was all my fault, I was sure I had been bad.  My mom explained to me that she was lying, and she had not caught one, and she said she was sure I hadn't done anything wrong.  I was pissed.
In first grade the teacher promised us in the first week that we would learn to write cursive script that year.  We never did, but I did experience the joy of being one of three kids who could read - which meant that we had to read aloud to the class, whole books, a few times a week.  Fear of public speaking, ahoy!
In second grade, I did foolishly well on my standardized tests and spent more time doodling and flipping erasers through the air than paying attention.  I just couldn't manage.  My teacher that year measured in strips of paper with aardvarks printed on them, rather than inches.  Is that the origin of my poor math skills?

And then the neighbors sent their kids to Waldorf School and my parents thought that might be a good idea.  Onward, to a strange and magical place.  We spent most of the time working on art - drawing, watercolor painting, fiber crafts, woodworking, and lots of other fun stuff.  We gardened and build a compost system, and learned French, Latin, Greek, and ancient Egyptian.  We studied history, math, grammar, dictation, mythology (Norse, Old and New Testament, Greek, and Roman), geography, botany, animal husbandry, archery, mythical creatures, and a whole lot more that slips my mind.  It was still school, but it was magical and we had two recesses.  We learned how to weave the maypole, and how to recite poetry in different languages and how to sing songs in Sanskrit.

 And now.... the spinning.  We spun my first month at Waldorf, but I had just arrived for the end of the block and one day all the spindles and drum-carders were gone and I wanted them back!  The wool had smelled like sheeps, and it had been fuzzy and so interesting.  It was only third grade though, and I had missed all the terminology, so I didn't even know what to call the things!  We learned to knit, but I didn't have the attention span for it. . . and crocheting was a stress disaster for me: "put the hook through the hole? which hole?! There are holes everywhere!"  We wove a couple of years later, and made an abstract sort of tapestry that hung on the wall of the classroom.  The loom wasn't huge - we were only in 5th grade and had to be able to work it, after all. 
We moved on and knitting was the only constant, but I missed the other fiber arts and thought about them fondly.  This was, of course, before the internet and before I knew about the wider world.  I thought if my parents didn't know anyone who spun their own yarn, it was a lost cause.
When I was in Junior High (public school again) I discovered Tamora Pierce, whose books I loved and still love more than any others.  I read her first two series, and then there was the Circle of Magic Quartet.  One of the characters has magic with fiber, and fiber craft.  With spinning, and weaving and things of that nature.  And then I had the terminology to ask for a spindle for Christmas!

So I did, and I've been hand-spinning with a spindle on and off since then.  Of course, the first roving I bought was merino, and made me totally crazy!  Short fiber, hard to spin when you're teaching yourself.  And now, I've written you a historical novel.  I'll save spinning wheel shopping for another entry.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Latest Hobby: Slacking from Blogging

One of the neighbor's roses, in summer.
Louie has been less and less enthused by her antibiotics.  We've now progressed into her running away from me as if her life depended upon it.  Then I pick her up (kicking and. . . kicking, thank goodness, she isn't screaming), and flip her over, and pet her and pet her, and coo - and then put the syringe in her mouth and apologize.  Then she hops away from me, and pretends she doesn't exist for a while hiding in a cardboard box in the kitchen.

My 198 yards of Heaven shawl is going really well, and I'm familiar enough with the pattern now that I can figure out where I've gone wrong when I make a mistake!

I've only done one more row of the Laminaria shawl, but it's still going well.  I'm a little nervous that I didn't swatch, but I'm usually a little nervous about not swatching.

And, before you ask, yes - I did!  I went over to my parents' and played my harp for a while yesterday.  I played the songs I have memorized, about a hundred scales, and then I started recalling the Spinning Wheel Song. 

See, I have this plan.  My plan is that if I start practicing my harp regularly, and keep doing it, I can get myself a spinning wheel.  I've only wanted one since I knew they existed, and now seems like a good time to get one.  Ok, it doesn't seem like a terrible time.  I do know that it seems silly to bribe myself with a new hobby to practice an old one, but. . . have you seen the title of this blog?