Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wishes for the Season...

by Kathleen

Last weekend as I sat on the sofa, blazing fire in the fireplace, two feet of soft fluffy snow outside, cats curled and purring on my husbands and my intertwined feet, good drink and food to hand, knitting and reading abounding... I felt the joy that comes with a day of love and warmth and peace. And I sent, and send, those same wishes to all and every one.
Whatever your celebrations may be, or if they even be not, Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah, Good Ramadan or Solstice... may the wonder of these and a Happy New Year come to all and everyone. May this new year bring more and even better of the bliss of laughter and the luxury of pleasure, of the expanding of knowledge and deepening of hope, of the serenity of acceptance and the delight of generosity, but especially... of the love of family and the comfort of friends.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Reflections on a Week in Virginia

By Caroline and Kathleen

The first weekend of October is the Fall Fiber Festival of Virginia and for the 3rd year I traveled down to VA to visit with Kathleen and her DH (and to attend the festival) (S'okay... I know where I stand...) . The weekend was just awesome. Plenty of sun but enough of a breeze to make sitting all day watching the Sheepdog Trials comfortable. Neither of us signed up for classes this year so we made a lazy start and arrived near noon. We picked our spots to watch the dogs and settled in (after we picked up some cider donuts, (yum!!!) of course ). We understand the competition better every year and this year Kathleen was explaining it to the newbies (It's really pretty easy to understand once you watch through a few times. The dogs run the same course pretty much so you get to understand where they missed something or went wrong. The trickier part is catching the fine points... how straight a line and how clean the run is.) . I am always amazed by the connection between the dogs and the handlers, even if sometimes the dog gets carried away.

I'll let Kathleen tell you more about the event (well, there really isn't much more to it... watch the dogs and buy some wool. Hehe... what's not to like?!); for me the weekend really boiled down to one thing: wheels. Kathleen had started me on the drop spindle last year and I had struggled with it to the point of thinking maybe spinning wasn't for me. I gave it a final shot in a class at Sock Summit and found that Abby Franquemont and Denny McMillan could teach a brick wall to spin (heh, no comment). But the spindle still didn't thrill me and I started thinking about wheels, in a vague, maybe sometime in the future kind of way. Friends brought their wheels into knitting and let me try them. I was awful but really intrigued. I got enough out of it to know certain things: I wanted a double treadle and I didn't like the tensioner that is a strap with the screw (can't remember what it is called) (I know the one with the spring is a Scotch tensioner...). Okay, you know where all this is going, don't you?

Buying a wheel was not part of my plan for the weekend; I was just going to look and gather up impressions for a purchase, maybe next year. We looked at Majacraft (a sheep owner gave Kathleen a lesson on Navajo plying (Well, I had done it before, but found it awkward. And she gave me some good tips... it helped a bit.)), I saw a Kiwi, the Ladybug, a couple really cool looking wheels from SpinOlution, and a few others. But the one that grabbed my attention was the Lendrum. Kathleen and I talked about it as we returned to watch the Sheepdog Trials. I wasn't sure that I was ready for a wheel, after all , I was only just understanding the spindle. Plus, my friend Kathy and I had talked about co-owning a wheel some day and this was beyond the price range we had considered. But, and this was a big factor, my little OCD heart loved that this wheel came with everything. Everything! It was ready for a beginner and would grow with you. I loved that! I gave Kathy a call and we talked about it; she was very supportive. Kathleen and I got on the computer and searched Ravelry for comments on this wheel (found nothing negative). Sigh, what a decision.

Sunday we returned to the festival. More sheepdogs (such an awesome dog!) and then time to shop. Each time we passed a wheel, we discussed its potential very seriously. Kathleen spun a little on the SpinOlution (I think when I'm ready for my next wheel I might look into the traveling SpinOlution. I didn't try it out, but I liked the feel of the bigger one, and the folding mechanisms on the traveler were amazing!) and then we came back to the Lendrum. This time, I sat down to spin and it just felt right. It felt good! Kathleen tried it out, too, but I just wasn't ready to decide. More shopping (yay) and back to the Sheepdog Trials and more discussion about this wheel. So, as you can guess, I bought the Lendrum . . . . the festival was over and vendors were packing up but our guy was waiting for us. Kathleen and I walked back to the car, holy cow, I had a wheel!

I just wanted to say that I hope I stayed neutral enough. I admit I liked the idea of Caroline spinning. I want everyone to love spinning and knitting too... But buying a wheel is a big decision and a commitment of money and time. I wanted her to be sure and to balance the pros and cons of the choice. I think I succeeded in staying objective. And she is still enjoying it so... win all around!

That evening, Kathleen and I sat down at our wheels and she started teaching me to spin. I was really bad (Uhm... yeah.). But I had fun and realised the learning curve would not be discouraging me. I continued to spin badly for the rest of the week but was happy every time I sat at the wheel. For the rest of the week, evenings were spent on the couch, in front of a fire, spinning or knitting, talking with Kathleen and Jeff and days were spent visiting with Kathleen at her work, dumping her CDs into my iTunes and running errands for her. It was so nice to have such down time; Kathleen, unfortunately, was having very little down time. It was a very busy week for her, which made it an interesting time to watch her work. It's very cool to see Kathleen out of her sister box and see her as teacher/manager/grown-up person.

And it didn't stop... in fact looking back now I can't remember what I was even working on because it's all starting to blur into one long unbroken length of busy-ness and stress.

One Friday I realized that I was doing laundry for our most recent show, fittings for one that opened in two days, having a production meeting for the one in December, and taking measurements for the big musical in February... on top of which I was making a shawl to match a wedding dress for Saturday. On Sunday I had a dance concert rehearsal in the morning , show strike in the afternoon and a dress rehearsal that night.

I love what I do... but I'm so tired right now. I can barely celebrate my newly finished socks (wheeee!!!)

Spring Forward in Socks that Rock Lunasea

Nancy Bush SKA Mystery Sock in Cornfed by Slackford Studio

ANYWAY... back to festival...

Caroline and I were pretty reasonable in our purchases I think. We both got some cool color changing cotton. I haven't decided what mine will be yet, but I wear a fair amount of scarves as accessories and I could use a nice light cotton (lace or other texture). And we both got a few bags of fiber. I'm using my pretty Creatively Dyed as a reward for finishing another skein of some boring, but useful, brown and white 2 ply. A few patterns, a couple bits and bobs, some gorgeous handspun and this was all our haul.

I got to watch a rehearsal, sort through costumes, and I even painted a wig. I continually marveled at the scenery around me . . . . Virginia is such a beautiful state. It was a great week!

And it was great to have Caroline here. Come back anytime Sis! Love you!

Almost forgot: for George T. . . . gratuitous John Deere photo. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Getting them the Goats...

by Kathleen

This is a request I am making, for a good friend of mine.
Heidi owned a yarn shop here in town that was a homey, friendly, lovely place. It was there, and from her, that I really learned to expand my knitting knowledge and got into the fun and challenge of knitting and spinning. And is where about 90% of my stash has come from.
A few couple of years ago she made a difficult decision and closed the store... her little daughter was needing more time than she could give and still effectively run the business. But she never gave up her love of the fiber arts and her dream of owning and producing fiber of her own someday.

Fast forward to two weeks ago...
I saw a note on Ravelry that the CSA on Martha's Vineyard was looking to give away a small flock of angora goats to a worthy farmer wanna-be.
And it occurred to me... I knew one of those!
So the essays are up and the voting has started. It's a VERY short voting time span (by this Friday night)... please read her essay and consider voting for the Lantz-Trissel family.

The CSA blog is here

Voting page for Heidi specifically is here

Photos that didn't make it into the essay are here (including Lena petting a baby goat and Jonathon on his bicycle recycling vehicle)

Please note that the blog is loading rather slow. You can skip it and go straight to Heidi's essay, but if you want to read the others (about 50 of them) you'll need to go to the link on the blog. Also note that you can vote for as many as you feel deserving... but only vote for each one time only.

Thank you for considering helping Heidi, jonathon, Lena and Jesse get the goats.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Travelling Stitch markers, pt. The End

by Kathleen

I know I've said earlier that Caroline and I decided when setting up the blog that we wouldn't get all grovelly in apologizing for lapses in posts. After all, we all have lives that sometimes call us away. But I have to face up to this...

Hoo boy, have we been quiet for a long time!

So I'd better start the catching up process because we have some fun stuff to finish and fun stuff coming up. Someone on this blog (who is not me) went to Sock Summit, and I had a last couple busy weeks with the markers. And soon we're doing our third annual VA fiber fest soon, and I'm doing two KALs, and getting yarn shelves, and all sorts of craziness!

So... I present the final voyage of the Travelling Stitch Markers in The Shenandoah Valley...

First they were in a parade! Yes, once again my fiber guild rode in the local Fourth of July Parade through downtown. We had a couple knitters, two weavers, a rug hooker and a spinner ...

and to my side rode the markers high atop a basket of red, white and blue yarn and rovings.

... my patriotic wheel .

And once again my guild won the top prize (all around best float). I think it was because of the markers...

After the parade the markers and I and some friends went out for yummy Mexican food and Margaritas and then watched the fireworks from a friend's porch.
Unfortunately the photos of the fireworks didn't turn out so well (too dark and too far away) so I present to you instead a photo of the food...

The other big event in the markers was our final show at the Summer children's theatre for which I designed costumes. The markers got to travel far and wide (well an hour away to Charlottesville and half hour south to Staunton) as I searched for the right kind of fake fur.

The big watering can in Staunton...

The walking mall in Charlottesville...

Local fabric store, Ragtime fabrics...

I finally found exactly what I needed... in our own fabric storage in the shop.
A little trimming and shaping, some ears and wigs, and tadaaa!
The Berenstain Bears!

Mama and Sis are pretty recognizable, brother in his red shirt and Papa in his yellow plaid shirt and overalls are in the back (I wish Papa had had his hat on in this photo). The others are the side characters from the books... Teacher, Farmer Ben, friends, and a character added for the play Cowboy Jo.

Now that the stress of dress rehearsals and deadline were over it was time to relax, finish up the marker's project (you can see how long the scarf was getting in that photo) and spend some down time at home with the cats and a fire (yes, in July) and the DH...

...not necessarily in that order

And here we are with the Finished Object!...

Shifting Hues Scarf... pattern free with the yarn, Bluefaced Bliss from Knitting on Impulse

This was fun, and I enjoyed showing the markers around (and by association myself) but it was time. So the Markers bid a fond adieu to the valley (who knew they could speak French?) and went on to their next set of good times with good people...

Au revoir pretty stitch markers, au revoir!

ps I apologize for the wonky registering... Blogger is refusing, utterly refusing to save my edits. I think it's mad I was gone so long. I recognize this behavior... I have cats. Next it's going to pee in my bed and leave me a dead mouse.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Traveling Markers, pt.3

by Kathleen

The markers were totally psyched for the weekend… I had promised them some excitement and I delivered…

On Saturday morning we went to the local WWKiP. Hosted by On the Lamb in Staunton, with complimentary iced tea from Blue Mountain Coffee Shop…
About 20 plus (?) showed up to knit and spin a little…
And compete in the crazy hat contest… It was great fun and many thanks again to Joe and Angel from On the Lamb, Blue Mountain Coffee Shop (no website, but great coffee!) and Byer’s Street Housewares (who donated one of the contest prizes).

That afternoon I had promised a trip on the Shenandoah River but I had to renege a little… Instead the markers took a simply GORGEOUS trip down the valley and into Highland county…
To a friend’s cabin by Bull Pasture river…

Where they sat and soaked up the dappled sunshine, the call of the kingfisher across the river, and a very nice gin and orange juice… Later that night they helped me wind a skein of yarn by firelight.
The next morning, by sunlight, I fixed it… by myself…
There was fishing...( no really, there's a fish there... look closer... reallyreallyreally close.........)
and good food, and dancing (no photos), and great friends. A wonderful time, and the markers agreed… it was good as a riverfloat.

Then… last week the dentist, this week… the doctor’s office!

Where besides the bronchitis and plantar fasciitis (which I knew) I got x-rays…
showing a probable nerve pinching bone spur causing my arm pain.
The markers attempted to convince the doctor that the most plausible treatment option involved long days off of work doing nothing but knitting… but he didn’t buy it.
(and by the way… how cool is it that the x-ray tech was a knitter and thought the idea of taking a photo of my knitting with my x-ray was perfectly reasonable!)

A boring week of work rounded out the time… and we re-entered the new weekend with a nice dinner with the hubby (and the markers) on our candlelit front porch of eclecticism…

I'll have the markers for this one more week... I have a little treat planned for them on the 4th... and then they'll go on to their next host(ess).
I'll kind of miss them though... they certainly got me taking photos!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Mojo Returns

by Caroline

No, I haven't been to the blog in a while. You may have noticed that, considering the last 4 or 5 posts were Kathleen's. But really, how interesting is it to read: "started the Prince of the Wood Elves sock for the third time . . . fourth time . . . fifth time"? Or, "took 2 weeks to finish my wee tiny sock"? So, yes, there was little knitting mojo in me this last month. But I got better.

Let me refresh your memory on the Prince of the Wood Elves, April's entry from the Lord of the Strings sock club. I was feeling pretty cocky, having finished Hobbiton with a little over a week before the arrival of the next sock. And then, Prince of the Wood Elves was in my hands! Eeep!

So, the cuff is done sideways with a 3-needle bind off and then pick up however many stitches for the size you are working and begin the leg in the round. Three issues here: 1) never done a provisional cast-on, 2) gauge, and 3) never done a 3-needle bind off. I don't know if I can condense all the wrong things I did in just the cuff. I didn't check gauge. I jumped up a needle size. I didn't pick the right size to knit. I did complete the cuff once (there were a couple false starts before I got there) and ran into problems picking up the stitches in my provisional cast-on.

Actually, I had screwed up my cast-on so well that no one could pick up the stitches! And believe me, I passed that cuff around to many in my knit group. But I did notice that it didn't look like it would go around my leg anyway, so I pulled it all out. Jumped up another needle size and went up, oh, 2 sizes on the sock. Still no gauge check. Tried another cast-on. Knit too tight. Rip. Lost my place. Rip.

Finally completed the cuff again. Picked up the stitches from the cast-on with Gina's assistance. Yay, Gina! Tried the 3-needle bind off. Did it wrong. Got help. Did it right. Are you still with me? Are you awake out there? So, the sock was underway. I had almost 8 inches done of the leg. This is where I should have been starting the heel and I still had about an inch to go to complete the pattern. Mmmm, maybe, the sock is too big. In fact, it was looking rather odd. Have you ever seen on nature shows, where they pull up a squid and lay it out? That is what the sock was reminding me of, without the tentacles.

Can you say rrrrrrriiip! I took it into knitting and gave it to Laurin to frog. And then I had to take a break from this sock. I had 2 wee tiny socks to get out. And they were not going to make it for their deadline. It's ridiculous to think I had so much trouble with wee tiny socks. I mean, I've done 2 a month for a while but I couldn't seem to get these done. sigh

They finally went out to their patient recipients and I picked up Prince of the Wood Elves again. Dropped down a needle size, picked the correct size to knit, crossed my fingers, and began one more time. Finished the cuff, did the 3-needle bind off, picked up the stitches, and then began to knit. Also, I began to worry that I still hadn't checked gauge. So, I pulled some yarn out of the skein and did a swatch between the sock and the skein. Whew! All seems to check out. I haven't taken any pictures yet. I think I'll wait till I find out whether this time will really work.

Hey, Kathleen! Guess what I did Friday?

Heather brought in a wheel that she was selling and let me play with both it (a lovely single treadle Louet) and her beautiful double treadle Kromski Sonata. It is probably too early for me to be looking at wheels. I hardly touch my drop spindle. But the wheels were fun and educational. I tried some roving but had to switch to some bulky yarn as I couldn't manage the treadle and the drafting at the same time. Thank you, Heather and I think I might be going to SPA next year.

The third installment of the Lord of the Strings sock club is in: The Fellowship. OMG! If I thought Prince of the Wood Elves was challenging . . . . this one is just chock full of techniques I've never done: toe-up, new cast on, colorwork (and wait till you see the yarn). I haven't even read through all the directions, yet. There might be more! This club is one of the best things to happen to my knitting, ever! I'll get pictures up soon, I promise.

I also have some exciting news. I'm going to the Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon in August! Yay! I got through registration day: couldn't get in, didn't get in, then I got in. Had to fight the servers for a connection. You wouldn't think sitting in front of a computer would be so exhausting. But I finished the day with most of my top choices. I have a class with Cookie A (The Perfect Rib), a class with Cat Bordhi (Dancing with Socks), and a class with Abby Franquemont and Denny McMillan (Spindle Spinning Basics). I'm also taking KnitteRx (ergonomics) with Carson Demers and Hip Hems for Him and Her with Stephen Houghton. I'm planning as much sight seeing as I can manage between classes. I plan on coming back home seriously sleep deprived! Can't wait!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Traveling Markers, pt.2

by Kathleen

The markers had a better time their second week here. A bit humdrum, but at least they got out of the house! The week started off with a busy Saturday…
I volunteer at the Virginia Quilt Museum and the markers stood duty with me at the door… I wish I could have posted photos of the exhibit… gorgeous floral applique! But, no photos allowed inside (I cheated with the one of the door).

After the morning stint at the museum we walked around back to the common green area where the city was having “Court Days”. This is kind of a recreation of Harrisonburg in the mid 1880s. With vendors, exhibitors, storytellers and the occasional person in period garb. My fiber guild was manning a small booth with rug hooking, and weaving (small floor and inkle loom) demos. Two of the spinners were from our guild too. I made it for the last hour and helped strike the tent.

The markers looked at women in hoop skirts, men in tall hats, blacksmiths, and big horses pulling wagons, and ate an entire bag of kettle corn. At least I know I didn’t eat a whole bag by myself!

The day finished with a beautiful evening spent on the porch of a good friend… eating dinner and sipping gin and tonics, watching the sunset…

From there the week got pretty boring…
Tuesday they came with me to our weekly knit night at our local coffee shop. There the markers consumed a panini sandwich and a grande skim chocolate turtle latte. Our friendly barristas…

And to finish the week out the markers came along to visit the dentist. Good news… they had no cavities!

This coming weekend I’ve promised them some real excitement… WWKiP day and a canoe trip down the Shenandoah!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Travelling Stitch markers, pt.1

by KathleenC

Prologue: A Ravelry fun fling. This is a travelogue of sorts featuring one of the 50 sets of stitch markers which were made and sent to volunteer hosts in each of the 50 U.S. states. Each host takes photos showing the markers about their area of the state (while knitting something with them, of course). When their project is completed they send the markers on to the next eager host.
I am the third host in Virginia.

My first post acknowledged their arrival and wondered what their stay would include... what joys, what agonies?

My second post, a week and a half later:

I was, apparently, psychic when I asked what agonies might await the markers… I hadn’t planned what project they would participate in (not knowing exactly when they would arrive), so the first few days were spent deciding what item would knit up quick enough, but not too fast, be interesting to watch develop and still fun to do… and needed markers. And then, just as I was poised on the precipice of a decision…

The Plague Struck Me Down (cue the morosely maleficent music)…

The view from the couch for several days…

The view from the bedside table....

As I felt a little better I sipped chicken soup and ate Ben&Jerry's (neither of which I could taste sadly) and the markers browsed through inspiration with me…

I finally felt able to consider knitting again, and decided on the appropriate project, the simplest but prettiest of loose lace scarves, but the fever and the headache made it impossible to concentrate. Cast on and rip, cast on and rip… Drastic measure had to be taken…

An icepack wrapped around the head can do wonders for your ability to cast on.

Next… the markers venture out of doors!