We interrupt the silence to bring you a smidgeon of crafting news

Life has gotten a bit crazy lately.  We’ve spent a lot of our non-working/sleeping time house hunting, and now we are in the throes of house buying, with all the paper gathering and emails and phone calls that entails.  In the meantime, the kids still needed to eat and have clean clothes and get to track and Cub scouts and who knows what.  Some balls have been dropped, and getting anything crafty done has been one of those balls.

But I did abandon my responsibilities last weekend for another trip to join my fibery friends.  We rented a place through AirBnB and raced off through the rain storms to catch the ferry to Anderson Island for the weekend.

 

There was a lot of spinning on my part.  I finished the blue two ply yarn in the pic below, and filled another bobbin with the third single I needed to make another yarn.  I also worked on the I-cord edging on my Volt wrap.

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There was also a lot of learning.  Paige taught us all how to do two color brioche knitting, and Leslie 2 was quick enough at it to knit a shoulder wrap/cowl thing.

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We also learned it takes a great deal of junk food (and pineapple cider) to fuel so much creative effort.

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It was hard to leave and go back to the real world.  But we had a satisfying pile of progress to show for it.

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Saga of the Christmas wedding blanket

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The centerpiece of our recently completed finishing weekend was Seattle Leslie’s blanket.

Or rather, her sister-in-law’s partial blanket.  Intended as a wedding present for a son, it was handed to Leslie as a pile of red, green and cream rectangles after Leslie made the strategic error of saying she’d finish it up when her sister-in-law hit a time crunch.

So Seattle Leslie’s big goal for the weekend was to get all those squares sewn together.  And hey, Portland Leslie and Paige like (don’t hate) seaming.  So while I spun and embroidered, the three of them sewed many rectangles together.  Some of those rectangles were rather rough, and the sizes were more “identical” than identical, but they plowed through, and the blanket grew.

So did the doubts about the back and edges.  They just did not look good, and no one was happy about it as an intended-to-be-cherished wedding gift.

Which is when we came up with the idea to add a fabric backing, to treat it as a quilt and hide all those uneven edges and knots and yarn ends in the middle of a yarn and flannel sandwich.

Leslie and I hit the nearest fabric store Saturday evening, where I promptly freaked out at the thought of paying $15 a yard for flannel – it isn’t woven with real gold thread! it’s freaking flannel! – and dragged her to JoAnn’s where the magic of sales and phone coupons turned the $75 price for backing at the first store into $18.

And it was a lovely soft and cuddly flannel after its trip through the washer and dryer for pre-shrinking.

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We seamed to get a wide enough piece, then spread it out on the floor for pinning and folding.  We cut it about two inches wider all around, then folded in the fabric edge and folded that over the blanket edge.

I zig-zag stitched all around to anchor the binding, and we all took turns knotting yarn through the intersections of knit rectangles to finish it off.

Leslie was so happy to have it done and without having to crochet edges or worry about the back.  We were all pretty happy with the finished blanket, and I am pretty sure I’m going to make one of my own someday.

 

 

Finishing weekend 2

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I just spent wonderful weekend in Seattle with my fiber friends.  It was the second finishing weekend of the year, a time when we dig out WIPs that have been languishing and dig in to get them done, along with a lot of catching up and some fabulous food.

Finding knitting projects was a little difficult for me as the last finishing weekend took care of most of mine that needed just a bit of seaming or ends sewn in.  Plus I frogged so many of my knitting WIPs.  Quilting WIPs weren’t going to work as I didn’t want to haul my machine and all the necessary bulky quilting supplies.

But I did have my blue sweater that just needed one sleeve sewn on, and my Volt wrap.  And there were some embroidery projects to sort through for possible finishing contenders, and spinning fiber in progress.  So in the end I had plenty to do.  Enough that it took several trips to get all the bags and bundles out to the car.

It was such a great time!  So much laughing and helping and exchanging projects and sharing ideas and accomplishments.  Portland Leslie likes to seam, and Seattle Leslie and I needed a lot of that.  Paige loves to sew in ends (so weird! so handy!) and I was useful with machine binding.

Have you heard of Slow TV?  I hadn’t – apparently on Netflix there are hours and hours of Norwegian television that takes a topic and sticks with it through every possible second.  There are eleven celebratory hours of a boat traveling a Norwegian canal.  Eight hours of knitting talk. An entire multi-hour train trip captured on film.  And our personal favorite for weekend viewing, five or six hours about wood chopping.

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Everything about wood chopping.  How to stack, how to chop – and all the possible variations of both.  Wood deliveries, wood tools, music with chopped wood, contests for wood stacking, how to cut a piece of wood so that it is a burner for tea and a stool.  The apparently bitter controversy over bark up or bark down in the wood pile.  It was both tedious and mesmerizing.  And all in Norwegian and subtitles!  We had it on for hours, and yes, I’m aware of how crazy that sounds.

Another highlight was the tour of Seattle Leslie’s fiber stash.  It is impressive!  Walls of IKEA bins full of spinning fiber, and more cases and boxes and bins of the yarn she has gathered since the days when she worked at a yarn store and was paid in yarn.  We treated it with the respect normally given to museum visits.

We ate, and drank gallons of tea, and laughed, and got so much done.

I finished my embroidered undersea scene that I started in a class I took a couple of years ago.

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I also got the last four oz. of my Ashland Bay merino spun and plied both bobbins into finished skeins just needing their bath.

My Volt wrap is just two rows away from needing the attached i-cord edging, and my blue sweater has its last sleeve attached. Just needs a zipper now.

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Everyone walked away with a lot they could cross off the WIP lists.  The photographic evidence of all we accomplished:

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That blanket at the bottom was a major team effort and is going to get a blog post all of its own very soon.

We are already planning the next get together.  There is talk of an AirBnB in Olympia in the new year.  Can’t wait!

It takes a village

Or at least a determined friend and a deadline.

In March of 2009 (!) I started knitting a shawl pattern called Aeolian.  It is a popular pattern – Ravelry currently has 4385 projects linked to the pattern.  And I was deep in the throes of my lace knitting addiction.  The thinner the yarn, the more complicated the charts, the more I loved it.

And boy, Aeolian had 6-7 charts, it had beads, it had nupps (soon to become my nemesis), it called for size 2 needles, and I knit it from a cone of the finest yarn I’d ever cast on, a 50/50 linen and cashmere cobweb weight thread-like yarn.

It went so well for quite a while.

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Then, at some point, I wandered off.  Squirrel!  And I didn’t pick it up again for two years. By then it was taking 30 minutes a row, but progress was happening and I could see it grow, and I worked through more of the charts and though I still detested doing nupps, I got better at them so I didn’t dread those rows.

But something shiny must have caught my eye again because back it went into the dark hole of hibernating projects for two more years until I had a brief burst of working that got me to the last chart and the beading.  It took nearly an hour a row by then, but I got to the last chart, and then it went back into the drawer.

2013 was the last time I pulled it out.  My Ravelry project page reminded me of my neglect occasionally, but it stayed shoved in the back of my fiber dresser.  Lurking.

Then this summer my friend talked about how she needed to start a wedding shawl for a niece whose wedding was relatively soon – close enough to make it a bit of a speed knitting slog – and I had a eureka moment that would solve her deadline issues and get me out from under the Aeolian forever.

So I sent off the pages of pattern printouts, the vials of beads, the needles, and that 90% finished Aeolian to Leslie and sat back, relieved.

She finished it!

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And it is so beautiful!

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It is going to make a wonderful bridal shawl.

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I just don’t get him

My husband called me into the office tonight to show me a picture on his phone – a newborn baby boy.

“Oh, he’s so cute, whose is he?”

“Amir’s.”

“Wait, your Amir?”

“Yeah.”

“Your best friend Amir?!”

“Well, yeah.”

“!!”

Here’s what I don’t get.  Amir is, see above, my husband’s best friend.  Granted, they don’t see each other that often, because Amir lives nine time zones and nearly 7000 miles from us, but they are close, talk all the time, and when they see each other it is like they just hung out the day before.

And I didn’t even know he and his wife were pregnant.  I mean, this husband of mine, who knows I quilt and knit and am dying to have excuses to make adorable little baby things – and that I think Amir and Libby are terrific and definitely craft worthy – and he never mentioned this huge imminent event that I could have been sewing or knitting for all this time.

“Didn’t I mention it?” he said to me.

I know it is an unfair stereotype, but still I want to shake my fist at him and shout that he’s such a guy.

But I don’t have time because I have a baby quilt to make.

I think one of these will be involved.

Back to OFFF

Each year a couple of my friends and I get together and go to a fiber festival.  It used to be Blacksheep, in Eugene, but the spring pollen combined with the straw dust made it impossible for one of my more allergic friends to survive happily.  So now we go to OFFF each September in Canby.

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I actually prefer Blacksheep, because the arrangements for viewing sheep judging and other displays are better for knitting/spinning while watching.  OFFF doesn’t seem to think that people might want to sit in stands for a while to watch the events – maybe they believe only the people showing animals will sit there for long periods?  There are little to no seating arrangements most of the time.  But I always liked learning what made a Romney or BFL a really good example of its breed, or why one bunny was top over another that looks equally fluffy to me.  The announcers were good at filling in the info gaps for those of us who could probably tell a sheep from a goat, but not always.  At OFFF, even the llama obstacle course was moved to the opposite end of the barn this year, away from the stands we used to be able to sit in to watch.  And the judges aren’t wired for sound, so it isn’t possible to hear much of what they are saying.

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Also, I miss the evening parade of fiber fashions that Blacksheep had each year.  And the Shetland sheep costume parade.  And the wood fired pizza at the restaurant nearby.

Those complaints aside, OFFF is a good time.  We bring our camp chairs to the lawn under the giant shade trees, wander the booths and barns for two days, and always go for Thai food for lunch.  We knit and spin and shop and catch up, and then go back to one friend’s house on the river to talk and craft some more.

Last Saturday, my sister and niece came along to check out the animals, and later in the afternoon my husband and kids showed up to do the same.  The animals cover the range of fiber creatures, including angora and cashmere goats, tiny Shetlands and massive Romney sheep, alpacas and llamas, and the bundles of fluff angora rabbits.

The weather was also perfect – blue skies but not too hot, and nothing like the windstorm that blew vendors canopies away a couple years ago.  Speckle dyed yarn and yarn felting seemed to be the new crazes with a lot more booths devoted to them, and I spent a lot of time wandering looking at wheels, because despite the fact that I have a perfectly good wheel, I can’t help lusting after the beautiful alternatives I don’t need but still want.  I definitely have wooley winder envy!

There is also always a fiber craft project display.  My favorites this year were both felted octopuses (octopi?)

I was VERY restrained in my shopping this year.  That 27 pounds of fiber already in the stash stayed in the forefront of my mind, and I bought just two luxury spinning tops, one of yak and silk and one a combo of angora, silk and cormo wool.  I got only one skein of sock yarn, because those bins at home are also rather full and a pottery soap dish to replace the plexiglass one in my bathroom I’ve always hated.  For me, it was the equivalent of coming home empty handed.  I just kept reminding myself that I’d bought most of it before, it would be there again, and I have a very busy life and way too many hobbies.  It kept the credit card in my wallet.

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Now there is nothing to do but rest up for next year.

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Finishing weekend

July has been a very barren month for fiber crafting!  We started the kitchen remodel on the fifth of July (post to come), and I didn’t touch a needle or fiber again for weeks.  But this weekend was a long scheduled finishing weekend with my knitting friends, and I finally got my hands on some yarn at least.

We all dug out unfinished projects and got to work.  Many, many ends were sewn in to complete already knitted projects.  Here are the three I did – a green handspun cowl, a lace crescent handspun shawl, and a color blocked red, white and black scarf that was my lunch knitting project at work.

Just as many projects that had lost their appeal were frogged and the yarn recovered.

We all had sweaters (and even one dress!) that needed seaming and just a bit of detail work.  Projects that had been in bins and under beds for years were pulled out to see the light of day.  Some died in the frog pile, some were put on the road to actual wearable garment.

Sadly, some of the projects had not survived the moths.

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Elizabeth Zimmerman played as an accompaniment.  I love the way she talks about knitting!  “Fraught” one moment, easy peasy for all in the next.  With the occasional cat wandering through.

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Some of the work took place at Coin Toss, a microbrewery, because seaming always goes smoother with cider and beer.  (Despite what that picture makes it look like, there was no inebriated stitching.)

I got the collar knitted and most of the seaming done on a cabled cardigan I started in 2012.  One sleeve left to attach and a zipper to buy.  I also sewed in the ends on the three projects shown above, and gave away an almost finished white lace shawl (started in 2009!) to a friend who was going to knit one for a wedding and now only has to finish the border of mine.

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We had so much fun and were so productive that we are going to make it a quarterly event.  Next time is in October in Seattle.

And it helped with my list of knitting WIPs, though not a dramatic dent as I hadn’t put the finished-knitting-but-still-with-loose-ends on the list.  Here’s where the knitting now stands:

  • Fingerless gloves – finished
  • Red sweater – my oldest WIP, knit years ago, it just needs a crocheted edging and buttons, but will it even fit now?
  • Blue Urban Aran sweaterUpdate: collar done, seaming almost complete, need to buy zipper
  • Shawl in Tosh blues – frog, find a better contrast yarn and restart
  • Pink handspun slippers– frogged and yarn returned to stash
  • D’s cupcake– frogged
  • Daily temperature scarf– felting has begun – remaining yarn returned to stash
  • Novelty scarf on giant needles– frogged and yarn donated
  • Orange sweater– frogged and yarn donated
  • Blue-gray socks–  finished and given away
  • Ladybug sweater– frogged and yarn returned to stash
  • Aeolian shawlgiven away for Leslie M. to finish as a wedding shawl
  • New Start: –Blooming shawl in green silk – frogged – I couldn’t face all that thread like yarn. It is put away for when I start craving delicate lace knitting again

It is really hard to not start up a new project.  I don’t think I’ve ever had so few knitting projects in the WIP pile!  Still more destruction than construction, mind you, but still a lot removed from the to-do list, which is a relief.

I even got a little done on the only project on the crocheting WIP list.  My son’s monster now has weird flappy ears.  Just eyes left to do, as soon as I find where I put the white felt.

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Now I really need to get cracking on the sewing front!

 

An unusually full day

A lot of very varied activities packed into today.

The adults in the house were woken up this morning with the resumption of last night’s ferocious nerf gun war in the basement.  My ten year old had a sleep over last night and we are all exhausted as a resuIt. (I’m strictly forbidden to call in a slumber party.  Apparently that is a horror reserved for girls. Nothing like a macho sleep over.)

The warriors temporarily calmed by waffles:

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From the ruins of my war torn home, I moved on to my monthly mystery book club.  We were in absolutely unanimous agreement that this month’s book was a combination of boring, sexist, annoying and pretentious and generally one of the worst books we’ve read.  We were astounded that it got good recommendations online, much less published.  But despite the pain of reading it to its very unsatisfying ending, we had a great time trashing it over a tasty lunch.  This month we were at my friend Leslie’s, who is also one of my fiber friends.  Take a look at this corner of her entryway:

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This is just the blue and purple part of her stash!

Next stop after the book club lunch was . . . another lunch.  February 20 is the anniversary of our oldest son’s adoption.  We always go out for Chinese food and retell the stories of meeting him for the first time and all our adventures in Taiwan.  While we eat, he and his brother love to hear about meals in Taiwan – his obsession with jam packets, how messy it was to feed him with chopsticks when we were out touring, that there were green peas on the pizza and snakes being barbecued at the night markets.

Back at the house, the kids finally tired enough to be happy with quiet activities, I settled down at the sewing machine and finally finished my scrappy star quilt top.  Lots of partial seams required to Tetris the odd shaped blocks together.  With a lot more planning, or more regularly spaced stars, it would have gone together faster, but I rather enjoy the puzzle-like aspect of the sewing.

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It all came together and now joins the growing stack of tops that await the time when I finally get the craft room organized enough that the sewing table is cleared for quilting.  It may be awhile.

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Madrona

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I just finished a great getaway weekend with my friends.  I met up with two of them at an Airbnb apartment in Tacoma, WA, and we spent all of Saturday and much of Sunday  with the fiber crowd at the Madrona Fiber Arts winter retreat.  The retreat offers loads of classes on spinning, knitting, weaving and other fiber craft, and a marketplace that isn’t overwhelming in size while still managing to be absolute temptation.

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The Murano hotel is right next to the Glass Museum, so it is filled with examples of art in different glass techniques, including very retreat appropriate representations of knitted glass.

Even the bathrooms had pretty glass.  And I had my brush with knitting greatness when I was washing my hands next to the Yarn Harlot.

I’ve taken classes in the past, but this time I just wanted to hang out with my girlfriends and catch up and knit and spin and shop the vendors.

And that definitely happened!

Lots of window shopping and yarn and fiber fondling in the marketplace.  Really bright colors everywhere.  Beads and blown glass needles and luxury fibers in abundance.

I spent a lot of time in the Churchmouse booth.  I really want to knit a sweater they had on display, but I couldn’t decide on a color – I like the dark jewel tones, but lighter is really better for showing off cables.

In the end I decided to mull it over a while.  2200 yards is a lot of yarn – I need to get the color right.

I was fairly restrained in my shopping overall. Reminding myself that I had just reviewed the 27 pounds of fiber I already have was a necessary bucket of cold water when I started to pile up the possible spinning purchases.  And my stash is definitely not hurting for yarn either.  I brought three works in progress for this weekend because I couldn’t decide which I would want to work on, and I have more waiting, half finished, in the wings.  So only one braid of fiber  (but yak/silk/merino – yum!) and some notions.  Self control wins one.

When we weren’t shopping, we met up with other friends as they came and went to their classes, and sat in the rotunda, watching craft demonstrations, knitting, and meeting new people.  There were also great meals in nearby restaurants. (Oh, how I’ve missed Indian food! There are no good Indian restaurants anywhere near my house.)

In the evening there was chocolate and wine and spinning back at the apartment.  A really great weekend.

And, a shout out to my husband, who took the kids out and about all weekend and didn’t utter a word of complaint that I was missing both our anniversary and Valentine’s Day.  He even had a bouquet of tulips and a box of chocolates delivered to the apartment!  I married so well.

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Crafting at the coast

This weekend was a long planned crafting weekend at the cabin.  A lot didn’t go as planned.  My husband’s new job erupted with emergencies, meaning he had to work late on Friday and on Saturday.  Luckily, Grandma stepped in to kid watch.  Then my sister got sick and couldn’t drive up on Friday with me.  Sort of creepy to arrive after dark at the cabin lot – no street lights there!  One of the two friends who was arriving Saturday also got sick, so our retreat of four became a retreat of two.

But it was very crafty anyway!  I finished my silk mohair shawl, despite running out of yarn half way through the edging chart.  It goes on the blocking pile (with too many others – must do a lot of blocking soon!)

Mohair silk Nypon shawl

There was a lot of spinning, Paige on her Ashford Joy, me on my Kromski Sonata wheel.

Spinning at cabin image I finished the last of a green and blue merino I’ve been spinning occasionally. I’m trying to relearn spinning thicker singles after years of spinning thinner and thinner yarns. This one was going to be a two ply, but I decided I wanted to blend the colors more and have a bulkier yarn, so I sent each two ply through again adding lots of extra twist, and then plied the two together to end up with a four ply crepe yarn. I love the texture and look of the resulting yarn!image image I started a new pile of green polwarth and silk yarn next, again trying for thicker singles.  There are actually two different dye jobs in that pile, one with a lot more variation in shades, but the plan is to ply them together.  Still sticking with the green theme of my recent yarn work, obviously.

Paige’s yarn had a green tint as well, but a lot of other colors too.  I really envy the huge bobbins on her wheel.

Paige spinning at cabin

There was other knitting in addition to my shawl.  Paige continues to work on her socks of many colors:

Paige's socks of many colors

Paige's sock yarn

And I started a simple pair of garter stitch slippers with some leftover handspun, though I haven’t quite figured out how this rectangle is going to become a foot shaped slipper.  I’m going on faith and following the row by row directions.

Knit slippers

When not spinning or knitting socks, Paige also worked on fingerless mittens that she sells, along with the socks, at a holiday craft fair.

Paige's mitten in progress

There was also pizza, and catching up on family and friend news, and quilting talk, and a lot of needed sleep, and generally a really good time bookmarked (pun alert) by a weird but engrossing audio book that I listened to in the cars during the hours there and back.  If you aren’t squeamish, I can highly recommend Stiff by Mary Roach, the history of cadavers.

I’m back home now, in the storm of chaos we call bedtime, happy to be back with my family, but also really ready to get the next fiber retreat on the calendar.