26 February 2006

felting fun

I wrote about this in my homeschooling blog, but since it's fiber-related I thought I'd put a few pix here as well.

23 February 2006

I got mail!

I get mail every day actually, but it usually runs to 65% junk, 30% bills, and 5% knitting, craft, toy, and book catalogs. But now and again I splurge on some mail order (usually books or fiber) and then I can look forward to packages. Yesterday (while I was out all day, worst luck) two packages came. Most importantly, I got my wool roving from Leighton Farms. These folks are absolutely fabulous! It turns out that the shipping error I blogged about earlier was partly my fault and partly ebay's -- I'd changed my address 3 years ago when I moved, but ebay still had the old one on file listed as my 'shipping address' with my new one listed as my 'billing address'. Not only did Tom and Kathy notify me as soon as they discovered what had happened, they also resent the package and declined to charge me the extra shipping. So, excellent customer service, very nice folks, and the fiber, as you can see, is gorgeous:

The other package I got was from another great company called knitwerx. I emailed immediately after placing my order to ask a question and the owner emailed me within the hour with the answer I wanted to hear! The yarn shipped quickly and was beautifully packaged:

Also, knitwerx was the only place that had any DB Aran Tweed in that color, and I need it to finish my random cables olympics sweater (cables eat up a lot of yarn) which will almost certainly not be finished on time. What can I say -- I've never been very diligent or disciplined and, at 33, it's unlikely I'm ever going to be. Anyway, I love, love, love getting packages in the mail!

18 February 2006

A 'good enough' knitter (no more!)

I learned to knit over a decade ago, but for most of that time I was a 'good enough' knitter. I followed patterns blindly, rarely bothered to fix mistakes, and used the quickest, easiest finishing technique I could find. Five years ago, I took a class with Beth Brown-Reinsel on knitting traditional ganseys. The class was beyond my skills, and I barely managed to keep up, but Beth was a wonderfully supportive instructor and by the end of the class I had an authentically constructed miniature gansey, informative notes and charts, a signed book, and a new sense that the scope for excellence and creativity in knitting was far greater than I'd realized. I wish I could say that this was the beginning of a new era for me, but Robin came along shortly after the class and between 9 months of colic and several years of financial distress, I lost interest in knitting altogether. Happily for me, a new yarn shop opened nearby, rekindling that interest. I ended up taking Beth's class again, and learned even more the second time around. A chance comment from another patron that my knitting motion was 'very economical' (I knit English-style, but move my needles rather than throwing my yarn) alerted me that there was such a thing as individual style and technique. I began paying more attention to how I knit, the motions I made, the path of the yarn, and the appearance of the finished stitch. I read Mary Thomas' Knitting book and browsed through Principles of Knitting. I discovered Elizabeth Zimmeran (and have never looked back). I learned how to repair mistakes, how and why to choose particular cast on and bind off methods, and how to alter patterns for better fit, easier construction, and more professional results. More than anything, I learned that there is a wide world of knitting techniques out there for me to explore, and unlimited scope for improving my skills. Recently, I've knitted a lot of nearly seamless sweaters in the round, both top-down and bottom-up, altering them with cables and other stitch patterns, but keeping them very simple. These sweaters have allowed me to concentrate on perfecting the basics, and I'll always use them when I want a quick and relatively easy sweater for the children. I'm ready to go further though, and have been thinking of new techniques I'd like to try. Among them are socks (I've knit one pair already as a blind follower), fair-isle (I've got to learn to purl European-style), and lace. I'd also like to revisit Beth's Gansey book, and design my own Gansey sweater, using traditional yarn and techniques.

dinner tonight: broiled salmon with teriyaki glaze, gingered basmati rice, sugar snap peas

14 February 2006

An inauspicious beginning to the Knitting Olympics

As knitters everywhere cast on for the Olympics, I nursed two children through the flu, contended with two (mercifully short) power outages, and then suffered through a bout of the flu myself. Despite these setbacks, and despite having to change my project at the last moment, I think I'm in a fair way to finish on time. I'm using Elizabeth Zimmerman's seamless raglan formula from Knitting Without Tears, with the random cable idea from Chaos, the pattern I originally intended to knit. I think I'm keeping the level of challenge roughly the same. I've got a good deal more knitting to do, since this sweater is for my 5yr. old instead of my future 6 month old, but I'm familiar with the pattern and there is NO SEWING UP, save for weaving the underarms. Chaos would've been much quicker to knit, but the sewing up would have been difficult for me. I'm no seamstress. EZ's seamless sweater involves grafting, which scares me, but it's high time I learned to it properly. This, more than the knitting, will be my Olympic Challenge. Pictured is the body of the sweater, which wants just about another inch before I do the sleeves. The penultimate step is to put the underarm stitches from sleeves and body on a holder, unite the rest of the stitches on a circular needle, and knit the yoke (with raglan decreases) in one piece. Finally, graft the underarms and you've got a practically seamless sweater. Ingenious, and open to lots of adaptation!

09 February 2006

waiting for fiber (will it ever get here?) an nfo (nearly finished object)

Two weeks ago I ordered a rainbow of wool roving from the Leighton Farm ebay store. After several emails, all I know is that the package has not been checked in at the post office. I'm not concerned -- the seller has 100% positive feedback -- but I am a little annoyed that she hasn't given me any further information or offered to send a replacement. I understand that the package was never checked in, but I'd like to know what the seller intends to do about it if the post office never finds it, or if it never shows up. I wanna make felted beads! I'm also waiting for my Lamb's Pride Worsted from Patternworks, but don't expect it to arrive until next week. I did receive my drop spindle and roving from the Spinning Bunny, delightfully packaged with colored tissue paper and a pretty gift bag. The spindle and roving were lovely, and definitely deserved the beautiful packaging. I'm enchanted with my new tool already, even though I can't use it very well.

Below is one of my current projects. I'm frogging back down to the neckline because it looks very ragged and I want to research a better bind off for open edges. I'll probably have to hunt up my crochet hook for this. I also followed the directions too assiduously, thereby placing the buttonhole at the top, rather than the middle, of a stripe. Eventually this will be a very cute outfit:

tonight's dinner: apricot glazed pork chops, thyme-roasted potatoes, green beans

07 February 2006


My current project for the almanacalong

Mmmm. The scent of gently simmering Italian lentil soup, redolent of onion, celery, pancetta and olive oil, drifts upstairs, sharpening my appetite as I write this entry. Soups and roasts are my favorite dinners; while the food cooks, I have time to play with words or yarn, and the fragrance permeating the house gives me a cozy, safe feeling. The world outside is grim indeed, but I've made a comfortable home for my family, a place into which the world cannot intrude. This is my vocation; I am a homemaker. The world puts little value on my work -- feminists and patriarchs alike disdain what both consider to be traditionally women's work -- but my family appreciates me, and I am happy and fulfilled. I homeschool my children, I love fibercrafts, cooking, and even some aspects of housekeeping. A tidy house gives me real pleasure and I can only truly relax when I know that the dishes are done, the beds made, and the floors clean.

I've never felt a disconnect between my leftist/feminist philosophy and my vocation, but I know that the perception that the two are at odds is quite common. Homemakers, particularly homeschooling mothers, are generally thought to be politically conservative, fundamentalist Christians who value 'God-given' gender roles and a putatively happier time when all good people honored the traditional. When people see me knitting at the bus-stop, they do not think 'hip, young, urban knitter' even though I am relatively young and certainly urban, because I look far too motherly to be at all hip. Knitters, it seems, must fit into a particular pigeonhole so that journalists can write lazy, shallow articles about how 'it's not just for grandma anymore.' The 'grandma' knitters are, in these articles, dismissed and disrespected, and the focus is on stylish 20somethings, particularly any male knitters who happen to frequent the local stitch and bitch (kiss my ass, SFSE!) to which the intrepid journalist has ventured for yet another story about how knitting is cool.

The knitters themselves are reduced to props, and the craft of knitting is ignored in favor of it's trendiness (which, one would think, should be over about now!) Knitters, of course, know that the articles are pretty much rubbish and that the knitting world is wonderfully diverse. The hip 20somethings aren't knitting just because it's trendy (though some may have started for this reason) but because knitting is a delightfully fulfilling craft, because there is something magical and elemental about making things for ourselves, and because it's fun. That's pretty much why all knitters knit, and it's also why weavers weave, potters make pots, or spinners spin -- the creative act is intensely personal, but it is also social; creativity is an essential part of humanity.

I've gone from lentil soup to essential aspects of humanity, so I must be in need of a cup of tea, some chocolate, a good book, and some knitting!

05 February 2006

(This is actually from Feb 3rd, but I'm republishing because the original post disappeared into the ether.)Our power went off for a few hours this evening, just after I'd finished all the dinner prep, though, happily for me, just before I started the actual cooking. As a parent, I know I'm supposed to make the most of a power outage with ghost stories or tales of the pioneers, or some such, but I was really just not in the mood. I wanted to get on with dinner, so we could get on with the games (friday night is family game night) so I could get on with the knitting. Besides which, the children and I were awfully hungry, because we'd forgotten to have lunch before walking to the grocery store and by the time we got back it was (I thought) too close to suppertime to eat more than a snack. Also, BGE has gotten mighty snarky lately, sending out turn-off notices whenever we're more than a few seconds (okay, days, but still) late with our payment. Which we are each month because they're gouging us frightfully this Winter, and praise be it's been a mild one. So naturally I was more annoyed with them than I would otherwise have been. But I think I've whined about all that before, haven't I? Anyway, I did get a few points in the marriage game out of the ordeal, because Mr. Desultory had neglected to buy lamp oil as requested, and had carelessly left the flashlight in the basement instead of on the designated bookshelf. Most inconvenient. We did end up chatting and playing 20 questions until the power came back on at half past 7, at which time we cheered lustily. We even squeezed in a few games after dinner, despite that it was quite late and way past the children's bedtime. I'm tired, but eager to try out the jogless stripes technique on Finch's romper, now that it's all joined up on one circular. I also want to swatch for the Chaos sweater I'm knitting for the knitting olympics, a pattern that is beginning to seem rather daunting now. I'm using some hitherto forgotten Aran tweed, the only wool that survived the carpet beetle infestation that beset me a few months ago and led to a large trash-bag full of unsalvagable wool. I found this little giftie while cleaning out my closet (why can't I be as suitably rewarded every time I clean?) and agonized over whether to use it for Finch since I originally bought it for Robin (who looks gorgeous in burnt orange) until I remembered that Robin has very firmly requested a blue or green sweater next fall. Problem solved.

dinner tonight: turkey burgers with sweet onion jam on toasted whole-wheat rolls, chili-spiced sweet potato fries