Monday, June 30, 2008

Yikes...How Did It Get So Late So Soon?

I started writing this on Thursday, and it's gotten to be Saturday? Yikes!! First I have to catch you all up on LAST weekend. And what a weekend! When weekends are like this, it reminds me why I love my life so much. Friday afternoon I met Tina at BeauKnits, my Local Yarn Store (LYS) , which was participating in the town of Cohoes Farm to City Fest. We set up our wheels outside on the sidewalk and spun, and spun, and spun to our heart's content.

It was a blast. I'm continually surprised by the people who ask "what are you doing?" To me, it's so obvious. Even before I knew how to spin, it was pretty obvious. The other questionwas "What are you making?" Um...yarn?

I know this sounds snarky, and I really don't mean it that way. The most fun was, of course, the little kids who are mesmerized by the wheel. I love to see the fascination as they try to figure out how it works.

My favorite question of the day was a little one, maybe 4 or 5 years old, who asked, "why do you have to do this?" My answer was, "Because I want to." But in retrospect, maybe he was picking up something else. Do I have to spin? Yeah, in a way I do. I'm drawn to the spinning wheel like a moth is to flame. I love doing it so much.

A group of us are going camping in a few weeks. Tim was musing, on our private mailing list, about things to pack. He included my spinning wheel. No one else understood why it was so important to me to be able to take my wheel camping. He, however, did....and that's what makes him special. I lurves him.

Saturday was Hudson River Knit and Spin. Oh....My....God!!!! It was so much fun. We got there around 12:30, and it was HOT AND HUMID. My least favorite weather in the world. But...we got settled in around the tree in the shade, and the breeze was coming off the river, and it really wasn't too bad. But really, the humidity is horrid for spinning. The merino I was spinning kept wanting to felt in my hot, sweaty, palm. Ewwwwww.

If y'all remember Tim was learning to spin last week. He brought Phaedre along, and planned to spin on her. Unfortunately, we grabbed the wrong bag of fiber, and instead of the Corriedale/Romney cross (which is so easy to spin), he ended up with Merino, which just wouldn't cooperate for him at all. I felt bad. For two reasons. 1. He was having such a hard time. Merino isn't easy to spin in good weather, and this wasn't. 2. He was going through a startling amount of Merino (but he's so good to me, I don't feel too bad...he's worth it).

If you want some other write-ups go here, here, here, and here.

Here are pictures:
The only thing sexier than a man who knits:

Is a man who spins (of course, the one spinning is mine, so I may be biased).

'Chelle and Carolyn were there:

Then we went to my niece's High School graduation party!!! Go Rachel!!!! At which I gave her a pair of Fetching in her favorite color, Pink. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd. She's modeling them here. (Note the perfect nails)

And the lovely, sherberty colored market bag is off the needles, and beta-tested. The farmer's market this morning was lovely. I adore that fresh produce is coming in from the local farms. Here is some lovely Kale:

I spent a good chunk of today, after the market, and shopping at the dreaded Wal-mart, reading Nevada Barr's newest book, Winter Study. Ms. Barr is in top form. So often as series drag on, the author loses some of her spark and we keep reading because we're invested in the world. Not so this time. Winter Study is as fresh and wonderful as Track of the Cat, the first Anna Pigeon book. If you like a good mystery, and love the great outdoors, this series is wonderful. I can't say enough good things about it.

Not so the book on CD that played in my CD player for last week's commute. Austenland might have been a better read than it was a listen. I wanted to love it, just as I love all of Jane Austen's books, but maybe it was because the narrator kept switching between british and american accents, or maybe the story was too predictable (being almost a direct take-off of Pride and Prejudice without Helen Fielding's sense of humor), but I listened all the way to the end becuause I didn't have anything else to listen to.

Yesterday was the first bike ride of the season...a short toodle around the neighborhood as muscles that haven't been on a bike in at least a year got shocked in remembering that they exist. Of course this was preceded by the 2 hour search for the patch kit and the patching of my front tire, and followed by a good washing down and oiling of all moving parts as we discovered that a year of disuse is not kind to bicycles.

I always approach my bike with trepidation at the beginning of the season. It's as if a part of me is sure I have forgotten how to ride....and then within a half block, I'm remembering why I love it. The first time I go down a hill...and tuck to cut the wind resistance, and feel the wind in my face, I remember.

So, prepare for more bike posts.

On the other hand, the rewrite of Second Chances is almost done. I know I've been saying that for a month...but really, I'm close. prepared for the rest of the book in the next week or so. I'd like to get it done before we go camping on July 16th.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Alpaca Love

Life has been so hectic, I've not had a chance to post about the Alpaca love that came my way.

The story:

Just before we left on vacation, I joined the "Spin for Lace" forum on Ravelry. A little while later, I found myself in a conversation with the delightful Caroline who asked me if I've ever carded/combed my own fiber. I hadn't. And then she asked me for my address.

When I got home, there was a priority mail box waiting for me!!!

I opened it up and there, to my great surprise was alpaca goodness:

A great big bagful of the sweetest, softest, creamiest fiber from "Thor".


And another bag of really, gorgeous honey brown fiber from an unknown alpaca. They are so lovely, I'm looking forward to learning how to card them, and then spin it up. I'm so excited about it I can't begin to express it.

By the way, what is the name of the darker alpaca? I love knowing the names of the animals who contribute their fiber to my obsession.

Caroline, thank you so much. You have no idea how insanely happy this makes me!!!

I will continues to post pictures as the fiber moves through the process of prep to spinning to being knit into something wearable.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'm off to pet the alpaca fiber now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday Musings

I know I promised Wednesday updates (did I? I meant to.), but yesterday got way out of control. There's this festival we attend every year. The organizers started a process three years ago, and now that they've realized they're in it, decided they have to fix it. However, not everyone is agreeing with the fix. I'm one of the dissenters.

I wrote one email, stating my opinion and voicing my concerns. This was Tuesday night. You'd think I told them all that their mother's dress them funny. By the time I woke up yesterday, my inbox was flooded with everything from polite responses to scathing, vitriolic, attacks. Yikes. So not pretty, and so not what I intended and so making me not want to drive 5 hours to go there. There may be a change in summer plans. We'll see.

Yesterday was also the work day from hell. I have this client, and he works 15 miles away and doesn't get out until 6 or so in the evening. Which means he doesn't get to my office until 7:00, which means that I don't get out of the office until after 8:00. It makes for a very long day. He is very nice. He and his wife have referred numerous people to me, but it makes for a long day. At least its only once a month.

So that's what happened to yesterday's update.

I haven't done any spinning or much knitting since the weekend. I've started another market bag, I think I mentioned, and it's halfway done. This one is NOT the ugliest market fact, it's kind of cute. I thinking of calling it Sherbet Stripes, because that's what it reminds me of.

So, what is the obsession with market bags? Well, it's this green thing, and the obsession I have with the Troy Farmer's Market. I love the market. It gets me out of the house early on Saturday, I support local agri-business, and I get organic produce and hormone free/antibiotic free milk and yogurt every week. (I have a personal theory that the increase in breast and ovarian cancer is somehow linked to the hormones used in American dairy products but have no evidence to back that up)

Every time I'm at the market and purchase something for which I have not brought my own bag, I get a funny look from the vendor. Not nasty or snide...just curious. Like, if I'm bothering to shop at the market, why am I wasting all these plastic bags? And they have a point. Why am I? It's not in keeping with my personal philosophy about how I want to live on the planet. I knit, so why can't I knit myself a shopping bag, or two? You can extrapolate the rest.

For those who wonder why I've been spending so much time developing a pattern of my own, let's say I've not found a pattern that incorporates everything I, personally, want in a bag. So, I decided it was time to take a little of this and a little of that and put together something that I love. And I have. When I finish this, I'll probably post the pattern on Ravelry, and everyone can try their hand at it....if they want to.

On the writing front, not much is happening. I came back from vacation pretty charged to write, and then, bam, life got in the way. I'm shaking my head too. I'm 100 pages from finishing the re-write and stopped dead in my tracks. Sorry Tina. I'll get back there, I promise.

On the spinning front, pretty much that's where I'm heading for the afternoon. I need to spin. My wrists hurt (from work yesterday) too much to knit, and I've put out a lot of energy (to my clients and family) in the last 4 days. I need some down time, and spinning is the best way that I know to focus inward.

Oh! I forgot to mention. My husband, who has only lacked the knowlege of knitting and spinning to make him the perfect man, has expressed a desire to learn to spin. Oh frabjous day!!! I guess Phaedre is going to teach someone knew. This makes my heart sing. Although, Tim, if you're reading this...keep your hands off the Sonata!!!

Tina, Phoenix Fiberworks, has jumped into community service in a big, big way. She has organized the first (annual) Hudson River Knit and Spin. For those of you who don't know her, check out her blog. Tina's amazing. She taught me to spin, does community service, is active in her guild...organizes retreats...she blows me away.

Anyway, come out to the Hudson River Knit and Spin next Saturday. It's going to be a great day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

Hmm. Did I tell ya'll I was going on vacation? I meant to. I also meant to post from Cape Cod. I brought my laptop, I even had hi speed internet. But I lacked motivation. I did, however, spend at least some part of every day on the beach. Hours on the beach. Hours spent watching the surfers, watching the waves, listening to the surf. I discovered something I forgot about myself: With the sun on my shoulders, sand between my toes, the ocean in front of me, the sound of the surf in my ears and the scent of Coppertone in my nose, I am a happy girl. There is very little that makes happier than that.

So, on to the news...

We arrived at The Southfleet Motor Inn, in South Wellfleet on Sunday. It was an okay place. Unfortunately I immediately disliked the desk clerk who tried to stick us in what had to be the worst room in the place (right next to the service storeroom and had a trash can right outside the door). When I complained, he gave us a different, smaller, room. This all in a motel during the middle of the week, before high season. In fact, for most of the week, we were the only people in OUR BUILDING. I'm going to write to the owner.

Anyway, the first night we were there, we unpacked, went out for dinner at Arnold's Restaurant . Calling it a restaurant is going a little far. It is a Cape clam shack. And I had the best fish and chips I've ever had and got to eat with sand between my toes. I agree with Anthony Bourdain, food tastes better with sand between my toes.

Then we were treated to the most awesome sunset. This was taken from Marconi Beach. To get to Marconi Beach, you descend two flights of wooden stairs from the top of the dunes down to sea level. The picture doesn't even come close to the stunning fiery display that the sun and clouds put on for us. It felt special. It felt like the powers that be were saying, "yeah, you've had a sucky three years since you were here last, but that's over."

See, the last time we were on Cape Cod was for our honeymoon in June 2005. A month after that my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer that took her life three months later. So the happy, happy, joy, joy of wedding and honeymoon kind of got lost in the really sucky next four months.

This vacation was, now that the initial stage of grief processing seems to be behind me, was a honeymoon do-over.

Monday found us....on the beach! Nauset Light Beach this time. Nauset Light Beach had 3 flights of stairs descending from the dunes. You have to realize that these dunes are 80 feet high. That's really, really, tall. After sleeping late (we were on vacation after all) we spent a really tough day watching the surfers and the waves. I kept thinking about taking a book out of my bag, but then another wave would come along and I had to watch it crest....and then another....and another....and then four hours had gone by. Dinner that night was at Moby Dick's where we enjoyed a mixed "clambake" of steamers, lobster, corn and coleslaw. Calling Moby's a restaurant is also stretching things a little. It's also a clam shack. Are you starting to see a pattern?

Tuesday we went into Wellfleet. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had channeled the description of this town when I was creating Westham, the fictional town that my novel (yet to be published) is set. Wellfleet is exactly what I think of when I think Cape Cod fishing village. Here are some photos:

In town, we found a thrift shop and hiding in among the needlepoint books was this gem, which I bought for $1.00. Some really gorgeous patterns in there. Some will make my brain bleed, but gorgeous nonetheless.

After that, we went the beach! We spent four or five hours....watching the surfers, etc. on Coast Guard Beach. Coast Guard beach had fewer stairs. None, in fact. Just a steep path. Needless to say, this became our daily beach destination. We stayed at the beach so late, and were so tired when we got back to the motel, that we brought in dinner from the clam shack next door to the motel. I don't remember its name, it's not important. We had sauteed calamare and grilled scallops. They were delicious!!

Wednesday we hunted for yarn stores. You knew it had to happen, didn't you? We started at The Yarn Basket in Eastham, MA.
Yes, that's an Ace Hardware sign above the door. Don't ask me, I don't understand it either.

But I bought some lovely Araucania Ranco Multi. Again, the photo is not showing off the lovely colors. I fell head over heels in love with this yarn. Yummy.

Then, we headed over to Ladybug Yarns. What a delightful shop. I had a long talk with the owner, during which time, I realized that Tim and I have decided that when we retire, we're going to move to the Cape. Of course, this being 16 or so years in the future, it is subject to change.

There, I had to have...absolutely HAD to have...a yarn magnet for my car. Oh yeah!!! In fact, I bought two. One for my car, and one for the car of one lucky friend. So...what's it worth to you?

Thursday we headed down to Chatham, MA.
Yeah, it's lovely there. The general store sells YARN!!!

And then we drove to Harwichport and Adventure's in Knitting. Which was ALSO a lovely shop, well stocked with Noro, but I didn't find anything that really screamed my name. maybe I was just getting tired and couldn't hear it. But we had lunch and then we....went to the beach.

Dinner that night was again eaten at Moby's. Lobster twice in one week. Yummmm.

Friday morning we spent 3 hours on the beach before hitting the road for the loooooong drive home.

On the way, I finally finished (with the exception of grafting the handle - because I can never remember how to Kitchener without instructions) the World's Ugliest Market Bag Between the numerous mistakes that I didn't bother to go back and correct, along with the two tone yarn (same dye lot, but one ball was in a plastic bag for a year, the other wasn't) I think it is perhaps the ugliest thing ever to come off my needles. However, it will be functional, and that's its purpose.

I have started another market bag which will be rainbow striped, using up all the different colors of kitchen cotton that I have lying around.

We reached Albany at 6:00pm. Just in time for Tim to drop me off at the Capital Region Romance Writers of America conference, from which I just got home.


Tomorrow is Father's Day, so we drive 2 hours to my brother's house for the annual FD barbeque.

I think I need a vacation from my vacation!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Scary Moments and The Market Bag From Hell

This week's scary moment:

Yesterday started out normally. I got up, had coffee, spent some time online, and began to get ready to see clients in the afternoon and evening. I got into the shower and began to wash. Then it happened. There. Under my right the armpit. A lump.

There's something about discovering a lump in a previously lump-free area. I don't know about anyone else, but it kicked my body/mind into major fight or flight mode. I finished my shower and picked up the phone. My doctor's office...yes, everyone in the office...was at lunch. The answering service asked if was an emergency, and I couldn't say yes. I then spent the next half hour watching the clock, waiting until lunch hour was over. When I finally got through, the receptionist asked me if I could be there at 3:00pm.

Damn straight, I could be there at 3:00pm. I canceled my afternoon clients and went to the doctor's office, where I didn't get seen until 4:00. By this time, I was experiencing jolts of adrenaline every 10 minutes and my vision was starting to blur.

I got into the office, whipped off my shirt and the doctor said...Hmmm...Looks like an ingrown hair to me.

Just to be on the safe side we're going to mammo it, and maybe do an ultrasound (for which I cannot get an appointment until AFTER vacation next week), and in the meantime, hot compresses with epsom salts to draw it out.

Altogether, exactly the diagnosis I was hoping for.

Statistically one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. The discovery of a lump in an adjacent area, struck terror right down to my soul. So, while this was something simple, it just reminds me of how important that annual mammogram is. If you've been putting off making that appointment, don't. Pick up the phone.

On the needles:

I've been trying to make a market bag for a year now. I's insane, a woman who can knit lace and complete lace shawls, cannot finish a simple market bag. I, too, shake my head in disbelief.

Here's the story:
Last year about this time a new Farmer's Market was starting near Beau Knits a LYS where I am a sometimes attendee at Friday Night Knitters, and Barbara, the wonderful proprietress suggested we make market bags. Instead of finding a tried and true pattern, I decided to start designing my own. I mean, really, why by tires when you can reinvent the wheel?

I had a bunch of false starts, and then I really got on a roll. Enter my friend's 2 year old. Before we mention this, I must say that said friend is NOT a knitter. Never has touched knitting needles before. I was at her house and her two year old dove into my knitting bag while I was in another room. (I know, my fault for leaving my knitting unsupervised). By the time I got back into the room, all the knitting was on the needles, looking mostly as i had left it and I didn't think anything of it. I was knitting by itty bitty booklight in the car on the way home and didn't realize, until I was in better light, that they put the damn thing on the needles backwards and inside-out. Fortunately I realized this after only about 2 rows, so Iwas able to tink it back.

Then....a bizarre thing happened.

2. A brand new Susan Bates #15 Circular needle exploded! Well, it didn't actually explode. Fell apart is more accurate. First, one point came detached from the cord. Ok, this happens, I thought, and hurried to push all the stitches back on the cord so I wouldn't lose. Just as I managed to do this, without any dropped stitches, the other point fell off. Unable to contain itself the bag went crazy with stitches jumping off the needs and cord faster than you can say Rumpelstiltskin.

I salvaged what I could, taped the ends of the cord together (remember there are now no points on it whatsoever) and tossed the whole thing into the "current project basket". Before we go any further, you need to know what the current project basket looks like. It's a large wicker hamper that sits by a corner of the sofa....and breeds. Yarn finds its way in...half-done projects also find their way in...but rarely does anything find its way out. I now know why.

In our attempt to protect stash from moths, the entire basket got organized last week. In doing so, we discovered The Glob.

The glob was comprised of many half-finished projects, many started balls of yarn and many left-overs from other projects. Somehow, they managed to get themselves twisted together, with stitch holders, knitting needles, crochet hooks, blocking pins....and morphed into The Glob.

In the middle of the Glob was the market bag. Painstakingly we dissected and dismembered the Glob until all of its components were tamed in individual zip-lock bags. I looked at the market bag in its half-finished state. I thought about the guilt I experience every time I am at the local market and when asked if I need a bag, I hang my head and say "yes". I resolved to finish the market bag (now known as The Freakin' Market Bag).

I began to pick up the stitches, and those who knit will immediately understand how difficult this is when knitting *k2tog, yo, k1* in the round. After a half hour spent trying to make this look like it hadn't been taken apart and put back together by a 2 year old, and then having survived exploding needles, I decided to frog the whole thing back.

The next day, while in the car on the way to a funeral (I wasn't driving), I started the bag again. It was going to be great. I wanted a fairly firm bottom, knitted a rectangle in stockinette, picked up stitches all around, and began my pattern stitch. (Remember, I'm still not working from a pattern). I knit. I knit. I knit some more. I knit even more. I attached the 2nd ball of yarn (purchased at the same time) and discovered it was either a different dye lot or the first ball of yarn lost half its color while involved in The Glob. No worries...I decided this was about function, not form, and I knit intrepidly on.

Got to the point where I started binding off for the handles....and discovered that through some cruel twist of fate, I had not knit a market bag...but instead, as my dear husband pointed out, I had knit a hammock. For a very small person. Maybe a cat.

I frogged back the whole thing.

Back to square one. Or should I say, stitch one.

Deciding to change the design, I opted for a turkish cast on and magic looped until I could comfortably knit in the round again. And I'm knitting. Now, I don't get it. I've looked at other patterns for market bags...each and every one of them has said that it takes a few hours of knitting to produce one.

Not so much, in my experience. I've been working on this thing, in this incarnation, for a week. I'm not a slow knitter. I produced a lace scarf in 10 days. WTF????

So...the lavender market bag is still on the needles. I have lost hope that it will be finished for this week's farmer's market. Once again, on Saturday morning, I will buy organic produce and put it in a plastic bag. ::sigh::

While I soldier on with the Market Bag, notice I am NOT knitting the Traveling Vine shawl that I want to finish by Sirius Rising in July. My excuse is that I needed a break from knitting lace. I needed to be able to watch Top Chef while mindlessly knitting the market bag. I needed knitting that was not frustrating, that didn't take concentration. Right. See how well that's working?

Until the next time.....

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I suppose that when some people think of parties, they think of booze and music and that sort of thing. In my circle of friends, when there's a party there's fiber. Yesterday was Tina's 30th birthday party (Phoenix Fiberworks for those of you in blog-land).

We were only 20 minutes late, which is practically on time for my husband and I, and the grill was already fired up and Steve's brother was grilling up the burgers and dogs. Food! What a great way to start a party. We ate, we laughed, we made small talk. Then we got down down to some serious partying.

Out came the equipment:

Left to right is Tina's Lendrum, my Kromski Sonata and Becky's Kromski Sonata.

Then, we sat down to Spin:

Of course, some people came to knit:

Note the knitting needles in the left hand, and the drink in the right hand.

Notice the smiles on people's faces.

It being a birthday party,
there were presents:

And cake:

I guess there were some non-fiber people there...but for some reason I don't have pictures of them. I wonder why? It couldn't be that I'm obssessed with all things fiber-y, could it?

Finished Objects:

Amazingly I managed, in only 10 days, to produce Mist. This is a pattern written by Lisa Dykstra for Crystal Palace Yarns

I knit this with my own handspun, a mystery 100% wool fiber that was in my stash. It spun up so fine in lace weight, but I only had about 200 yards of it, so a scarf it was destined to become.

On the needles:

I'm still working on the silk Traveling Vine Shawl., that's misleading. It's been on hiatus while I finished a whole bunch of projects, not the least of which was Mist. But, I'm resolved to finish it before Sirius Rising (2nd week in July). I maybe be overly optimistic, as we knitters are wont to be, but I think I can pull it off.

On the bobbins:

Same as before...Blue Green merino on Asherah, Flame merino on Phaedre.

No one is commenting on my blog yet. I suppose no one is reading it. ::sigh::