June 28, 2005

WHEN IN ROME...

Now that I'm back home, and my camera's had a chance to sit in the charger and re-energize its batteries, I can share more photos of my trip to Eugene for the Black Sheep Gathering:

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There was this really cool little coffee shop and bakery in the downtown area where we went for lattes before the booths opened in the morning. I can't remember the name of the place! In this photo, Terri is knitting on her Shetland shawl.

A fair wouldn't be complete without entries, judging, and ribbons. Here are some entries that particularly caught my eye:

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Fire, a felted horse

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Rain, Fire's companion. These horses were needle-felted.

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An awesome, 3-ply handspun yarn. Two of the plies were a wool mix that was as soft as cashmere, and the third ply was silk that had tiny beads on it. The wool mix was a natural gray, and the silk ranged from pink to blue and back again. The beads were clear and sparkly. The spinner had knitted a sample lace swatch for her yarn, and proposed a shawl for it; she won a ribbon, of course! I am not yet a convert to spinning, but I could feel the attraction to making a special yarn like this that isn't available commercially. (And my faithful blog readers already know how much I like beads in knitting!)

In fact, I think spinning is useful for a couple of different situations: (1) As with the beaded yarn above, when what you want is an exquisite yarn that's not readily available, you'd want to spin your own. (2) For all of those patterns that say to hold 2 yarns together in knitting (or, for that matter, in weaving), in my opinion the results look better when the two yarns aren't simply just held together but are twisted 'round each other -- like you'd do if you spun them up on a spinning wheel.

A couple of obligatory photos from the animal barn:

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A Perendale in a camouflage coat! I thought this guy (gal?) was cute. As Terri explained to me, having the sheep wear coats keeps the tips of the wool from suffering sun damage, keeps the sheep cleaner (something I can already appreciate from our experience with horses), and so results in a better fleece that, generally, will also cost a little more because of the extra time and trouble of keeping the coat on the sheep.

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A Blue-faced Leicester ewe. Sheep are darned hard to photograph. They'll look at you so sweetly, and then, just as you get the camera focused and are ready to press the shutter button, they'll move away. I was using all of my best clucking and smacking sounds (perfected from years of working with horses) to try to keep their sheepy faces lifted toward the camera while I took the picture, but these two photos were my best shots. (Couple the fact that the sheep want to move with the fact that my camera was running out of battery power, and you'll understand why I'm not boring you with more photos of dimly-lit sheep's necks and rear ends.)

Another animal shot:
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When I picked up Terri for our trip, she got in the car and the first words out of her mouth were, "We're going to Euphoria, right?" Having Black Sheep Gathering and sheep on my mind, what I understood her to say was, "We're going to Ewe-phoria, right?" and of course I agreed. But if I had really known what she was referring to, I would have been the first to suggest it. You see, Terri used to live in Eugene, and she knew about this little shop that sells homemade chocolates, Euphoria. It's a block down from that coffeehouse where we had our breakfast and lattes. I brought back these horse chocolates for my kids, as well as some more sophisticated boxed chocolates for the adults in my household.

And now, Dear Reader, we come to the "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" chapter of Ideaphoria --

While Black Sheep Gathering does have offerings for knitters and weavers, it truly caters to spinners. I've already written about trying a drop spindle and some Shetland wool, under Terri's expert tutelage. Part of the Black Sheep Gathering as a fair involves sheep ranchers bringing their fleeces in for judging and sale. By mid-day Saturday, the judging had been completed, the fleeces were priced and ready for sale. Terri's purpose in going to Black Sheep Gathering was to buy a fleece or two.

On Saturday afternoon, I went with her to look at the barn full of fleeces. By the time that we got there, all of the top-prize winning fleeces had been snapped up, of course -- but there were still plenty to choose from. I followed Terri around, listening to her talk about crimp and staple length and ease of spinning. I had no basis for judging what might be desirable in a fleece, other than what to my eyes looked pretty, what to my novice hands felt soft, what to my pocketbook seemed notably high or low prices, and what to my trusting judgment were the few third-, fourth-, or fifth-place ribbons -- or no ribbons -- adorning those fleeces still left. (Since most of the prize winners were snapped up when the barn doors opened for the sale, few were remaining that had ribbons by the time we got there.) Terri bought two fleeces, but I bought none.

Sunday morning, we returned to the fairgrounds, for a final pass through the vendors' booths to see what bargains there were to be had. And we did pick up a few little odds and ends (a tape measure for me, another hank of yarn for Terri). And we made a final pass through the barn with the fleeces. A particular purebred Corriedale fleece, winner of a 4th place ribbon, had gone yet unclaimed. Shocking, but true. While Terri was busily choosing her third fleece, I had a quick chat with myself about buying a fleece. A totally unnecessary purchase. I'm a rookie spinner. Since I am not a fast knitter it has never made sense to me to add to an already slow project the up-front investment of time in making the yarn, too.

And yet, here was this gorgeous vanilla-colored, soft, 7.1 pound, 4th-place-ribbon-winning fleece begging for a home:

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I felt like I couldn't go wrong, with this one little project, and so I bought the Corriedale fleece -- but this doesn't mean that I am making a lifetime commitment to becoming a spinner, or being sucked into a vortex, as my Dear Readers are chuckling to themselves that they think is happening. When in Rome, do as the Romans do -- which roughly translates into, if the purpose of a sheep and wool fair is to buy fleeces for spinning, why not buy one and see what all the fuss is about?!

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I sent the fleece out to be washed, picked, carded, and otherwise processed into roving today.

Posted by Karen at 04:45 PM | Comments (11)

June 25, 2005

BLACK SHEEP, DAY 2

In Galina Khmeleva's booth, an Orenburg shawl wrapped itself around Terri:
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We've gone at a restful, vacation-like pace this trip. We ran into friends --
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(Left to right, Terri, me holding a skein of silk boucle that I couldn't resist for its color, and Jen Johanssen)

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(Sandy and Janet)

visited with Michele in her booth, and sat and spun for a time with Kit, Diane, and Sheila. (I'm not yet a convert to spinning, so I knitted -- finished the neckband for the Prince Caspian sweater, and worked a couple of rows on the Sandness sweater.)

I was sooo excited about that silk boucle, that I rushed up to pay for it, and somehow in my haste the top button popped open on my blouse. The lady tending the booth said, "In some places, that might get you a discount -- but not here, Dearie."

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Terri spends a quiet moment fondling the fleece that she bought.

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Here, I contemplate the three balls of beginner-spinner's Shetland wool that I bought. I also got a Schacht drop spindle that Terri has been teaching me how to use.

Posted by Karen at 09:44 PM | Comments (4)

June 24, 2005

BLACK SHEEP, DAY 1

We arrived!
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Terri inspects a weaving displayed at the Fireside Looms booth. These must be the most gorgeous looms ever made (and they are made in Washington State)!Made of cherry wood, they look like fine furniture. I hope to own one of these, one day.

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After a day spent in the car, a brief tour through the vendor's booth at Black Sheep, Terri relaxes by spinning some targhee.

Posted by Karen at 09:25 PM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2005

WHERE WAS I?

The week has passed by in a blur, and I've been too busy too blog. Let me pick up where I left off, last Wednesday evening just before Guild meeting, which was a celebration of the Guild's 20th anniversary. Many members of the founding and early boards were in attendance last Wednesday night, and they reminisced about those first few meetings.

For Show-and-Tell last week, people were invited to show what kinds of knitting they were doing, 20 years ago. Now, Seattle Knitters Guild is so big that, as a general rule, etiquette limits people to showing only finished items at Show-and-Tell. But for this 20th anniversary party, we made an exception, and allowed people to show items that weren't yet finished. The point being to show what kinds of knitting yarns and projects were popular, circa 1985.

About six finished Aran sweaters were shown -- timeless classics, all (and some very impressive examples of superb knitting!). A couple of color-blocked, intarsia'd, wide shouldered sweaters were shown, too. A local knitting teacher was wearing a short-sleeved, lacy cotton top that I would have sworn came out of the most recent Rowan magazine -- this turned out to be her own design, something she'd made 20 years ago. (And it fit her perfectly, still. Oh, to be that talented a knitter, and to keep my figure, too!)

In the midst of all of this, I was a nervous wreck to stand up and show my 20-year-old project. You see, in 1985, I was in graduate school at the University of Washington, and I got this bug about knitting myself a sweater. Prior to this, I'd knitted only headbands and scarves. But I was fearless, and chose a lace sweater, having no preconception that lace might be "hard." (I still don't believe that lace is difficult to knit.) I loved mohair, even back then. And so --

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I knitted the front, the back --

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one sleeve, and most of the next sleeve --

and then I found out that I was pregnant with my first child. I thought, This sweater isn't going to fit me now (having no idea how long it takes for a pregnancy to blossom). And so I put the sweater project away.

A couple of years later, I tried to finish it off. But I couldn't ever figure out where I was in the pattern, so I couldn't pick up where I'd left off on that unfinished sleeve. I had plenty of yarn, and tried to knit a whole new sleeve, but somehow have always managed to find fault with my beginner-level knitting and be disappointed in these sweater pieces and so it remains unfinished. During one household move, I had even asked my husband to take this project and the tote bag it was in to the dump -- but the next thing I knew, there was the project at the new house, strewn across the floor of the garage. Picked it up, expecting it to be drenched with motor oil, but it had miraculously escaped getting a speck on it. Seems I can never finish it, but never get rid of it, either. At the Guild meeting last Wednesday night, I wondered aloud what I might do with this UFO, and MaryB hollered out, "Make a vest!" Perhaps something like that lies in this yarn's future.

Since last Wednesday night's Guild meeting, my schedule has been full with taking Allegra to performances in her dance recital, and also visiting with my sister. I've had plenty of standing-in-line time, waiting for performances to start, and so I started knitting one of those perfectly portable projects, a sock. (It's for my sister, who chose the yarn colors.)

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Yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, in the colors Cedar and Gold Hill. Pattern is from Betsy McCarthy's book, Knit Socks!

The Fall 2005 issue of Interweave Knits is now on sale at Two Swans Yarns! It's the magazine's biggest issue ever, with the wide variety of sweater, sock, and accessory patterns that you've come to know and love from this publication.

All for tonight -- tomorrow I'm driving down to the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon, with Terri.

Posted by Karen at 08:47 PM | Comments (3)

June 15, 2005

BOBBLING ALONG

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What I hope to accomplish today is to finish up the Prince Caspian sweater -- so that I can hand it off to Ryan at the Guild meeting tonight!

I have only a couple of more rows to knit on the second sleeve. Then to knit the neckband and to sew up all the seams. With the wind at my back, I should be able to get all of this done (even if it means weaving in some ends during the Guild meeting), and still prepare the two things I need to prepare as my contribution to tonight's meeting.

I mentioned in a previous entry that this is the first actual project that I've knitted bobbles for, and prior to this the only other bobbling I've done has been on swatches. My first bobbles, on the back of this sweater, are large and lumpy. But the great thing about charity knitting is that it helps you to let go of your perfectionism, and my bobbling has improved on every piece. So, for the final sleeve, these are the best, most compact bobbles I've ever knitted:

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The yarn is Jamieson's Double Knitting, and the sweater is pictured on the cover of, and the pattern can be found inside of, the book Simply Shetland.

Immediately following tonight's Guild meeting, Rebecca and I are going to convene the first meeting of our Proust book club, and discuss the first 100 pages of Swann's Way. Can't wait!

Posted by Karen at 07:31 AM | Comments (4)

June 12, 2005

HOUSEGUESTS, PART TWO

Our first houseguests of the year were three stray roosters, who flew into our pasture in March. Since that time, though, the roosters have gone to that big barnyard in the sky. I am sure it is coyotes who got them -- I saw a coyote trotting up our driveway at 4:30 in the afternoon the other day. How bold can you get?! I would say he was trotting up our driveway in broad daylight, but it was a heavily overcast day, so not a lot of daylight around -- but it wasn't like he was trying to hide himself under the cover of night or in bushes at the edge of the yard. No. He was trotting right up the middle of the driveway at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Our current houseguests are my sister and brother-in-law and their cat, who are staying with us for the month of June (at least). They've sold their house here, and are waiting to move into their new home, which is still under construction. There is a sense of turn-about-is-fair-play in this, since when Scott and I moved from Edmonds to Renton about 10 years ago, we had sold our house at the end of November, and couldn't close on the house we were buying until mid-January -- so we moved in with my sister and brother-in-law for those six or so weeks.

So things have been pretty hectic around here, lately!

I do enjoy my sister and brother-in-law's company, but I will also say this: Dear Sis is one wicked Scrabble player! In those six weeks that Scott and I stayed at her house ten years ago, she and I played Scrabble every night, and I won not one single time. Never.

We've played Scrabble twice since she's moved in with us. The first evening, I drew four I's in my first turn, as well as some other assorted vowels. Whenever I play Scrabble, I always resolve to study up on words that begin with vowels. Suffice it to say, my first few turns were extremely low scores, trying to find ways to play the ton of vowels I was drawing. My sister, meanwhile, played all 7 letters in one turn, then proceeded to draw all the "good" (i.e., high scoring) letters like Z, Q, and J. She beat me by a total of over 350 to my pathetic 135. I was lucky to break a hundred, though. Really.

Our second Scrabble game on another evening, though, I really dug my heels in. I played a very defensive game -- after all, I've learned from watching her how to play this way! I ended up beating her -- for the very first time -- by a score of 254 to 229.

Which just goes to show, there's a first time for everything.

Jennie got the camera and documented the contest, too. Here I am, knitting on the second sleeve of the Prince Caspian sweater, while waiting to play my next word:
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(Yes, the second sleeve! I finished the first sleeve the other night.)

And here is a close-up of the word I am waiting to play. Honest, these are the letters I drew:

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My sister naively asked, "What's a dunghill?" And I said, "Let me take you out behind the horse pasture and show you!"

Here's my sister making a face of agony at game's end, holding up the letter Q that she couldn't play.
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Note that my tray is empty! I played all my letters and went out. Victory is sweet.

That's the completed first sleeve of Prince Caspian sweater that you see in the lower right corner of the photo, under the ball of purple yarn.

My Dear Friend, Anne in Portland, has joined the blogging world! Content has a more serious tone than mine, at the moment. Visit her blog here.

Posted by Karen at 08:12 AM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2005

DO-ING THE DULAAN

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The clock is ticking toward that July 1 deadline for items to be donated to the Dulaan Project, so it is time I got past my stuck-ness on the Prince Caspian sleeve chart. Over the weekend, I nearly finished the first sleeve, pictured above -- forgetting that it is a child's size, I thought I still had a ways to go, but when I measured it this morning, I find that it is 9 inches, and needs to be only 12 inches long! I'll be well into the second sleeve before the dreaded Second-Sleeve Syndrome can ever strike me!

The occasion for all of this productivity?Ryan's Dulaan Knit-in!

I have just a few photos to share of Saturday's Knit-in. It was a lively time, the weather cooperated and we were able to be out in the backyard amidst the blooming flowers. I especially enjoyed listening to the recording of the interview of Ryan's Cuzzin Tom and Meredith of the FIRE charitable organization. These two were interviewed by their local Sedona, Arizona NPR-affiliate radio station, and they explained how the Dulaan Project came to be, and how it serves the homeless children in Mongolia' capitol city. What a thrill to hear Cuzzin Tom's actual voice, which sounded like he was a professional public speaker -- and his comments were intelligent and well-focused, too. "It must be from all that chanting!" I said. "Aw, he had his radio voice on," Ryan said.

Now, without further ado, the photo essay:

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Left to right: Mary B, Ryan, and Patti (kneeling), exclaiming over the current box of donated handknits, trying to decide which item is the cutest, the most unusual, the warmest, the softest....

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Not content to simply handle the items, Mary B and Frankie (the dog) decide to model them.

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Frankie gives her approval of the 48 items in the current box. (If you look to the outer right of the circle of items, you'll notice the pink-and-charcoal gray mittens that I knitted and donated earlier.)

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When I arrived at the party, Mary B was getting special mention because she has single-handedly knitted 46 items for the Project! (Well, she used her two hands to knit these hats, mittens, and sweaters, but you get what I mean.) She was saying, "Yeah, I've just got to stop knitting for this Project -- but I can't stop!" I took this photo about two hours later, when she had completed Item #47 -- the hat that she's holding. Way to go, Mary B!

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Also deserving of special mention is Rebecca, who started this hat when she came to the Knit-in, and finished it by the end of the afternoon. (Rebecca and I are starting a book club to read Proust's works -- if you're interested, contact me or Rebecca!)

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Ryan is so the social butterfly that it's remarkable for her to knit one stitch during one of these gatherings. Here she was, playing with her hank of Magnum yarn, but, obviously, not knitting. Did she knit a single stitch? Check out her blog to find out!

Posted by Karen at 02:53 PM | Comments (2)