April 26, 2007

A NEW LEAF

Here are a few photos from the gathering at Naomi's last Saturday. Allegra and I had to schedule our time around Allegra's dance class, so we arrived at Naomi's in the late afternoon.

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Gail, showing the Dragonfly Vest (a Janine Bajus design) that she's knitting with yarns from Two Swans. We put together a mix of Jamieson and J&S yarns for this vest. (Yes, Two Swans does have some inventory of J&S, but I haven't yet listed it on the website. I'm always a little behind!)

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Naomi and Melinda. You can tell what a relaxing afternoon it was by this picture. In addition to knitting and spinning, we got to feed the koi in the pond in Naomi's backyard, and to watch the sailboats going by on Lake Washington, and feast on all kinds of good food. Thanks so much for a lovely afternoon, Naomi!

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What's this? Is Allegra demonstrating a new method of knitting? Is she such a blur of knitting activity? No, Allegra just didn't want me to take a picture of her to put on my blog. Allegra was starting the second of a pair of legwarmers for herself.

While at Naomi's, I worked some on my secret project. At this point, I have only the tiniest amount of finishing work left to do on it . . . . Pictures later.

Here's something I will show you a photo of right now, though. I have signed up for Janine's Design Your Own Fair Isle class. There's quite a sizeable homework swatch for it. Although the class isn't until May 18, I actually started the swatch last night:

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I'm not pulling an all-nighter, this time around. Hurrah for me. I'm using Spindrift in the colors Turf and Sand.

In Two Swans Yarns news: Yes, we have copies of Terri Shea's new book, Selbuvotter.

Posted by Karen at 11:13 AM | Comments (1)

April 22, 2007

EARTH DAY 2007

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Chez Campbell, we celebrated Earth Day by watching the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? The electric car has been killed more than once, we learned. In the very early days of automobiles, before the Model T and before the Model A, there were more electric-powered horseless carriages on the road than there were those powered by internal combustion engines.

But the movie's focus is on the cars that were all-electric and were manufactured by Honda, GM, and Toyota for the California market in the mid-1990s. The cars were completely functional, and produced zero greenhouse emissions! Then in the early 2000s, for reasons that shock the conscience, the cars were taken away from consumers by those car manufacturers and destroyed.

(This link provides more info about the movie, and suggests you support the organization Plug In America by ordering your copy of the movie from them. Not to discourage you from doing this, but we rented our copy from our local Blockbuster. We thought it 90 minutes well spent -- in fact, I was quite fired up, after seeing it -- and we recommend this movie to you.)

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I often think of polar bears as being the poster children for global warming. It's hard to connect to global warming in the abstract, but who doesn't want to save these big, furry, innocent creatures? For the past several months, I've been supporting the Center for Biological Diversity in its efforts to get polar bears added as a threatened species to the Endangered Species List. I hope you'll take a minute to check out the Center's website, and think about supporting it, too.

Posted by Karen at 08:19 PM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2007

AT DIVA ESPRESSO

When I arrived at Diva Espresso yesterday for the meeting of our little Master Knitter Wannabe group, Lizabeth was there waiting for me, brandishing this book:

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Lizabeth, looking like she means business.

It's called Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance, and is the latest by Julia Cameron. Touche! I've been working on Level II of the Master Knitter Program for seven or eight years* or some ungodly number like that, she had recognized how apt it was for me (and for everyone in our group, really), and had kindly brought it along. She lent it to me. I've already started reading it and I'll probably finish reading it before I finish Level II.

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Our group, left to right: Joy, Laura-Lee, Lizabeth, and me.

Our meeting went as it typically did: Everyone talking at once, skipping from one subject to the next. In a small S&B group like this, it works. I dutifully showed off my latest swatches that I can add to my Level II binder as part of my submission to TKGA. I'm making progress, even if I go at the proverbial snail's pace.

In the photo above, the bit of black knitting on the table in front of me is a vest I've been working on. Three of us from the Feral Knitters have been having a knit-along for the Basic Black Vest from the book Folk Vests. The Basic Black Vest isn't Fair Isle -- it's a simple, classic vest in stockinette stitch, with a bottom hem, a 5-button front, and two small pockets.

The other two Feralites are knitting their Basic Black vests in Jamieson's DK, but I chose to go with Rowan Scottish Tweed, and here's why. When I had my booth at Madrona and was putting out for display various items that I've knit, I realized that I have examples of Jamieson's yarns. For example, the vest I'm wearing in the photo above is a basketweave stitch in Jamieson's DK; and my lilac-and-white vest (see my photo in the sidebar at left) is an example of Jamieson's DK used in stranded knitting. But I had no examples of anything knit in any of the weights of the Rowan Scottish Tweed line.

And then, too, I was remembering what one of my customers had written to me, at one time: The more interesting the yarn, the simpler the stitch pattern you want to use with it. She had in mind an Aran sweater, and wanted a stolidly solid yarn for her project; if the yarns available to her to choose from were marled, or tweedy, or intensely heathered, her imagined project contained fewer and fewer cables, and those cables she thought it could contain became less and less complicated. Think about it: A busy yarn competes with your stitch pattern.

So having that in mind, and this proposed plain stockinette project at hand along with a desire to use this line of yarn, it seemed a perfect marriage.

Initially I swatched in the Rowan Scottish Tweed DK, since the Basic Black Vest pattern is written for a DK weight yarn. Since I am now at a period in my life where I am a convert to large swatches, that DK weight is the large swatch you see at the right in this photo:

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Once I'd made and washed the swatch, I thought the fabric was bulkier than I'd want to wear in a vest (which, after all, is a layering piece), so I swatched again in the 4-ply (jumper) weight. I liked the second swatch much better. And the small amount of busy-ness going on with the tweedy yarn -- the flecks of yellow and blue and red here and there, the little threads of blue and ared and green -- please me immensely in this stockinette knitting.

All for now -- I'm off to knitting at Naomi's, this afternoon.

*But two years should be deducted, for the time I was in grad school working on my MAEd, and another two years should be deducted for the time I was teaching high school and too busy to knit anything but simple scarves, and another year should be deducted, for the time when TKGA was in the midst of re-organization and I didn't think its certification meant anything . . . so, I've only been actively working on Level II for something like 3 or 4 years. Egads.

Posted by Karen at 03:00 PM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2007

I FINALLY GET MY GREEN TEA

I know it seems as though I've been out of circulation, but I'm still here and still knitting! And, I finally got my green tea

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which came all the way from the fields in Hangzhou, China:

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Scenic, misty fields. If you look closely, you can see the people (wearing straw hats) picking the tea leaves.

Scott had a business trip to Shanghai and environs, and was gone for the first two weeks of April. (Somebody had to stay home to feed the animals and keep the kids on their schedule, and that somebody was me.) He worked at an awning trade show, and visited some awning factories, and did some sightseeing, like to Hangzhou, above. Scott's overall impression of China: It was interesting, but nice to be back home where we are actively working on our environmental issues. Shanghai was smoggy, and the amount of new construction there was staggering.

Here's a photo showing how the green tea leaves are dried:

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The drum is heated to a high temperature, and the worker stirs the freshly-picked tea leaves.

This green tea has 10 times the flavor of the Republic of Tea brand of green tea that I've been buying at the local supermarket. This authentic green tea smells like spinach, and has a somewhat bitter taste, which Scott tells me will mellow and improve if I get in the habit of re-using the tea leaves. In China, the custom is to drink glasses of green tea all day long, and to keep using the same tea leaves.

During the time that Scott was away, my computer mysteriously crashed, and when re-booted, would no longer connect to the internet. I suffered along for two days, re-booting it from time to time and magically thinking that this time, whatever was ailing the computer connection would have healed itself and it would connect. (During that time I was still able to use dial-up, which is not very convenient for a myriad of reasons.) You might guess that in our household, when there are computer problems, these normally get delegated to Scott to fix. Well, the third day I finally steeled myself to call tech support. The person who helped me was friendly, non-patronizing, and had me connected again in just a few minutes. I know there are people who bear nothing but grudges against Comcast, but I've gotta say, our experience with them has always been positive.

After Scott returned from China, he was laid up with an extremely bad cough and cold. Seems like travelers often end up with colds, but this was extreme.

I bring up these details, not to complain, but to explain why I haven't been blogging and why I've missed two Feral Knitters meetings and a Guild meeting. While Scott was away, I wanted to stick close to home, and when he came back and was sick, I wanted to stick close to home. And I just couldn't get excited about blogging using the dial-up connection.

And, keeping it all in perspective: My computer hassles were easily resolved. And a cough and cold with accompanying jet lag is a small price to pay for the fascinating time Scott had in China. And I hesitate to even call these events 'problems,' given the scope of the tragedy in Virginia this week. I had tears in my eyes when I read about the victims, so many of them so bright, such good people who might have made a positive contribution to their communities, their promising futures taken away from them by this deranged person. And how can we prevent this from happening in the future? Gun control? Better mental health care?

* * *

In knitting news: I wanted to test drive the new lace weight yarn that Two Swans just got in, Dawn. And what better way to test drive it than to knit a swatch for the TKGA Master Knitter program?

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I challenged myself with this stitch pattern, called "Pyrenees Pattern" from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury, because it has yo's on both the knit and the purl sides of the fabric. One need not do anything this complicated for the Master Knitter Program, but hey, I like a challenge.

Dawn is a 50% wool, 50% silk blend. It is very soft (the word 'limp' comes to mind), especially in comparison to my other lace swatches for the Master Knitter Program, which I knitted in a wool/cotton blend and which have lots of body. Dawn really holds blocking! And it is a very fine yarn. I knitted my swatch on size US 2 needles, and those 1-inch seed stitch borders at the top and bottom of the swatch each took 17 rows. Seventeen! I'm a tight knitter, but even so, this gives you an indication of how fine this yarn is.

Dawn is the yarn used for the Angel Lace Shawl, the newest Evelyn Clark offering from Fiber Trends:

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and the Hydrangea Lace Scarf, the newest from Eugen Buegler:

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I'll save my report on my other knitting projects for the next blog entry. Now I'm off to go meet with my Master Knitter Wannabe group. I'm definitely back in circulation!


Posted by Karen at 11:32 AM | Comments (2)

April 02, 2007

THERE'S ONE FOR THE BLOG

Lately, I've been making a serious effort on working on my swatches for Level 2 of TKGA's Master Knitting program. I've been carrying around with me everywhere I go these big skeins of smooth, cream-colored, worsted weight wool, and an arsenal of needles, and I plug away at my swatching as time permits. While I may appear nonchalant about carrying the yarn and swatches around everywhere, I'm actually paranoid about keeping those swatches clean.

Yesterday morning Jennie and I were in my car driving around downtown Renton, doing errands. We stopped at a Starbucks. As we were getting back in the car with out lattes, I said to her, "Be careful not to spill on my Nasty Knitting."

"Freudian slip, Mom?"

We both howled. We laughed for probably 10 minutes.

Much of the time the Master Knitting does make me irritable. Nasty knitting, indeed.

Posted by Karen at 07:07 AM | Comments (3)

April 01, 2007

APRIL 1, 2007

Dr Hsu had recommended a shop in Chinatown as the best place in Seattle to get tea, and called, simply enough, Seattle Best Tea. My current cannister of Republic of Tea brand of green tea, the brand that I usually buy from the grocery store, was getting low. I thought it might be interesting to visit this shop I'd heard about and interesting to try a green tea that would be more deluxe.

To round out this proposed adventure, I arranged to meet up with Karen for lunch, since she lives downtown and meeting up in Chinatown would be easy. A longtime customer of Two Swans, she and I met in person at my booth at the Madrona retreat in January and, having met up for a coffee date at Elliott Bay Books afterward, have discovered we have many common interests. While I'm filling in this bit of backstory, let me show you this picture from our coffee date earlier this month:

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Karen was in the throes of knitting a gansey for her father-in-law, and had brought along the sleeve to show me, so she's modeling it for the camera. The sweater is Kinsale from Fishermen's Sweaters, and she used Jamieson's DK in the color Foxglove. (Note the Roscalie cardigan casually thrown against the back of her chair. Can this woman knit, or what?)

Geographically impaired as I am, I'd had this notion that Seattle Best Tea was going to be within walking distance from the restaurant, but it was further away than I realized. Well, we could have walked there, but it would have been more like a hike. However, Kinokuniya Bookstore was just across the street, and so after lunch we agreed to skip the tea shop and browse Japanese knitting books. It turned out, too, that neither of us could resist stationery supplies. Kinokuniya has a great selection of pens and pencils, rivaled, I think, only by University Book Store. I ended up getting a book on knitting beaded wrist warmers and accessories, and a ball point pen in just the particular shade of gorgeous dark green that I've been looking for for the last couple of months.

It was a sunny day, if not warm. After shopping we spent a little time outside of Uwajimaya and I showed Karen a few of my drop spindles. At the last Feral Knitters, June had been downsizing her collection of drop spindles, and I'd bought a quick and smooth little Mount Si model of Cascade drop spindle from her. Not that my drop spindling is progressing, particularly -- but I am ever hopeful that I'll get the hang of it, one of these days. Karen gave me a few pointers, using the Mount Si:

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Although I looked at green teas in Uwajimaya, I couldn't decide which to buy, and will have to pay a visit to the tea shop another time.

In spinning-related, Two Swans news: Two Swans has been carrying Spin-Off since last fall. The fall and winter issues sold out before I ever got them listed on the website! I've been waiting and waiting for my shipment of the spring issue; when I saw the box that they arrived in, I understood immediately the cause for their delay. The box had completely burst open, and some angel who works for the post office had taped the box all back together. Fortunately, none of the copies of the magazine that were inside the box were damaged in any way. Whew!

Posted by Karen at 01:57 PM