Thursday, October 25, 2007

I know, I know...

I know, I said I'd be right back, but I haven't gotten around to it. I totally blame the flu shot. I have Arm-Flu and I think it's bent my brain a little. Or at least that's the excuse I am giving this week.
OK, so before I left I had word that I'd be receiving copies of three books from Potter Craft to review. I love books. I almost cried in delight when I found out one of those books was to be Clara Parkes new tome on yarny goodness. Joy! And the nice thing about getting books from publishers not my own is that I can be honest without risking my next book contract. I might be risking contract 4 or 5, but 2 and 3 are safe. Well, I've been home for a few days and I've spent some time with the books so I figured I'd tell you what I think.

First up is Doris Chan's Everyday Crochet. My initial reaction to this book was not strong and not positive. As I flipped pages I saw shells and more shells, each pattern an adaptation of the one before it. But on closer inspection and a closer read I find MUCH more to love. Yes, the book focuses on the use of shell patterns to get drape. But some of the patterns really are lovely and need to be made up. And there is a lovely section in the front of the book on customizing crochet patterns to fit the individual and a brief "I Told You So" which reminds readers that they are responsible for their work - gauge needs to be accurate, for example. It's very much a learning experience, and makes you think about your crochet. Substitutions for yarns given in the book are encouraged, which I also love to see. The Cameo tank is adorable, but tanks are hard for me. Curvy people need substantial support garments, and skinny straps and low-cut necklines don't work well with power-bras. Turn the page, and there's Sweet Tea, with a wider shoulder strap and a higher neckline, perfect! Then there are a couple of cute pullovers, and we move into my personal favorites, the cardigans. The first, Cinnabar, is a delightful tweedy jacket, with a single hook closure that gives it great shape that's right up my alley. Clean lines, simple style, shells add interest (I think I am going to make mine in Williamstown). Then there are a few vests, and then long coats. I fell madly for the one that would look the most insane on my petite personage. It's called Outta Sight, and is a long duster length jacket, open in front, very 70's, very adorable, and very cute-as-all-get-out. I totally love it and need someone I know to make it just so I can see it on them. The book finishes with some neat belts. Things that make this book worth it: adjustable patterns up to 52" bust or 54" hip, adaptable designs that can be dressed up or down and funked up or down depending on the crocheter and their reckless enjoyment of yarn substitution as a hobby. Utterly worthwhile variations on a theme.
Next Kaffe's book just made me drool, from the cover on in. I could not, for the longest time, stop ogling the blanket on the cover. I am pretty sure that there was
drooling I blamed on the cat (he does that when he's happy, like the true dog he is). Thank heaven Kaffe Knits Again. This appears to be a rehash of older designs, but since I own no Kaffe books, how would I ever know? If you don't own any, get this one. If you do own some, get this one. "Updated colors" reflect modern trends, but some of these patterns are just eye candy and should be knitted and I don't care which decades colors you use! From the slightly psychedelic Moody Blues Pillow to the Gridlock throw and cushion, from the Houses bag to the Puzzle cardigan, it's a feast for the eyes. Color, color everywhere, in garments and accessories and home furnishings for those who fear to head out in public in garments that make a loud statement (this is, after all, New England where our puritanical roots often show in our color choices). This isn't just knitting - it's art. It's knitted art. Knit some today! (I am starting with that Moody Blues cushion; it's all I've got time for.)
And last - can you guess? Did I save the best for last?? You bet your sweet bippy I did. Un. Real. There is no other way to describe...well, that’s a lie because I'll come up with more. But my first impression of The Knitter's Book of Yarn? Un. Real. I open the hardcover to reveal a fiber family tree. Smitten. Smitten on the spot. A big sweater and hat and mittens form the "trunk" of the fiber family tree. Around them swirl yarny branches - cellulosic, synthetic, cellulose (not the same as cellulosic!), protein - and from those branches families appear. Right here I am hooked. But it gets better. The first chapter, Fiber Foundations, deals with the four basic branches of the fiber family as illustrated on the inside covers. But detail, here, we're talking details you never knew about, yarny insights, facts and figures. Like this "Wool in yarn is like restaurants in San Francisco. You could knit a different blend every day for a year without using the same yarn twice." Or this: "Hygroscopic means that the fiber is able to absorb up to 30% of it's weight in moisture while still feeling warm and dry...." (Guess what fiber that applies to? EZ knows...). This book is, without a doubt, everything you ever wanted to know not just about fiber but were afraid to ask. It does not, however, solve for my husband the mystery of reproduction of fiber stashed for long periods in bins. That, I fear, is a secret we'll never fully reach the depths of. OK, so I travel through this book, reading and skimming along - fiber fiber fiber. How it's spun. How it's dyed. How it takes dye. Where it comes from. Enough knowledge to last anyone a good long time. And suddenly I find myself looking at patterns. Patterns designed my some pretty famous folks, and designed not for specific yarns, but for specific types of yarn. Single ply projects. 2-ply projects. 3 and 4 ply projects, cabled yarn projects, textured, boucle, brushed yarn and felting projects. And not just plain-old projects either. There's Norwegian Snail Mittens, lace shawls with great detail, a stranded knitting hat and mitten set, fingerless gloves, cardigans (Norah's Cabled Swing Cardi really makes me squirm with anticipation!), socks, catnip toys, bags - heck, you could dress yourself for years just on this one book. This is absolutely a MUST HAVE book, and I don't say that often. But a book that brings together an amazing amount of relevant fiber info AND an amazing grouping of patterns designed by some impressive knitters (short list - Cat Bordhi, Teva Durham, Tara Jon Manning, Eleanor Lynn, etc)?? Lead me on. My only regret - it didn't come in time for me to schlep it to Rhinebeck for Clara to sign. Ah, well, maybe next time! Buy one, one for a friend. Put it on your Christmas list. But make sure you get a copy, because this is a book that will be on your shelf forever and ever.
So that's about all of that for now. Maybe more next week.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A hangover, but in a GOOD way...

**updated** - I found out who people are! I added links! I really should work on that...

Rhinebeck...oh, the Rhinebeck...when will I learn?
First, on Friday there were margaritas:

That's Kristen, Cindy, Tammy, Katy and Dena, from right to left. Actually, that's left to right. Rhinebeck Hangover, remember?? We were at a place I have already forgotten the name of. I do remember the fly in Katy's margarita. Really, wings and all. All for Katy....maybe the bartender knew she had a cold and threw the fly in as some sort of odd cold remedy?? Missing when picture was taken: Mary-Alice who has a J-O-B that did not allow for her to be with us until later in the evening.
Then there were knitters in the lobby:

I admit to being giddy enough after my lovely Margarita that I invited them to my book launch in December. But sober enough to advise they stay an extra night, leave Monday morning, and stop at Webs on the way home for some Noro. Priorities. One can always say one's car broke down if one's employer asks impertinent questions.
On Saturday morning there were Mimosas in the parking lot, and some members of the party played Dress-Up:

That's Katy, Mary-Alice, Kristen, Cindy and Tammy adorning themselves with 2-at-a-Time Sock stickers. Missing when picture was taken - Dena, who's standing next to me talking Texas with the two lovely ladies, Pamela and Petra of the Purling P's that we invited to our breakfast bash. Texas to New York, for the love of yarn. Pretty cool, I think.
Then there was shopping - Brooks Farm for me, and then The Fold, which I couldn't even get my little self into, so I yielded. Someone (MARY!!) was smarter than I, and brought along her very own Personal Line-Stander in the form of The Good Ed.

We love Ed. Greater love hath no man for his finacee than this - that he stands in line clutching two skeins of sock yarn and a fistful of cash. Mr Wonderful will carry for me...but stand?? Not so much. I wonder if Ed will still do this after the wedding. Normally I bring Mr. W. and Girl to Rhinebeck on Sunday afternoon. Girl and I shop, we look at animals, we eat animals, and we leave. I would eat artichokes, but they roll them in wheat flour. I would eat fried pickles, but they roll them in wheat flour. I'd even eat apple crisp, but they top it with wheat flour. All the fun food at Rhinebeck appears to be glutanimated (new word). This year was so completely different from my previous Rhinebeck experiences. A group of women, a hotel, Margaritas, champagne, more Margaritas, yarn, and self-promotion (which I am not that good at, frankly).
Speaking of Brooks Farm, how many people vote that the ladies of Brooks Farm Yarn come to visit in December? Even if they can't bring any yarn?? Show of hands...I think it'd be awesome - they want to see Webs!
Saturday night was Jess and Casey's kick-butt Ravelry party. Unfortunately I forgot my camera (because I am a fool) but Persnickety brought hers, so maybe we'll see pics soon. Much was given away, much fun was had, nad much love for Casey and Jess was expressed. I put Casey first. He knows what Herradura tequila is. he gets to be first)
On Sunday there were no Mimosas, but there was a person standing on two draft horses.

I do not know why he did this, but he seemed very pleased with himself and the attention he garnered. I love draft horses, but prefer to sit on one at a time, not stand on two. Hey. Wait. 2-at-a-Time Horses!! Perhaps I have more in common with him than I know. If one is good, two must be better!
I got in line to pay for Kathy's book (The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes, which is an amazing, exceptional bit of work but more on that tomorrow)and saw something that made me a little choked up really.

A stack of my postcards. Right there by the register. And people were actually picking them up!! And taking them away with them! Warmed my heart. ADDED: the bangs and forehead in this pic belong to Lisa, who's son Ronnie currently is receiving chemo for a brain tumor and who (Lisa, not Ronnie) is running 'a' marathon (she says it's only gong to be one, but it could become an addiction)to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
Then I ate lamb with Tammy and Cindy (Yes, it is true. I eat lamb at sheep and wools. It's what I do):

But I will say that as good as the lamb chops were, the spinach was AMAZING and next year they could serve me a big ole plate of that with some salad and my bottle of water, and I'd be happier than the happiest clam. I wish I knew what they did to it.
Most importantly I Got Stuff. Cool Stuff.

I may have a soap problem. And a wine problem, and a yarn problem and a jam problem and a dip problem (specifically on that last one? The garlic dipping oil mix. Mmmm.). Actually, it occurs to me that the wine in the picture is Linda's wine. But that's not what i bought at Rhinebeck. I bought a reisling and a cabernet and something called Schooner Red on Saturday from Hazlitt, then on Sunday I could not resist Cascade Mountain's Vintage Coueur De Lion and Vintage Private Reserve Red. I also shamelessly bought a chocolate wine. It was really surprisingly good, and really quite chocolaty.
I got Acero and Macero (worsted weight Acero!) at Brooks. I really did very well at self-restraint in the yarn department. I had a limited budget. The jams and stuff I could put down as gifts for Christmas, and get away with it. Yarn - well, really, no one in my family wants yarn for Christmas unless I've done something with it in the interim, which I really don't have time for lately.
Tomorrow - reviews of Kaffe Fasset's Kaffe Knits again, Clara Parkes' The Knitters Book of Yarn, and Doris Chen's Everyday Crochet.
After all the late-night chatting, and long-day shopping, I tumbled into my bed last night and slept like a sweet little log. I think I shall again this evening, with lamb chop dreams and yarny wishes.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Patience is a Virtue

I'm a SQUARE! I'll be wearing a cowboy hat, and travelling in a varying sized pack of knitterlyness. Other identifying markings - large brown with pink knitted shopping bag, not tall, and often confused.

Yesterday while I was in the shower the mail lady came. She left behind a little bit of paper that said I had a registered package that she could not leave behind. It said the sender was "Sweden" (the nation got together and sent me yarn?). But it was 11am. I had a class at noon. The package would not be available until 1pm. My class gets out at 2pm. The PO closes at 4pm. I had to pick up grain. I needed a grocery stop since I, in my inimitable crappy housewife manner, had yet again forgotten to take anything out for supper. Due to the molt and general laziness exuding from my hen house we don't even have eggs, so I could not do my "Look, honey, I PLANNED a quiche, really I did!!" thing. It takes me about 20 minutes to get back into Greenfield from Webs, if I skipped stopping for food (lunch?). Then fifteen minutes for chicken food and fifteen for grocery store and then another twelve or so on back roads into my little home town. 2:50 I should be pulling into the PO, right? If all goes according to plan. Which, of course, it never does.
And it didn't. I got distracted leaving Webs and wasted ten minutes yakking and looking at garments just in from Classic Elite. I then spent five minutes in the parking lot trying to locate the following: keys. mp3 player. cell phone. headset for cell phone. wallet. water bottle. I finally merged onto route 91 only to discover that I had managed to get myself stuck behind a series of progressively slower drivers, all well under the posted 65 MPH speed limit. Then I got off the wrong exit in Greenfield, adding about ten minutes onto the whole "stop for grain and groceries" thing. I had two choices.
Lose my mind.
Let it go.
I let it go. I quit, I gave up. The PO, I reasoned, would be there this morning. Miraculously everything shifted. All of a sudden people were going the speed limit. They moved out of my way as if guided by an unseen hand. Slow people disappeared. All-natural chicken was on sale. I arrived at the local PO at about 3:45pm, fifteen minutes before closing. I handed over my little pink slip. That nice boy handed back a box. A cardboard box packed with loving hands and containing things of great delight and bliss.
Inside were two well-packaged kits - one Green Meadow Mitten and one Wild Apple. The Yarn. Oh the yarn is so yummy it makes my fingers itch to look at it. The colors are unreal, and totally not done justice to by crappy camera that hates me (And I hate it. We're not in love. The thing just gets worse. It's going over the bank soon). Now here's a brutal bit of Melissaknits-ness. I will not (and I am saying this publicly, so I have to stick to it)- I will not touch this yarn to knit it until I have completed my personal Radiance, written the pattern for Gail's angora booties, and started the next Colrain project. Inspired, I knit faster.
I also managed to get the little Hitchhiker all ready for Rhinebeck. We are totally good buddies now, bonded, sanded, and finished, although not particularly well. I have a gripe. It is against this PolyShades product by MinWax. I keep trying. I keep thinking to myself "this is better for the environment, right? It's lower in VOC's. It does not require mineral spirits to clean up. It's healthier. I could probably drink it." Someone probably should, because as a consistent, smooth, covering wood finish? It stinks. Note the "artistic" splotchy appearance of my wheel? That's what happens when a girl just gives the heck up and realizes that there is no point. If three coats have been applied and the consistency is still wretched and obscenely splotchy, one has two options - paint it, or "get creative". I went with option two. Remember this is a stain product, so sanding it off is not an option. Hind sight being what it is, I wish I had gone with my original thought which was satin poly over natural wood. I did not have time to oil it properly, and I really wanted to be certain that the laminated wood parts were well and truly sealed in case of rain. But it's cute and it does the job - see?! Fleece from Jacob ewe 'Heart' lightly carded and spun in the grease, and I cannot wait to ply and knit it. Well, maybe I can...I have some Bohus to get to next I think. But I can get it spun in spurts between knitting - a little break. It also makes my hands feel wonderful and I stink like sheep which is about my favorite smell on earth.
Very excited about Rhinebeck - we've got cool printed postcards to hand out announcing the book launch, and pins for the first hundred people who get handed one. But when they're gone, they're gone! Also, if you're around Saturday morning early, there's going to be a bit of a breakfast at a minivan with balloons perched on the hill by the entrance. Come and find us, have a cup of coffee, a bagel, maybe even a mimosa before the show gates open. I am determined to have a kick-off bash of a weekend, heading into the launch in December. It also will be amusing to see if I can stick to my budget. Ready for this? $200 for food, drink and shopping for two days and two nights. If nothing else, it will provide interesting blog fodder on Monday. "Lookit what I didn't buy!"
Look, a FO! A Megan Shawl Collared Cardigan for ME. I even followed my own directions...sort of. I added extra waist shaping to compensate for my curvy-ness and my shortwaisted-ness and also shortened the garment by 2" because I am short - remember, I look like a tomato in anything I wear, and not in the good "Woo, hot tomato" way. I plan to close it with a shawl pin I bought myself recently at the store. Very luminous, more than shows, and lovely. Less green-y, more turquoise. I really have to go eat lunch, and get ready for drop-in, and knit some more, and make my list for tomorrow...pack, I should pack eventually, right?? See you in NY!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Patiently, she waits...

staring, staring at the mailbox and garage door (where larger parcels go) for a little package from Sweden. I am obsessed with a Radiance jacket for myself which helps to pass the time, and a crocheted baby set for April (due in December), and so my time is passed well enough. I am at least distracted from staring endlessly and pathetically at the mail. Two garments are on the docket for design, one in Colrain and one in Sheffield, and neither of them for Webs. I have not decided if they will be self-published, or sold away into magazine publication. Maybe one could be submitted to Knitty and I could keep one? This is where I am leaning. But I give you no details yet. More will be revealed!
This weekend Mr. Wonderful and I took a field trip around the region. We began Saturday morning in Brattleboro, VT buying a wood stove from Friends of the Sun and arranging for delivery. Oil continues to creep up with pellets right behind them. Meanwhile we live on 10 acres of woods, and trees fall regularly - either by design or by natural selection. Free fuel. And we're buying oil and pellets?? Seems sort of silly, really. So we found a lovely fireplace insert made by Jotul (I miss my Jotul, an F 300CB...sigh...) and the new insert will be installed in....about eight weeks. When you are stupid enough to wait for heating season to have a stove installed, well, you get what you get. Then we moved down to Mesa Verde (pant, pant, drool, drool) in Greenfield where I indulged in a Thai Burrito in a bowl with no tortilla. This is a hugely yummy thing. Next we headed for the bonus gift, the !reward for our earlier shopping trip (stove buying is not always a fun thing - you weigh environmental issues, cost, efficiency, size, etc. - it's really work). We made a visit to Pioneer Valley Vineyard. Linda greeted us and ushered us inside for a little sip. Or two. We saw the whole operation, the organic grapes out back, and one adorable granddaughter. I love the Cayuga which is a dry white made from ORGANIC grapes, not heavily astringent, crisp and alert in your mouth, that really mellows and gets more fruity and develops a little sweetness in your glass. We snagged a bottle of that, and also the cranberry (made from organic cranberries) for the holidays. I also bought a bar of red wine soap, because, well, really. Does that need any more explanation than buying chocolate soap?? Just so you know, they're open from noon to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday from October - December. The shop is lovely, the wine is good, and the people are just fantastic.
Then we shopped (boring) and I had a latte (dunkin donuts, but still yum!), and came home. Sunday was the awesomest day! Kim Werker launched her new book "Crochet Me" at Webs! Aside from the crochet part - which I dig as it is my first love - her message about empowerment really hits home with me. Listening to her is, for me, like listening to a kindred spirit in many ways (but not the creepy stalker way, really Kim, I swear). I am older, and did not have the opportunity to bail on grad school twice. But I never finished anything until the last few years - my mother too could heckle me from the back row with similar commentary on my relative lack of success in the areas she feels are important (following directions, completing projects, picking a single career path, preferably one that involves rich academic pursuits and a great deal of money) but am supported by a husband who just tips his head and smiles wryly and wonders what kind of a ride he's really in for. There's a reason why I never finish anything. Once begun, the realization that I can complete it dawns, and my mind is off and racing for the next new thing - finishing is never the point for me. STARTING is. In my brain it goes something like this: "Oh...pretty...start! I can do this! Mmmm....okaaaaayyy....bored. Boorrred!! HEY!! REALLY BORED NOW!! Changing. Changing NOW!! Oh look!! New pretty!! START!!..." and so on into eternity. It's really just a well controlled adult ADD, which I am sure I had as a child. Back then, in the dark ages we didn't get Ritalin, we just got bad grades from strict teachers, good grades from liberal ones, and started and stopped a lot. And, frankly, I would not shut it off if I could because it's all of who I am. There is nothing I cannot do. I can do anything I choose to do, wish to do, or even dare to dream to do. It's not ego, I swear, it's just my brain - NOT on drugs!
Anyway - about the woman's book (book, right, that was the point of the party?!?!) - I like it. I actually want to make 2-3 things in it...I love the Babydoll Dress, but as a little tunic and with not so puffy sleeves, so mods will be in order. I LOVE the Messenger Bag, which I think would be perfect in Northampton. The Comfy Cardi looks it, and therefore needs to be made. Kristen(genius)Omdahl's Mesmerize sweater is just amazing. Now, I am not sure if a 4'1" 40-something grandmother of two can pull some of this off, but by God I can try!!
Also met Ravelry Jess, who was loving up the samples by the cash wrap (I am not even sure what's over there right now), and seemed to enjoy shopping-time at Webs. What is it about Webs that people like? Is it the yarn? The excellent customer service? The champagne? Even Kim was shopping. Something about Webs just makes people want to shop. It even does it to me and I should be immune by now!
In other VERY exciting news, I became a Loopy Groupie this week, receiving my bag of goodies from the Loopy Ewe with my skein of Fleece Artist Somoko in color earth (so classic for me - yarn the color of dirt.). I really love this yarn. It is squashy and begging for my attention which I cannot give right now, being obsessed with Radiance and two new designs rocketing around my brain, and RHINEBECK!! coming up this weekend and the new baby needing grandma knit and crochet things. The PO smashed up my box amazingly well, and I was a little surprised that my mail carrier left it. Big old hole in the back when I picked it up - my hand went right into it. Let it not be said the the PO spares any energy in getting our packages about the nation, as evidenced by my poor box. Oh. Panic. What if they did that to MY BOHUS!?!?!?! AKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!! They...they would not do THIS to yarn from Sweden, right? I mean, mail handlers totally know the importance of delivering yarn intact to it's new mom in the States all the way from Sweden, right? They're totally wonderful people who would not KILL INNOCENT YARN!?!? Would they??
I am going to go back to work (read: sitting and staring out the window waiting for the Bohus) now, and accomplish knitting and stuff so I have something to show you by the end of the week. I finished pieces of a garment but it's not together yet and pieces are sort of, well, boring really. Four More Sleeps Till Rhinebeck!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Wat a weekend. (Nope. I mean Wat.)

This (on the ground, under the towel - click on it, you'll see) is Wat - named for the NH Wool Arts Tour. Here I think she's about two minutes old. We were casually wandering Mirage Alpacas, our favorite stop and heard someone yell that there was "...a delivery". After a moment of confusion (UPS??) the situation was clarified - an alpaca was giving birth to a cria right that minute. Girl and Jules found their way to a fence rail just in time for Jules to see Wat plop unceremoniously to the ground. We trotted outside and watched her first moments. I tried to get better pictures, but my batteries died on me (camera, not personal). We all stood around and watched, probably more than was good for mom or baby, until Wat and Tika were taken off to a barn to bond. I must say this was the highlight of the day. We visited four out of the five stops on the tour - The Wool Room, Chauncey Farm, Western View Farm and Mirage Alpacas. Unfortunately we did not make it to The Fiber Studio. At The Wool Room I bought a Latvian mitten book and two sets of antler buttons which I just love. I am now going to relentlessly scour the woods for discarded antlers come spring. They had some lovely handmade soap, but I resisted, saving my money for later in the day. At Chauncey Farm I bought the Maine Kids book - I have the adult one and just wanted this book in the worst way, and some really wonderful Cucumber Dill salad dressing from Thyme & Ewe farm. They're very cool; they provide a permanant home for farm animals in need of assistance and shelter - for $50 a year you can sponsor a rescued animal. We headed for Western View next, but somehow got turned about and ended up at Mirage, which was ok since we were all starved. Mr. Wonderful and Girl had hot dogs. How you can go to a sheep and wool event and not have something other than a hot dog...the Washington (NH) Historical Society hosts a canteen with hot dogs and chili and locally grown lamb. Lamb sausage, kabobs, burgers. Yum. I had a kabob, and Jules had a lamb burger (strong, brave Jules). After lunch we watched Wat for a while, and never managed to make it back inside. Girl and Jules had a blast petting donkeys, and Mr. Wonderful ambled contentedly about contemplating a life as a gentleman farmer (if anyone's got the cash, and wants to invest in a llama and alpaca establishment, I have a great farm manager for you, and a farm right across the street from me about to go on the market!). Then we went to Western View which is always a blast to get to and an even bigger blast to park at, but I love it there. They have my soap, which is made by Country Spun Treasures in a fragrance called Sweet Earth and I adore it but she did not have any soap at all. This meant that I was forced (yea, forced is the word I used) to spend the cash I'd been saving all day long on something, so I chose this - ya gotta have Heart (being a Jacob ewe in her second fleece which I now own). I've been promised soap in May. I can be patient. I may get very, very dirty and somewhat smelly, but I can wait. I cannot, however, wait for new wheel. Nothing but me and a flicker and the wheel. Ahhhh... No blending either, I am going to spin it as it comes out of the bag. Hey. It looks like a reverse Boo-Boo - white with black and tan. Kinda funny that I choose fleece the same color as my dog...
Sunday was an even cooler day. I had been waiting for this for a very very very long time. I had a Kanga-Extravaganza with Kirsten and Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer. Awesome is the only word that comes to my lips. See:

Stockbridge; formerly yellow on the left, formerly pink on the right, dyed as a color wheel. 12 skeins, $3.99 each, making the whole color wheel project $47.88 in yarn (although it's currently on sale, so if you did this today it'd be $35.88.) and you end up with 1308 yards of hand-dyed yarn which would be perfect for weaving a color gamp (a great exercise) or knitting Into Something (I am working on it in my head...the yarn is still drying). Awesome. After we'd done the color wheel we got reckless with some other yarns Kirsten had brought. She did an unbelievable job on some pretty dull-lookingSoft Sea Wool, and single-handedly saved two ugly rovings from clown-barf hell, turing them into works of art. She very generously let me share some of her booty. It is possible that I occasionally get a little TOO into things...gloves?? Who needs gloves? I don't need no stinkin' GLOVES!! I had to cut my nails last night. They were positively black.

I was able to overdye some Trilly in a pale peach into a lovely sunrise fiasco (in a good way), and some E.L. Silky Wool that used to be mustard yellow, and a skein of something I don't remember what, two-ply tan and cream, but not-no-more! I did a couple of others, but cannot remember what any more (although if I turn around and look at the drying rack I might be reminded), I only know that they are improved from yaaawran to YARN!

Our last yarn dying project was a skein each of Alpaca Silk. This is where things became so delineated in terms of personality that it was really kind of comical. We tested colors on scraps of paper towel and both of us really started out planning to use about the same colors, with a little darker purple on my side maybe. Somewhere things went wildly hinckey, because we ended up with these skeins - me with my typical orange, tonal not variegated on the left, and Kirsten's more variegated lavenders and yellows and steely gray and green on the right. I think I was subconsciously planning ahead a little on this, more than I'd intended. I think I want to knit up a shawl for myself in a color I love, dyed in a way that would not detract from the pattern. I find it endlessly amusing that two people can start sort of on the same page and end up on opposite sides of the spectrum - literally! I just cannot follow directions - even my OWN!

There is something you should know about Kangaroos, I was not aware of this until yesterday. They're camera shy!! Elusive even, turning their backs against the glare of the paparazzi's (that'd be me) flash. At the end of the day, here's Kirsten and Gail...or Gail's back a shirt that I think needs to be printed and sold right next to the yarn!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Catching Up

First of all, check this out - I got this link a while ago but was so overwhelmed by Susanna and the Bohus that I forgot about it (Sorry Diane!!). I LOVE this picture - full circle, sheep to sock! Go, buy yarn, support local farmers! Diane will be at Fiber Twist on October 27th and 28th (I will be teaching). Look, the sheep are begging you. How can you turn down those faces? I love the colorway with no name, and may have to invest in some shortly. I also love I Shall Wear Purple, in part because I fully intend to. And I have been starting now.
Now some catching up - I can't respond to comments any other way than through the blog itself. This is a huge failing of blogger in my opinion, and one that could be remedied in some way if they chose to, I just know it!! (personal rant over.) SO - I thought I'd take a minute toady to respond to some of the comments left over the last two posts, and update you on the how's of the Bohus that is, even as we speak, jetting itself to my door in kit form. This is only my second kit purchase ever by the way - the other one was for a certain fair isle bag. Back then I had no respect for gauge. I was so novice and so unaware - but I loved the bag and eventually gave it to one very deserving friend (Hi Sharon!!). After much turmoil and debate I settled on The Wild Apple. Although green is not a great color for me, I love the pattern entirely too much to settle for anything else on my first shot (I plan to own more than one.). I also tacked on a pair of Green Meadow mittens, just because. The how is quite simple - I actually EARNED money to buy my Bohus kits and still pay the (miserable, money grubbing) government my self-employment tax. The whole tax thing causes me pain. The amount they sucked out of my advance was scandalous. I still cannot talk about it without feeling a little dizzy and nauseous. The result of my actually earning money, however, is that Mr. Wonderful did not have to sacrifice his bikes. My money, my choice. Lovely way to resolve the issue. We did agree in future to establish some sort of savings account for our various hobbies. I, of course, feel that mine should be weighted more heavily since yarn is, to some extent, work-related. But we'll negotiate that later. Maybe it should be two seperate savings - work yarn and fun yarn? In the midst of the excitement regarding the Bohus windfall, I got an email asking me if I was still interested in the Hitchhiker wheel. Of COURSE I am!! I collect wheels, the way some people collect key chains. It's like yarn. You can never have too many. I managed to work a delightful trade entirely thanks to Mary-Alice - one roving carder (I have two) for one spinning wheel. I am excited to report that by next Friday you'll find my perched on my deck, spinning whatever I can lay hands on. Now I have a REASON to take time to spin - new wheel - must practice!! I'd like to spin up my Black Welsh fleeces that are all in roving and waiting for me. Big deal for me, being of Welsh descent and all. These are even sheep I would own. I love dual purpose animals, whether chickens or sheep.

Tina said: Well I don't mind telling you that I actually gasped. Out loud. Only the dogs heard me of course so it was okay...but still! Whatever that knitted frippery is, I want to knit it.
That knitted frippery is a close up of The Wild Apple Bohus sweater. The garments have a wonderful history which you can read about in Poems of Color. The kits are available from Solveig Gustafsson. You should know that the sweaters are knitted at a gauge some might call "insane". I look at it in terms of socks, since the gauge is the same. Knitting a garment like this at any other gauge would be true insanity. The detail, the drape, everything here is determined by that small gauge. I figure if it takes me a day to knit one sock in a complicated pattern, then after the yoke is done this thing should fly (relatively speaking of course) off my needles. I plan on allowing full and complete surrender to the Bohus when it arrives. I've got my ball-winding Girl in reserve to ball it all up for me. I am planning modifications; I may or may not knit it in the round - this is undecided. I will most assuredly remove any and all ribbing, substituting a turned hem which is my general favorite and add waist shaping to compensate for my short waist and bigger than average hips and chest, which result in most garments making me look like a small tomato of varying color. Knowledge of one's figure peculiarities is POWER.

Blogless LizzyJaine (who needs to remedy that) said: Awesome!! I'm going to turn the wristlets into cuffs for a pair of socks. I now have a goal for Rhinebeck.

And I wanna SEE 'EM!! Find me! I'll be traveling in a varying pack of knitters plus Girl, with a bottle of 2-at-a-Time Sock pins in my red Lexie bag, possibly wearing a Ravelry t-shirt, and more than likely a cowgirl hat (not that I'm planning or anything).

OtherMelissa (also blogless. Let's get on this, shall we!?) said: Haha! You win!

Now, Grasshopper, we do not say that I won. Rather we say that Mr. Wonderful wanted, deep in his soul, for me to have the Bohus but knew better than I (who just do not have a head for these petty things) it was not budgetarily possible. When I received my little windfall, he was more than willing to acquiesce and really should be given a badge of honor for putting up with me in the first place. He married a full-time student, single mother, becoming a registered nurse who decided five years after graduation that she didn't like the nursing game, encouraged me to quit in spite of my saying I had no clue what I wanted to do next except it needed to involve wool, and continues to support me unfailingly while I play around with " I wanna be a designer/author/teacher cause it makes me feel good!" Not many other men would do that, and support two kids biologically not his own at the same time. So really, Mr. W. is and always shall remain totally and utterly my hero, right after Number One who spends much time shaking his head at the antics of his youngest progeny, I am certain. I know if I was my own father or husband I'd do nothing but shake my head, smile wryly, and shrug. Really, there's not much else to do with me.

Lastly, Soren (I do not know how to do that with the O, sorry) said: hi Melissa! Do you think that your book will be out in time for Christmas? My mother is already asking me what I want because she's going away in December! :)
The answer is YES, especially if you're in Western Massachusetts, your best chance for getting the book by Christmas is Webs, in person or ordering online or through the mail, hands down. There's a rumor that they are promising delivery by Christmas, and a free pattern AND a signed copy, but don't quote me on the delivery part. Amazon is lovely and cheap. But EVERY pre-order I have placed in the last two years has been delayed, from Brad Paisley's latest to Jamie Cullum's. Always, at least a week or two off from the anticipated ship date, books or music, makes no never-mind, always-always late. There will be a AWESOME, FUN, dare I say kick-a$$ launch party at Webs on December 16th. There will be raffles, prizes, food and holiday cheer for all! I will be signing books, and just generally having a great time, and you're all invited to come!! And may I say that those Anemoi mittens are lovely? And I love the Smile Bird. Very much a smile maker!!

So now that I have talked your heads off, and shown you basically not a heck of a lot - - that's it for me, as I await the arrival of my sauna (yippee!!) and consider what to have for lunch in a home where life revolves much more around what mamma's knitting or writing than what mamma's cookin' or buyin'!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Just a Taste

A little taste of things to come.

and I didn't even have to take the bikes hostage.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dear Mr. Wonderful

I love you. You know that I love you. I might even use words/phrases like "adore" and "suffer from extreme co-dependecy with" and possibly "cannot live without but would adjust if I had to". But somedays it is difficult to live with you when you don't understand the simplest things about my life, what I do, and who I am. When I say things like "I need a Bohus kit." the response "You already have yarn." is not appropriate. Wrong answer, honey. Yes. I have yarn. I have lots and lots and lots of yarn. I am lousy with it. I could provide enough socks out of stash to last both of us into the nursing home. I have enough sweater-projects in stash to keep us clothed into eternity. But I do not have yarn hand dyed by a Norwegian woman in her mudroom in a sausage cooker in the perfect shades of Bohus, made from rabbit and sheep, that knits at the right gauge for a correct Bohus. You are, in short, KILLING ME with your refusal to comprehend why I need to spend $200 on More Yarn. I will try to explain.
This is Bohus.

Well, actually it's not exactly Bohus, but that's another story. This is Bohus:

This is yarn I don't have. It's yarn unlike any yarn I own, except for the wristlet kit I got yesterday. This is yarn that only comes from Norway. It is only available from one place on earth - well, two if you include the museum. But still it's yarn that isn't available at Webs for store credit if I just whip out another design or two. It's not yarn I can get on sale. It's not something I can just spin up either, so don't even go there, because I can see a glimmer of hope forming. I could spin it, but I could never get the colors right. I can't make, beg, borrow or steal this yarn. It has to be bought with kroners at the current exchange rate from someone in Norway. And this is yarn I NEED. I know you don't totally get the "need" yarn thing. Let me find a way to make it relevent to you.
OK - you think you "need" this, right?
And let's not even mention the other one in the garage that you need more, and that cost more. So let's pretend, just for the hell of it, that those two things (one shown, one too shy for the camera) that you "need" are yarn. Let's say they're Bohus yarn. Those two things you need?? They equal about 20 Bohus kits. TWENTY. And that's at the price you paid for the damn things, not their actual value. If we're going by value then I think 40 kits would be more appropriate. Just so you see my point. So if you want to know where your bikes are, well, when the 40 Bohus sweater kits (or 80 mitten and scarf sets) you're buying me arrive from Norway, I'll give them back.
Enough of him. That man who's made me sad by not spoiling me at the level I would prefer to be accustomed. That man who thinks money does NOT grow on trees (who tells him these things???)
This weekend I was priviledged to sit in on two classes led by Susanna Hansson - The Mittens of Rovaniemi on Saturday and Bohus Stickning on Sunday. I was VERY happy to be able to convince Mary to attend Saturday class and am even more excited that she's hooked. I liked the mitten class, and I find the technique compelling. No sharing though - later this winter (Jan/Feb) you can buy a copy of Piecework magazine and find out all about it. Also in attendance were knit bloggers Tamara, Lisa, Carol, Sara, Laura and Teresa, and ravelers MsKhofhinn(Laura), LizzyJaine (Liz, former student who suffered for two days with itchy allergy eyes that would have sent a lesser woman packing) and Lizzieknits (Lani).
On Sunday Eliza-who-works-at-Webs arrived, carrying her two personal Bohus sweaters purchased for her by her mother in Norway in the 50's when she was a kid. And she actually wore them. "With everything..." she said, and into her 30's she recalls. They're unbelievably pristine considering the abuse they must have suffered at the hands of a teenager. I love Girl, but cannot imagine her being as careful with a garment as young Eliza apparently was. I have been fascinated by the Bohus tradition since I read Poems of Color. My obsession is multi-pronged. The artistry, the use of purl stitches to hide some colors while popping others, the amazing use of some pretty dramatic colors that you'd never expect to see, and really don't see unless you're eyeball to eyeball with the garment or the charts...and the story; the history. Women helping their families survive at a time when jobs for the men had dried up; knitting sweaters after the day's chores were done...I just love the appeal of that story. The dedication of Emma Jacobssen to a project she probably wasn't at first remotely interested in but felt duty bound to initiate, sacrificing her personal goals for the greater good. And these are not "just sweaters". This is high fashion, couture created in little farmhouses all over Norway. I highly, highly, highly recommend this class. I begged for it based on the theory that I'd never get far enough from home to take anything with Susanna. Now we need Lucy Neatby and Debbie New. And Cat Bordhi. And and and....and I'll let you know when the 40 sweater (or 80 scarf and hat) kits arrive from Norway. Um. But don't hold your breath. If you want to help my cause, you can vote in the coments section - Should Mr. Wonderful let Melissaknits get at least one Bohus kit, yes or no?

**After many requests, we have BLACK 2-at-a-time shirts in the Cafe Press shop! It's also available in red.**