Monthly Archives: December 2009

Ring the Bell

Looking back on the year, I got a lot more fiber work done than I thought I did. Not as much spinning as I would have hoped, but I started (and finished) 18 projects. Much of my spinning has gone undocumented, but I know I finished at least 8 projects there as well. Hmm! Not bad, if I do say so myself. And so, inspired the other retrospective posts I’ve seen recently on the Interwebz, here I present to you my favorite projects from 2009.  

 As I said on Tuesday, this year has been hard in a lot of ways, with brief pockets of awesome. Those came mainly in the form of fiber fabulousness and the kindness of friends and family. I’m ever in awe of the power you guys have over my life, you bring me joy, food for thought, and more support than I ever thought I’d have from people right ‘round the corner and far flung places I’ve never been. You give me all that and more, and to thank you, I’d like to give you something back.

 

 

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Now that it’s been properly test knitted by at least two other people, and the kinks worked out, I’d like to offer my friends and readers first crack at the Fascine sock pattern I wrote earlier this Autumn. The pattern will be exclusive for blog readers through Three Kings Day (January 6th, in honor of the only Christmas my father knew until he moved to the States). After that time I’ll open it up as a free download to any and all who like the turn of its ankle. Go to the pattern page here, and use the link to get your advance download! And of course, the perfectionist in me wants you to please let me know if you find any errors.

I can’t thank my test knitters enough! Amy and Jenna really came through for me during the holiday rush, which was truly above and beyond. I know there are others out there who are still working on, or will be starting the sock soon, and don’t worry, that’s absolutely fine by me. The holidays are tough, and just knowing that there are great people out there who are ready and willing to lend me the use of their hands and their valuable time is precious to me.

 

Happy New Year!

Thanks to all of you, truly, for helping to make 2009 lighter on my shoulders and brighter in my heart. May you and yours know peace and blessed be.

Miles & Miles

Knitting has taken a back seat recently, being relegated mostly to very small, worsted weight projects like house socks. When the holidays come ‘round, I like to take it easy and not be involved in anything that requires thought. And considering how much colder the house is than our apartment, house socks sound like a plan to me.

House sock in Patons Decor. Wears like iron, but still has a touch of wool and never pools.

About that cold thing, did I mention that we moved from an 80F apartment building (no control over the heat) to a house with a faulty thermostat and killer drafts? I was so cold my fingernails were blue and I couldn’t knit, no matter how much I bundled up. Thanks be to the husbeast for weather stripping the drafts and installing a digital thermostat. Now at least it’s 68F, which is bearable. I can knit and spin again!

Heart of glowing coals.

I know I’m probably boring the pants off all my Facebook friends with my “spinning by the fire” updates, but can I just say how freakin’ awesome it is one more time? It’s not that it gives off all that much heat, but it does give off some, and I love looking over at it from time to time. I love the smell of it, I love the sound of it. And look how helpful it is:

Yarn fresh from the bath, drying in front of the fire.

There you see my first finished spinning project since the move. I started spinning the singles after we moved in, and finished plying it Christmas night. It’s the fuchsia Romney/Bamboo blend I bought from Triple R Farm at Rhinebeck. It’ll get its own FO post as soon as possible, so I don’t want to talk too much about it right now. Suffice to say, it’s a LOT of yarn and I’ve got a plan for it already. I’m thinking it’s roughly sport/DK weight? Not sure, so I’ll have to check it against my yarn gauge. I can’t quite tell you the yardage yet, but I know there’s over 400 yards there. I tightened the diameter of my 2 yard skein winder down a bit, since the resulting skeins are too big for my swift (what a headache!). I won’t have tangled messes anymore, but it does mean I have to re-measure so I know the new diameter.

Ginormous BFL cake in the Saturn colorway from Seekay Craft.

Also finished is Carolyn’s bobbin of DOOM. The only problem with spinning super fine? It takes for-EVAH to spin up a 4oz bobbin. There was actually just a smidge more than 4oz in the braid, and the resulting cake is HUGE! Why is it wound off into a cake? I just can’t make myself spin the other 4oz right now and I’m going to ply it against itself for a 2 ply lace weight. I really should have left it on the bobbin, but considering how long it’s going to be before I’m in the mood to spin up the rest, I’d be facing a particular sort of dilemma. See, once I finished the second one, I’d immediately start to ply the very old (and relaxed) bobbin against the very new (and excited) bobbin. I’ve done that before, and I didn’t enjoy the resulting yarn. This way, while the two batches might be slightly different, I don’t have to deal with an 8oz mass of psychotic yarn. It makes perfect sense to me, honestly. I’ll start plying this cake tomorrow night, wish me luck. Anyone who’s done this before knows it can be tricky to keep things going smoothly and free of tangles at this fine a weight.

Cormo/Kid Mohair from Buckwheat Bridge Angoras, ready to be plyed.

I’ve been in quite the finishing mood with my spinning lately, and that means that after I finished the above two projects (or stages therein), I grabbed an old bobbin of yarn to have at. This one was part of my carding experiment, where I took some garish roving and blended it to a more pleasing heathered shade. After being wound off into a cake on Monday morning, I spent the afternoon plying to a No Reservations marathon. It’ll get its own FO post soon too. I’m not sure what this one will become, shockingly enough… perhaps a gift?

All I know for sure is that all this marathon spinning has created a ball of pain behind my right shoulder blade and I’ll have to slow down soon. Perhaps not as much as only once a week at knit night, as has been the case for some time, but not for hours on end. All things in moderation, right?

Sole Food Swap Q&A

What weight of sock yarn do you generally prefer (fingering, sport, or DK?)
I prefer fingering or sport weight, but I’m not really picky.

What is your favorite type of yarn to knit with?
I love Knit Picks sock yarns, especially Gloss, Stroll, and Felici. Trekking XXL, the marled colorways, are also big hits in my book. I also lust after Great Adirondack’s Soxie, JojoLand Melody, and Cherry Tree Hill’s Supersock.

Are there any brands of sock yarn that you have wanted to work with but have not had the chance?
I’ve been wanting to try Wollmeisse and Dream in Color Starry or Smooshy, but I don’t expect anyone to spend that kind of money on a swap.

What colors do you like?
I like blues, middling greens like sage and moss, spice colors, and I LOVE cranberry, teals, and black.

What colors do you not like?
I don’t like neon brights, orangey reds, and I’m not particularly a fan of Crayola bright primaries. When it comes to sock yarn, I’m leaning away from printed patterning sock yarn for now, and more towards harmonious variegateds or semi-solids. Striping is ok.

What type of recipes do you usually cook with?
I rarely use recipes, but when I do need one I usually search online. But I think the question means to ask what kinds of cuisine or cooking styles do I trend towards… if so, the answer is comfort food. Meat-centric dishes, stews, chilis, and the like. I tend to make up my own recipes and then perfect them to my taste.

What type of recipes do you usually bake with?
Except for my favorite cookies, I don’t  really bake from scratch, I’m more of a cook vs. a baker.

What is your favorite food?
Meat (beef, chicken, pork, and all sorts of fish!), potatoes, cheese, bread, and chocolate. Preferably all in one meal with chocolate rounding up the dessert offering!

Are you a tea or coffee drinker?
Neither, I think both are big fat LIARS! They smell so good and taste so bad. Boo on them.

What type of sweets do you like?
I am a gourmet dark chocolate snob. Not to say that I won’t eat a really good bar from the grocery store, I love that we live in a wonderful day and age when you can get Green & Blacks, Lindt, and other good quality brands in almost any store. I do not eat milk/white chocolate or mocha, and I love chocolate with mint, citrus, berry, or nuts in it.

Does your kitchen have a theme?
Nope, but I know I don’t like the whole chicken or other barn yarn animal theme. My preference runs toward dark metal and botanical/leafy motifs in the kitchen.

Do you have any allergies (to food, fibers, pets, etc) or diet restrictions?
Nope! Well, nothing aside from my deep revulsion to eggs cooked whole. I doubt someone would send me a boiled egg in the mail though.

Is there anything else you want your pal to know?
We just bought our first home a few weeks ago, and I’m also a spinner and crocheter.

Ten on Tuesday: Looking Forward

Today’s Ten on Tuesday is a followup to my personal revamp of last week’s Ten on Tuesday. I’m going to go with Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to in the New Year”:

  • Setting up my studio in the basement and starting to dye again.
  • Being featured (for the second time!) on Yarn4Socks.com in May.
  • Planning and planting my vegetable, herb, and bulb gardens.
  • Getting a sleeper sofa for the spare bedroom and having actual overnight GUESTS in the new house.
  • Learning more about my new camera and becoming a better photographer.
  • Vending at Clermont and at least one large show.
  • Learning or trying something new, hopefully several somethings new.
  • Seeing friends from out of town, we plan on sending out several invitations to faraway friends.
  • Making the house more my home.
  • Being part of my parent’s 35th wedding anniversary/wedding vow renewal ceremony.

2009 has been a rough year in a lot of ways. Looking forward to the positive things I can do is a great way to cap off a year that was overshadowed by the anger and frustration of trying to buy the house. The new year isn’t an automatic reset to life, nothing changes with the turn of the page unless you work to make it so, and even then it’s a crapshoot sometimes. While I know very well that I’m not going to suddenly discover my inner thin woman or high paid corporate climber, I know that the power of a turning wheel is very real. Spring will come, and with it opportunities for growth of every kind, should I be willing to put in the effort. Rather than making wild proclamations, let’s just settle for a secret smile and a solid “we’ll see, now won’t we?”

Coming Up for Air

*inhales deeply* It’s been far too long! Sometimes the holidays take it right out of me, and that’s especially true when you’re running to multiple family gatherings as we all try to find time and celebrate together if at all possible. I often wish that we could just gather up his family and my family into one big single-shot celebration, but I know that wouldn’t work. Nevertheless, we had a very good Christmas.

Christmas morning, pre-parental arrival.

Having my family over for our first holiday in the new house was absolutely fabulous! We cooked a traditional Puerto Rican meal of pernil (spiced roast pork shoulder), arroz con habichuelas (yellow rice with pigeon peas cooked in), platanos (roasted starchy green bananas), and more. My brother in law and his new fiancé stopped by to visit (congrats!) and my brother and my sister in law arrived in plenty of time for dinner. It means so much to my parents when we are able to all eat together as a family, especially now that my brother lives in Georgia, and I was happy to have their joy in our new home. I love sharing the fruits of our kitchens, sharing our smiles and laughter… all the things that make healthy families a joy to be with.

Christmas morning, post-parental arrival.

Presents were light, but fun and thoughtful. I gave Steve a gold embossed, leather bound compilation of every single Sherlock Holmes novel and story ever written, a Usagi Yojimbo graphic novel, and a replacement copy of one of his favorite Madonna CDs. Steve gave me the movie that spawned my teen-hood love Forever Night, the very campy Nick Knight starring Rick Springfield(!), Tori’s new holiday Album, Midwinter Graces, and Tito & Tarantula’s Chicano rock album, Tarantism. Last but not least, I finally own in DVD my favorite movie of all time, The Crow. I have no idea why it took so long, but yay! Some people might not understand it, but I will love that movie ‘til the day I die. I saw it for my 16th birthday and fell in absolute love. I’m one of those diehards who can quote the entire movie… “People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens, that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow could bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.” Oh yeah. I’m a happy camper.

Nuala says: "!Feliz Navidad!"

There was no fibery goodness this year, but that’s ok because between the swaps I participated in and Yule & Yarn, the Wool Fairy was good to me. When you have a stash the size of mine, there really isn’t any need to receive fiber at EVERY gift giving event, even if that does sound terribly nice!

My brother, Luis, shows my dad how to upload photos to Facebook.

Steve’s family was very thoughtful, they gave us money, which is of course very much in need right now. We’re so grateful for their generous gifts. We had no heat on Christmas Eve, and it’s unforeseen expenses like that that eat up savings like mad. We were told, however, that we are not to spend it all on the house and to do something nice for ourselves. That will take the form of a date night wherein we go to dinner and then see Sherlock Holmes. Yes, I know, it’s an action movie. I’m all right with that. We will probably try and do that this weekend.

Mama loves sitting under the tree, just sitting, no chaos. She's happy all the packages are gone.

It was a hectic weekend, but I can’t complain, not since I had the foresight to take Monday off. Though each day was busy, I spent quite a bit of each spinning. Pictured is just a small fraction of the spinning I got done, which will have its/their own post(s) later this week.

Just a fraction of what I got done!

It’s been good to sit in front of the fire with the wheel, feeling the wool slip through my fingers and laughing with family both close and far flung. The wheel was with me as we celebrated Christmas in its several incarnations, a softly whirring witness to Midwinter’s graces.  I hope that you and yours had the kind of holiday you hoped for, and that peace and comfort found you at least once during the blur that is Christmas.

Ten on Tuesday: Looking Back

Today’s Ten on Tuesday is something along the lines of 10 Resolutions for the New Year. I don’t believe in resolutions. I think they are often instruments of self-flagellation, and instead I keep a sustained focus on a few long-term life goals that I’ve been working on steadily for years. Seeing as how most people can’t even keep one resolution, never mind TEN… I’m going to reframe this one. How about “Ten Things I’ll Remember 2009 For?”

  • Taking risks. We did a lot of things this year we’d never done before, and really challenged ourselves.
  • Most time ever spent pissed or disheartened that wasn’t directly related to my clinical depression. I’m looking at you realtor/seller/bankers.
  • The generosity of family and friends in helping us make the house a reality. We can’t say thank you enough.
  • Taking the design publishing leap and liking it.
  • Being proud of my husband. Steve really stepped out of his comfort zone and up to the plate on so many things.
  • Redefining my boundaries and expectations for friendships, and experiencing the relief and happiness of healthy give and take.
  • Owning my love of viciously sexy dance tracks.
  • Re-launching my vision of what I want to do with yarn and coming up with a name I can love.
  • Knitting the most amazing thing I’ve ever attempted, and winning a coveted ribbon for it.
  • Buying the house. ‘Nuff said.

A Happy Solstice to you all! (Taken during my department's holiday retreat at a local mansion.)

 

 

 

Christmas Meme

A gift from an inlaw that I absolutely adore!

A gift from an inlaw that I absolutely adore!

Have you started your Christmas shopping? We have a budget for Christmas, and normally I start shopping on Black Friday. Our entire budget for all recipients – including each other - is less than most people I know spend on gifts to one or two of their kids, but we make do. However, because we bought the house just a couple of weeks ago, we aren’t really doing presents this year. We’ve put out the word to family and friends who we might normally exchange with that it’s a church mouse Christmas this year. Steve and I are exchanging a couple small gifts each and that’s all. The house is our big present to each other.

Tell me about your special traditions. We don’t have any aside from spending the day with my family. Maybe I’ll start something easy and pleasant this year. Does being the person who hands out the presents count as a tradition? It’s a role I really enjoy.

Are you a Black Friday shopper? Sort of… I go to JoAnn’s, Barnes & Noble, and then have my once yearly stuffed French Toast at IHOP. No muss, no fuss, and I come home with some great gifts, things to make gifts, and the rest gets bought online.

When do you put up your tree? Now that we have an artificial tree we put it up the first week of December.

Do you travel at Christmas or stay at home? We drive the few miles to my parent’s house on Christmas Day, though this year they (and my brother and his wife) are coming to our new house! Over the weekend we tend to visit Steve’s family in the neighboring area.

What is your funniest Christmas memory? Funny? Umm… the year Dad got one of those flashlights on a headband and wore it all day long? We laugh and have a good time, but I don’t remember specific funny moments.

What is your favorite Christmas movie of all time? I don’t really have a hankering for Christmas movies, but I like A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story.

Do you do your own Christmas baking? What is your favorite treat? Yes, I at least bake my Rock Star Oatmeal Cookies for Dad, he looks forward to them every year now. I guess that’s a tradition! My favorite holiday treat is my mom’s cheesecake.

Holiday spinning: Romney bamboo blend from Triple R Farm.

Holiday spinning: Romney bamboo blend from Triple R Farm.

Fake or real tree? As much as I love real, it’s a hassle and wasteful… not to mention expensive! We have 7.5 ft pre-lit for now.

What day does the actual panic set in to get it all done? I don’t really panic. We never spend more than we have, and I don’t set unrealistic expectations (nor do our families have elaborate traditions).

Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve? Never, I love wrapping and it’s normally done at least several days beforehand so there are pretty packages under the tree.

What is your favorite family fun moment at Christmas? Definitely opening the presents. I love to see their faces when they open my gifts to them.

What Christmas craft do you like the best? I don’t do “Christmas” crafts, I’m crafty all year long.

Christmas music – yes or no? Absolutely! Despite being Pagan and all, I love the high Church music like Ave Maria, along with some of the more contemporary offerings. iTunes just gave away a great holiday sampler and I found a couple new modern songs to love.

What is your favorite song? My favorite Christmas songs are: Happy Christmas, War is Over by John Lennon (contemporary), Coventry Carol (Lully, Lullay) (16th century high church), and Silent Night (traditional). Coventry Carol is part of an impressive suite of lesser known Christmas music called Dancing Day, collected by a composer in 1974. Check it out!

clear-spacer

Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child, Bye bye lully, lullay. Thou little tiny child, Bye bye lully, lullay.O sisters too, how may we do, For to preserve this day. This poor youngling for whom we do sing Bye bye lully, lullay.

Herod the king, in his raging, Chargèd he hath this day His men of might, in his own sight, All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child for thee! And ever mourn and day, For thy parting neither say nor sing, Bye bye lully, lullay.Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child, Bye bye lully lullay. Thou little tiny child, Bye bye lully lullay.

Recession Special Swap: Final Package

Huzzah! The postal service finally came through for me and my swap partner! She was getting nervous, perhaps thinking that her box hadn’t arrived safely, or I’d forgotten to blog about my reveal package. As it seems to never fail, the minute you give up hope and ask, shazam! The post office delivered my package to work today. I swear, it looks like they drop kicked it all the way from Canada. I’m so glad she didn’t send anything fragile, it would have been in pieces.

Poor abused package.

Poor abused package.

The fabulousness of this package is epic. Seriously, I do not exaggerate. Inside I found all manner of goodness, starting with the most luscious fiber I have ever touched. My spoiler, Joyce, who is not a spinner by the way, sent me what looks like a 4oz bag of 70/30 Merino/Seasilk blend natural colored top. Oh. My. GODS. Let me pause for a minute while I wipe the drool off my face. I’ve never spun or knit anything with Seasilk in it before, but I’ve always wanted to try! Thank you!

Merino Seasilk top, ready to dye.

Merino Seasilk top, ready to dye.

Next up we have some pretty fingerless mitts made out of my friend Amy’s favorite Noro yarn, Cash Iroha. They are soft, and moody, and will stay at my work desk where I’m usually cold. I’m so glad they fit my plus size arms and hands, otherwise I’d have stared at them forlornly, wanting to bask in their dreamy soft warmness.

Chocolate and hand warmers.

My spoiler also sent me a giant block of dark chocolate, cranberry nut bark, one of my absolute FAVORITE kinds of dark chocolate treats. Hot damn! I’ll have to share it with Steve, he and I have nearly identical tastes in chocolate candies and this is a big overlap for us. Lastly, she sent me a unique note/mousepad combo. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I’m totally intrigued.

Memo Mouse Pad

Memo Mouse Pad

Thank you, Joyce, for your awesome package. The gifts were thoughtful, totally me, and I’m in awe of that most fantastic fiber. It’s like Christmas come early. You are covered in win!

Yule & Yarn 2009

Becky working on her Christmas knitting.

Becky working on her Christmas knitting.

Every year I look forward to gathering my fiber friends and their spouses in one spot for a day of pot luck goodness, Secret Santa fun, and general good times. With only being moved into the house a week ago, you’d think having Yule & Yarn on Sunday would be madness, and you’d be mostly right. But, as I said before, we thought we’d be in the house two weeks longer than it turned out. I would have liked to be more prepared by Sunday, but I had to work on Saturday… needless to say it was frantic. Still, with the help of my fantastic husband and my mom, we made it happen.

Maeghan falls in love with Nuala all over again.

Maeghan falls in love with Nuala all over again.

It started to snow an hour before the party, but only three people had to cancel, thankfully! Everyone with a truck or SUV parked on the snowy lawn, and the little cars stuck to the driveway. Couple after couple came in from the cold and snow to a house full of laughter, and a pretty little blaze in the fireplace. The house smelled lovely; I baked a spiral sliced ham, mom made garlic and bacon mashed potatoes, and everyone brought a dish to share. We had everything from homemade apple crisp to mac and cheese, Italian Christmas cookies to carafes of hot chocolate with peppermint stick stirrers. What a feast!

Becky and Jodi.

Becky and Jodi.

RR, Jess, & Harriet.

Becky, RR, Jess, & Harriet.

The best part was the laughter, seeing everyone gathered in our home, for our first party, was wonderful. Due to space constraints, most people didn’t bring their wheels, but I was happy to see a few there. We knit, crocheted, spun, teased each other mercilessly, and I was completely lifted out of my exhaustion-fueled funk.

Maeghan, Wendy, & Jody.

Maeghan, Wendy, & Jody.

Jodi: "Who thinks they know me so well?!"

Jodi: "Who thinks they know me so well?!"

As always the Secret Santa portion is a lot of fun. When you hear shouts of “who thinks they know me this well?” with the answer of “dude, she really DOES know you that well!” followed by dreamy sighs of “oooh Noro”, and “ohhh, BFL”… you know you’re amongst your people. I was the happy recipient of a skein of Noro Kureyon Sock in a new to me colorway, and those who helped move my stash know I have quite the collection of their sock yarn. Tim was my Secret Santa, and oh how he nailed it.

Tim (background) scored a hit with my gift of Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn!

Tim (background) scored a hit with my gift of Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn!

I was Harriet's Secret Santa, she got coordinating bamboo & wool sock yarn and a knitting/spinning mystery to read by her fireplace.

I was Harriet's Secret Santa, she got coordinating bamboo & wool sock yarn and a knitting/spinning mystery to read by her fireplace.

While the party started at two, the last couple didn’t wander out ‘til 9. We were exhausted, but happy that the day had gone so well. Thank you to mom and dad for helping us set up, and my wonderful husband for all his unending help. Last but not least, thank you to my fabulous friends and their spouses, your smiling faces made our new house a home!

Becky & Maeghan, in the soft glow of the Yule tree.

Becky & Maeghan, in the soft glow of the Yule tree.

Steve and I think we’ll go pass out now.

Eye Candy Friday: High Maintenance

So beautiful, sew annoying.

So beautiful, sew annoying.

Turns out that the fabric I picked for my new curtains, while pretty, is also a stretch fabric. How I missed that before I started making curtains for Sunday’s Yule & Yarn party is beyond me. Well, at least I only paid $1 a yard a few years ago from the clearance fabric table at WalMart. These will be hung so the window isn’t bare, but not much effort is being put into fighting the stretch to get it “right”. It had so much potential too!

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