Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eating RAW, and The Plastic Stole

For my birthday yesterday, Mr Fiberflash took me out to a seafood place for dinner. I had never had raw oysters before, but my sister had told me about it. So I ordered half-a-dozen to see what the big deal was:
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Why did I wait so long? Nestled in crushed ice, they looked inviting enough. I wasn't too sure how to eat it, but a dab of horseradish, a bit of cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon later and I was sipping from the rugged shell...the ocean itself. The essence of the most pure, the most exquisitely delicate, freshly sweet, lightly salted, succulent morsel I have ever placed in my mouth. I need to go back, and this time I'll order an entire dozen, and get a small main dish as a side. Wow. If you ever get the chance to eat oysters on the half shell, you simply must. There's no two ways about it.

My sock is coming along very slowly. The problem is, my hands really don't want to hold such small needles right now. When I've cast off the second sock, I need to take a break from socks for a little while. As much as I adore having one on the needles at all times, I need to give my hands a rest from them. I'm really loving how this first one is turning out though. Progress report tomorrow, hopefully...

Ah yes, and here is that lovely plastic stole I spoke of yesterday:

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I can hardly believe how huge it is, and as I said yesterday, it took me only about an hour to knit! Sparky is 2-1/2 years old and stands about 3 feet tall, and it's nearly touching the ground on both sides.

First I cut a stack of plastic bags horizontally, which created loops. Then I looped the loops together and wound it into a huge ball. After that I just cast on and knit.

Working with size #50 needles was insane. I had to knit English style, because it was pretty much impossible any other way. I'm sure it looked a little obscene though, with the one needle planted firmly in my lap...let's not dwell on that.

Surely I could have thought of something more creative than garter stitch, and actually I did log cabin it at one end, just to amuse myself, but I really didn't want to do this in the first place -- all I wanted to stitch was my sockapalooza sock! So I pretty much just got this out of the way, and then hung it over my table to attract people to my set (and attention it did draw, I assure you.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Party at my place

Ok, first off, Sockapalooza news:

This is how far I've gotten with the first sock. I really have been working on it quite a bit, but the trouble is my left hand...I have to keep stopping whenever it gets too sore, because I really don't want to have to stop knitting for a week again. That sucked.
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I really, really hope I get this done on time. I'd feel sooo bad if I didn't, and I wouldn't want to dissapoint my pal!

On Saturday, I was working a Knitting Demonstration table at the Major Craft Store.
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Yes, I'm knitting plastic bags on size #50 needles. Nope, I didn't come up with that idea myself.

At the table I felt a lot like an animal at the petting zoo (people openly discussing what I was doing right in front of me -- I could get all in to it, but don't have time tonight. Perhaps tomorrow?) I got paid for it though, and that's what counts. I'm a sell-out, yes?

Today is my birthday, and my husband took me out to this amazing seafood restaurant, while two of my friends (mommies themselves!) took care of Sparky and Max. My husband also got me a huge stock pot with steamer basket and strainer, which I'm super excited about. (I love kitchen things -- if you saw inside the cabenets, you'd nod patronizingly and talk about me later).

I would tell you about what I ate for dinner (some of the most amazing stuff I've ever put in my mouth), but don't have the time. Date night doesn't end at the restaurant! I'll give more dinner details tomorrow, as well as a full length shot of the Plastic Bag Stole -- it was huge, and only took an hour to knit.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Naming names

Mouse asked me an interesting question yesterday "have you named your wheel yet?" The funny thing is, I've been feeling like the wheel should have a name, but thought that people might find me a little kooky. I am now fearlessly putting this out to all of you: the wheel needs a name! It's elegant with clean lines and light, finished wood. Solid, smooth, beautiful and simple all at once. I was thinking of naming it after one of the Greek muses, but none of them seem to fit. Do you have a name for me?

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Has anyone seen Marnie's dragon backpack? She's trying to decide if she should put it up for sale. Check it out and if you like it, let her know! I'm dying to knit that for Sparky. He would totally love it.

I only have a few more rows on the leg of my first Sockapalooza sock. These WILL be done in time! I have an international pal, so these really should be done by the end of the week or so, but I'm afraid they won't be completed until sometime next week. I'm working at it though!
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Last night I taught another friend to knit! Emily lives across from me and we hang out all the time. Check out the look of determination on her face:
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The little girl is her daughter, who is hoping that the blue stuff on the needles is a sweater for her. =)
She's commented on my knitting ("I could never have the patience" and the usual stuff), and used to crochet...last night she finally had a moment and wanted to learn. I taught her and a few minutes later she had this!
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After she went home, she ended up knitting almost until midnight after putting her kids to bed. It's catchy, I tell ya.

I don't think that I ever blogged about it, but I also taught my very good friend MA to knit, just before she moved away. (She was the one I knit Broadripple for.) Now another friend wants to learn, so I'll probably teach her in the next few days. I love this! I feel like a missionary of twisted wool.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On why having a Stitch N Bitch group rocks

Thank you so much to those who commented on my blanket dilemma. Since I have no choice in the yarn (the store manager gives me yarn and says "create something to showcase this"), I just need to find something that somehow keeps it from looking all fugly. I didn't want to have to do this, but I think I'll be bringing out my hooks. It seems that this yarn wants to be crocheted, not knit. Maybe even a simple double crochet back and forth? I might die from boredom, but it'd probably look better. The thing is, I wanted to stay away from crochet with this yarn since it's a boucle, and I really like to be able to see every stitch so that I can count and keep track of where I am and such. This could end up quite wonky. I may not work on it any more though until after my Sockapalooza socks are done. They are taking first priorety right now!

My childhood friend, Sarcy, came for a visit last two weekends ago. Before she got here she'd left me a comment on this blog, saying jokingly, "I wonder if you'll teach me to knit while I'm there?". I knew this was spoken in jest, so I wasn't standing ready with needles and yarn in hand when I picked her up at the airport. (Well actually I was, but it was a project I was working on, not for teaching.) =) We had a wonderful visit, and I never asked about giving her a Knitting Lesson. Then I asked her if she'd like to go with my sister and I to the Stitch N Bitch group that happened to be going on one of the nights during her stay. She agreed, and then said "well, if I'm going to go to a knitting group, I might as well learn how to knit". Her words could not have been sweeter.

I grabbed some needles and some wool and cast on for her. After about a half-hour, she was producing fabric enviable of some people who've been knitting...well, at least for a few months. Now, I knew that Sarcy was smart and adaptable and skillful with her hands, but dare I say it? Do we have a born knitter on our hands here?

Here she is, at right, with my sister at our SnB:
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I wish that I'd taken a closer picture of the piece she was knitting. It was that good. I sent her home with plastic circulars and my Stitch N Bitch book so that she could knit in flight, and by the time she got home, she had learned to cast on and off! (I'm busting at the seams with pride, as though I am responsible for the sucess of her intelligence, and am starting to sound like a new momma, so I'll stop now.)

In the left bottom corner you may notice a knitted babe. That little beauty was knit by my sister Joy, who in that photo was knitting the tiny lacy undies.

Here's some more pics of our lovely little group:
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(Before you ask, yes, my eyes were closed in this picture, but it's the best one I had. In all the others, I looked genuinely demented.)
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On the left is the Laura I spoke of yesterday:
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I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to meet with other ladies who share my passion for yarn. We are all of different skill levels, from all different walks of life, and from different generations, yet we're able to talk late into the night, brought together by the fiber in our lives. I always hate to leave, and as soon as one has past I am looking forward to the next.

If you don't have one in your area, start one! If you need some suggestions to get it kicking, drop me a note and I'll help you out with some ideas that have worked for me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What it wants to be. Or, the fearless RIP.

I am knitting a sample baby blanked out of some Bernat Baby Boucle self-striping yarn. I tried to log cabin it (from Mason Dixon Knitting), but that just looked too messy to me:
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This morning I knit it into a mitered square. The usually supportive Mr. FlashBang says it still looks horrible. What do you think?
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I will knit 9 of these if I go ahead with it, so please give me your opinions.

Next Monday I will turn 26, so last night at Stitch N Bitch, my knitting friend Laura gave me this gorgeous teal/green silk, and the Pattern-A-Day set of Knitting projects. (Thank you Laura!!). Also, she brought a big box of vintage sewing patterns she'd scored at a thrift store or yard sale. I was able to pull a few that were quite cute. Some of these patterns are so old that they had 65 cts printed on them. (!!)
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Two Saturdays ago, I started swatching for my Sockapalooza sock. I had bought several sets of Brittany Birch DPN's, which I was very excited about. This was promising to be part of the answer to ending my hand pain. The needles felt wonderful. They weren't as sticky as bamboo, and agreed with the yarn. They were nearly impossible to get gauge on. They broke. It was too ugly a scene -- I dare not photograph it. I had decided to knit the socks from Men Knit 2 (I think they're called Maple Leaf Socks). This was my first attempt at a slipped stitch design, and it ended badly. Besides the tedium of knitting 7 stitches together every so often, it began to look disturbingly like puckered holes rather than leaves.
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Next in line was Child's French Sock from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks. As it turns out the only size 0 DPNs I had were ancient, "10 long, steel ones. They were so heavy and long that it was impossible to knit comfortably. Then I noticed two things: the pattern was lost in the multi colored yarn, and I had read the leg-design chart backwards. It didn't occur to me until after I compared it to the picture in the book that you read a chart right to left, since that's the direction you're knitting. Whoops.
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Finally, with the help of Laura (at our SnB group last night), I chose the Fancy Silk Sock pattern (Knitting Vintage Socks). I am pleased to announce that it works with this yarn! This is what the yarn wanted to be. I need to internalize this lesson, and remember not to force a pattern on a yarn.
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The sample sock in the book has a 1 inch lace pattern on top, but I liked it so much that I did two instead.
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Plus, this looks more like the original drawing, I think:
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Thursday, April 13, 2006


My new wheel came on Tuesday!
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It's a Lendrum Double Treadle Delux (along with the normal head it comes with the jumbo head, speed flyer, plying head and lazy kate to make it the most flexible wheel I've ever seen, for the price).

I spun a little on it last night for the first time, and I'm so enamored with it. Oh My Gosh. It spins so fast too, on the slowest setting! I was over twisting without treadling much at all. I do happen to be pretty slow at drafting, but I'm sure that I'll speed up soon enough and it'll all even out. All I can say is: WOW.

My hands finally felt well enough to (finally!) finish these:
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Yarn: Lion Brand Magic Stripes in Stonewashed Blue Pattern
Needles: aluminum DPN's size #2 (the aluminum was what nearly killed these hands -- I've switched to bamboo and birch, and I'll let you know how things go)
Cast-on to cast-off: I can't really remember, but all together actual knitting time was 14 hours. I finished them on Tuesday morning at 2am.
Notes: These were knit as a sample for the Major Chain Craft Store. If I knit these for myself, I'd make the entire leg in 2x2 rib so that they wouldn't fall down. Also, they softened up like crazy when I washed them. They actually went from kind of stiff to quite cozy. I could hardly believe it myself! I would also make them mismatched, because I would find that charming. I just figured that if I was actually SELLING these, they should match perfectly.

I wanted to write a little about my Stitch N Bitch group, because I haven't even mentioned them here yet, but I don't have time today. Look for a post about that and also my sockapalooza WIP in the coming days...

Monday, April 10, 2006

A skirt and some handspun

I finished the blue skirt (same pattern as the flowered one: Kwik Sew 3337), and my husband says it's "way better" than the other one. I think he didn't like the fact that the other looked a little like desert camo print. I like them both.
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The cut out pieces on the ironing board are going to be my sister Joy's skirt. It was a pain cutting out, since the fabric is slippery. Grrr. I hope it doesn't give me heck while I sew it all together.

Yesterday I wound up the skein of my handspun BFL (hand dyed by Amy Boogie of Boogie Knits). I had heard that you could use a medicine bottle or toilet paper tube to make a good center pull ball, so I used a little thing of hand cream, which worked well.
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I knit this swatch to see how the yarn would work up.
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Very pleasing to my eyes. I should be getting my new spinning wheel soon. Hopefully sooner than later!

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Yesterday was baking day. If I'd taken this picture a little earlier, you would have seen two whole loaves of whole wheat bread, and a full dozen muffins along with the two loaves of date nut bread and two containers of granola (papaya-coconut-almond and date-raisin-almond). Yummy! Took me all afternoon, but I was able to get so much done because my husband was home. I love to bake, but don't often get the chance to do quite so much at once.

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This is my work desk in a candid shot. I normally try to neaten up a little before blogging, but here it is in it's natural state. I am working on two more skirts (blue for me, the floral for my sister). Knitting is up on that little shelf. My hands are still hurting so I can only knit in little bits.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

So this is Paradise

The skirt is done. And I love it. I must make some more. The fabric sale is still going on, so I'm going shopping again tomorrow (you better believe it, baby!) I think I'm going to sew one up for my sister too, who's been staying with me for a few weeks. Sort of a "thank you for cleaning up after my babies and doing housework and cooking dinner for me" gift. Really, nothing could be a big enough thank you for all of that, but it's a stab in the right direction, yes?

Anyway, here's the skirt. More than likely I wouldn't be wearing it with this shirt...well, unless I found flip flops in the same loud green...and striped tights in olive green and apple green....I should stop while I'm ahead. I can see it in your eyes. Ahem. Here it is.
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It's done in pieces kind of in a princess seaming style (or maybe it is that, actually?), which is very flattering to my less than flat tummy (giving birth to two large babies takes a bit to recover from).

I've been looking into buying a Lendrum double treadle folding wheel, since it seems to be the most affordable wheel that I won't outgrow. (It's hard to spin laceweight on the Babe -- though not impossible -- so I feel that I am outgrowing that one.)

After Googling "Lendrum Double Treadle", I came across the family run company, Paradise Fibers. Besides the fact that they seem to be the only company with the wheels in stock (once a shipment comes in, these go fast! This company just got theirs in, so I struck it lucky), they are also some of the nicest people ever. I spoke with the guy who owns the store, and he sent me some fiber samples to look over and feel before I completed my order. Not only were they very generous samples, but they were generous with the variety of fiber they sent me.
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It's a virtual library of fiber. I don't have anywhere that I can go to feel up a sheep around here, so this is a key turning point in my fiber arts life. In case you've always wondered what the difference is between Domestic Romney and Corriedale Cross, here is what I know from fondling my little chunks of goodness (please remember that this is completely from an amateur sense of touch, and without having spun it. Also, no matter my opinion, there is surely a use for each and every fiber. There's no wrong one, just possibly a wrong one for a particular project. All of that being said, here they are.):

Blue Faced Leicester: Incredibly easy to draft, soft and bouncy when spun up, what is there not to love about the beloved BFL? $16 a pound.
Colonial in Purple/multi: Not quite as buttery as the Merino, but soft nonetheless. It drafts out easily, and the colorway is fantastic with every shade of purple imagined. $23.50 a pound.
Corriedale Cross: Not coarse at all. To my inexperienced touch, this feels just like the Colonial to me. $11.50 a pound.
Merino 64 ct: I often find wool itchy, but this gives me the barest prickles. It is soft and lovely. At $12 a pound, you can't really go wrong here.
Merino/Tussah Silk (70/30%) in McKenzie Blue: This has a goodly amount of silk carded through the wool. Soft hand, light and drapey. I love they way they've mixed turquoise, grass green, brown, burgundy and sky blue with the white of the silk. I would love to spin some of this up for hats for my boys. This is $38 a pound.
Merino/silk (80/20%) in turquoise: Slightly softer than the plain Merino, but with shining streaks of silk combed throughout. This goes for $80 a pound. Pricey, but very, very nice.
Merino in Cranberry/multi : I love the way this is all different shades of Cranberry, from bright to deep. The colors are very alive. For $27.50 a pound, I would buy this because I don't have a carder and can't replicate this at home.
Merino/Angora (80/20%): I need to be honest here. I thought that I hated Angora till just now. I would roll naked in this stuff. Let's not go any further. $56 a pound.
Romney, Domestic: Wirey and coarse, and long. I imagine this as a coat, perhaps handwoven. This would make an incredibly durable, warm, strong yarn.
Wensleydale: A long wool breed. This would be great as a cardi or something else that won't go directly against the skin (or my skin, at least). It's not scratchy, exactly, but certainly not butter, either. Ever so slightly wirey. It is probably long wearing. Perhaps a hat, with a lining of Merino/Angora? $20 a pound.

And now for the exotics:
Camel down: I thought that camels were coarse, like horses. As it turns out, there's a bouncy, fluffy down under all the guard hairs. This itches my neck only slightly, and looks like a cloud. It goes for $37.50 a pound, which means that I will buy some when I'm in a splurging mood.
Chinchilla Microblend (5% Chinchilla, 22% Silk, 73% 80 ct Merino): This feels just the way a Chinchilla looks -- fuzzy, squishy soft and wonderfully cuddly. There is no hint of a scratch here. The only reason this won't be filling my entire stash closet is the price tag -- $7.50 an ounce.
Yak: For some reason, I've always wanted a sweater knit of yak ("What, this? Oh, it's yak.") It's ever so slightly wirey though, which is kind of confusing, since it's soft at the same time. This goes for $90 a pound (which would certainly up the "wow" factor of the sweater, as well as ensure that it be spun up in a laceweight to stretch it as far as it could possibly go).

So there you go. A virtual library of fibers. All of the details and prices, of course, are for the ones I sampled from Paradise Fibers. I wasn't paid to advertise, but I figured I'd take the guess work out of this all for you -- if you decide you just have to have one or more of these fibers, you have all the info you need right here.

My wheel was shipped today, as well as some Corriedale Cross and Merino, and some Brittany birch DPNs to assist in my sock knitting from now on. (I hope I like them -- I ordered three sizes!)

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I started work again on that one cursed sock. My hands feel ok, although still a little achey, so I'm going to go slow, but I'm Knitting Again!

Monday, April 03, 2006

The hands that would rock the world

My hands. These hands, I use to touch my husband's face. To comfort and cradle my babies. To slide the yarn through my fingers and grip the needles as I knit. To guide my fabric through the sewing machine. To wield my crochet hook. To spin fiber into beautiful spools of yarn. These hands betray me. Inside, near the bones of my palms, I feel the ache. In my forearms, my wrists. If I could just sit and knit.

It's been one week and one day since I last picked up my needles. I am teaching a class on Friday. There is a pair of socks waiting to be finished that the store will pay me for, if only they were complete...I beg you, gentle reader, take care of your hands. They are your most valuable asset to you, the crafter. Stretch before and after knitting. Stop working when you begin to feel that twinge of pain. Take care, lest you need to stop altogether.

These are my hands.
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In blogland we may know each other's faces, knitted pieces, favorite yarn, but not often do we get to see each other's hands. I would love to see your hands. If you post a picture on your site, please let me know in the comments.

Of course I haven't been idle in my creative little world. Here's brain food that just came today via UPS:
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Then, I haven't sewn for a while, and I found myself at Hancock Fabrics on Saturday...well, they were having a sale. (If you live in the area and are interested, they also have %50 off of some scrapbooking supplies and a great sale on some odballs of yarn -- I saw a few skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease as well as a huge 8oz skein of plain Fisherman's Wool that's dying to be someone's first dye-job) (pun intended).
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I'm almost done with the first skirt -- a linen blend. The fabric for this only cost $4 ($2 a yard as opposed to the usual $15!!)
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So I've been busy. Just not knitting.


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