Friday, October 2, 2015

Knitting, a Teapot, and a Corkscrew

Dear Mom,

I am anticipating a weekend away with kindred spirits. The sort of weekend where packing essentials include my knitting,  a teapot and a corkscrew.

Before I leave I want to show you another small(ish) knitting project. This little shawl is Carradal, from Lucy Hague's Celtic Cable Shawls book.

This is the first shawl in the book. Every shawl in this book is intriguing and beautiful. They are arranged in the book in escalating difficulty and I hope to work my way through the book. I think this would be a worthy goal for the next year.

This was the first time I've worked closed loop cables. Lucy's instructions are very clear. I am eager to move on to the next shawl in the book.
I used Rowan's fingering weight Wool Cotton yarn. It may be my new favorite! 50% wool and 50% cotton, it is soft, soft, soft, and an ideal weight for almost-year-round sweaters and accessories. The cables blocked out nicely. I have enough of this yarn in both the blue and grey to make cardigans and have started on this one in the grey. It will be one of the projects I travel with this weekend.

I LOVE this time of year and am happily sitting here with my feet in hand knit wool socks and wrapped up in This is That Sweater. Life is Good.

We'll talk when I get back!


Monday, September 28, 2015

One Ball of Sock Yarn

Dear Mom,

I needed a gift for a baby boy and what better than Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket. I love the brilliance of this pattern.  Garter stitches and strategically placed increases result in something that looks like a misshapen dish rag until you do some knitterly origami- just a simple fold, really- and TAH DAAA! A sweater. One seam across the top of each shoulder and sleeve. Self striping sock yarn (I used Berroco Sox) did all the color work and I could concentrate on knitting and counting stitches.

 The normally camera shy Olive decided to check out the area during the photo shoot this morning.
 I guess the camera is only scary when it is pointing at her face.
I found matching buttons in my button jar.
 I was happy to have plenty of yarn leftover to make this cute, cute hat. The pattern for the hat is Charlie's Sock Yarn hat. I made the newborn size. And even after making the three little pompoms, I still had yarn left over.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Dear Mom,


We moved Young Man home for two weeks.

He went to California...

...and we spent 3 lovely days in St Joseph, MI, which despite claiming to be a dog friendly city, does NOT allow dogs on the beach.

Still, we had a very nice time.
I watched this lady lose herself in building a sand castle. I could tell this was therapeutic for her. Watching her build it was therapy. She gathered rocks and sea weed and shells and incorporated them into her structure. I asked her what she did for a living, figuring it was either engineering or artsy. She is a photographer.

We had the usual round of back-to-school physicals and immunizations.
The Young Lady had her Senior pictures taken.
Yes. I said Senior.

She had her last "first day of school" photo taken. And we had our last Meet the Teacher Night. (We were not sad.)

We moved the Young Man back to school, into an apartment, for his senior year. Yes. Again. I said senior.

I predict being swamped by graduations in the spring.

I wove a scarf.
And finished a sweater. This is Rene and the yarn is Malabrigo Rios.

 Olive took a sunbath on the patio. Her elbows are completely healed and we've rejoiced in long walks together. 

There were some raucous good times on our back porch. No photos were taken (to protect the innocent and guilty). Let's just say Sangria.

While I do not like setting the alarm, I am glad to be back into a routine. I've been getting the housework back on schedule, and after taking August off, my knitting classes have resumed.

And on to Autumn- my favorite season!


Monday, July 27, 2015

We should have worn gloves

Dear Mom,
After reading about ice dyeing as an alternative to traditional tie-dyeing tee shirts, I decided it was something that needed to be experimented with, only on wool. I immediately emailed MelissaWhoSpins and we marked our calendars for July 25. Along the way I invited my friend and watercolor teacher, Cindy, to join us.

The theory behind ice dyeing is to cover the to-be-dyed item with ice, sprinkle the dye powder on top, and as the ice melts it carries the dye into the item in a random tie-dye affect. I experimented on both commercially spun yarn and roving. Melissa brought a wool blanket and scarf, too.  We used Kool-Aid and Greener Shades dye powder, and some of the Greener Shades dye stock I had already mixed up and frozen in shot-glass sized plastic cups.

As our fiber soaked in a vinegar water solution, we spread out old sheets all over the side yard. We then plopped our wet fibers into piles and covered them with ice. I think at this point I asked Melissa if she wanted gloves. I believe she said something like "gloves are over-rated" and we plunged right in.

Once the fiber was covered, we then sprinkled the kool-aid and dye powder onto the ice. I used the frozen dye cups on the commercially spun yarn.

commercially spun yarn with dye-cubes
First thing we learned: Aldi's brand of Kool-Aid does not work as well as real Kool-Aid for dyeing.

Next thing we learned, which was very surprising: 66 lbs of ice is not enough ice. We made a quick run to Target for more ice. Total ice consumption= 100+ pounds!

We took a lunch break while the ice melted. When we went to check the progress of things, we started making adjustments. I think I poured some of the vinegar water pre-soak on to the non-dissolving Aldi's drink mix. Cindy had the brilliant idea of rubbing ice cubes across some of the dyed fibers to blend the dyes. BRILLIANT! At this point our hands and nails were pretty much black and blue. Bruised looking. As I write this, my nails look like those of an auto mechanic. 

Once the ice had melted we set the dye by steaming the fiber in crock pots. I did have to do quite a bit of rinsing, too, to remove the excess dye. A quick spin in the washing machine and then out to dry. 

As you can see, the sheets are evidence of some of the wonderful tie-dye results we would have had if we were dyeing shirts. And if you look closely at Cindy's hands, you can see how black her fingers are!

Here are the results of the day:

This is a 70% merino 30% mohair blend. I used Greener Shades powder on ice.  

100% alpaca with combination drink mix and dye cubes, I think.

Merino/mohair blend with dye powder on ice

Commercially spun yarn dyed and "painted" with frozen dye cubes.

Close up of the dye-cubed yarn

These next two photos are of the dyed roving and then after it was spun and ply-ed with some of the same, but un-dyed.
merino/mohair blend, dyed with drink mix

We had fun. And mixed results. I don't know that I will do this again- if I do, it will be with yarn, not roving. Through this process, the roving had to be handled a little more than I would have liked. I am very happy with the results of the frozen dye cube dyed yarn, but I think similar results could be achieved by painting the yarn with dye stock and skipping the melting ice part. Still, it was an adventure and worth trying. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Dear Mom,

As you know, I have the pleasure of teaching a knitting class on Friday mornings at the Village Yarn Shop in Zionsville. The classes have evolved from specific project classes to a general knitting workshop. I am blessed to have a group of "regulars" who I suspect take the class more for the camaraderie than for any knitting instruction I can give them. And with everyone at different levels of expertise, with different style tastes and body shapes, it just made more sense to let everyone pick the project of their choice, work at their own pace and get help as they needed it.  I do still choose a sweater project for the class as an option.

I've been blessed to watch new friendships blossom in class, to see confidence gained, knitting challenges accepted and conquered. We laugh with and support each other. I love the generosity of knitters!

Just recently I've been honored to witness the creation of an heirloom.

Over the last few months, Jody has been creating a wedding shawl for her daughter. The wedding is in August and Jody graciously brought the finished and blocked shawl in last week so we could admire it before she gave it to her daughter. Needless to say, I took pictures.

Even an experienced lace knitter would find this to be a challenging knitting project. Jody methodically set daily and weekly goals for herself and amazed me at how quickly she was able to knit this shawl. I am fairly certain that THIS book is the source for the pattern, and that this is the specific pattern.

Jody chose not to use the lace border as written. (And I don't blame her one bit! The pattern asks that you knit the border separately and sew it on!) She chose instead to pick up the entire border and work to the outer edge. I hate to think how many stitches she had on her needles on that last round! We agreed that this was the right thing to do. The shawl is perfect.
Jody used 2 balls of Juniper Moon's Findlay, in the color Fresco.  

I neglected to ask her what the finished measurements are. My photos do not begin to do justice to the shawl. And I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of Jody with the shawl.
This heirloom is, without doubt, one of the most unforgettable, beautiful hand knits I have ever seen. As I said, I am honored to have witnessed its creation!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Some people use chalk paint

Dear Mom,

I've tried, but I just don't get good results with Chalk Paint. I say this to explain/defend my latest Adventure in Decoupage.

When My Hero and I got married we inherited a lonely, rather ugly, brown wood end table from his parents. I am sure they were very happy to Hand It Down, and, it being the only end table we had, we were very grateful to receive it. It was put to good use for many years and before it's retirement to the attic, it had been painted with exterior paint decorated with flowers and put to use on the screened porch.
I hadn't realized until now, that furniture is a part of the Circle of Life. Our Young Man is moving into and apartment for his Senior yes. I said Senior. Year Sunrise, Sunset. Swiftly fly the years.  and we've excavated old lamps and That Table from the attic. And like his dad and I, he is happy to have any old end table.
The years in the attic were not kind to the unfortunate end table.
It came out with the veneer peeling off in some spots and one whole side needed to be reinforced with some extra strength wood glue.

We peeled off the loose veneer and sanded the exposed wood.

Since the Young Man is following in his dad's footsteps, majoring in Accounting and Finance, I thought it would be fun to decoupage the table with pages from accounting text books. When I suggested we go to Half Price Books to look, My Hero offered up some of his old college textbooks.  As we looked through his books we found some pages of notes he had taken and even some Mimeograph pages! What memories those mimeographed sheets brought back. I had to include those in the table.

Everything was sealed onto the table (providing additional structural support!) with several coats of Furniture Mod Podge. I used black chalkboard paint on the legs.

So, the odd little table has a new incarnation as a funky bedside table.

We'll get him moved in to the new digs in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see what other treasures his room mates will contribute to the decor!


Monday, July 6, 2015


Dear Mom,
When I've not been weeding, or mowing, I've managed to finish a few projects. This first sweater has been on my needles for months and got interrupted several times while I knit things for classes. I finally finished and I am not sure I'll ever wear it.
This is Manu. I love the pleated yoke and the deep, gathered pockets. I am just not sure that the wide scooped neckline is flattering. And the depth to the underarm is a bit shallow on me. Of course, I am saying all this based on a pre-blocked fitting. Post blocking could be an entirely different story. I am just afraid to try it on again and have my hopes dashed.  (The yarn I used is Classic Elite's Wool Bam Boo- one of my favorites. The only modification I made was to shorten the sleeves.)
For the last few months I'd feared I lost my desire to knit. I was a little bit scared for myself. But in the last couple of weeks I've cast on not one, not two, but THREE new projects. One of them was an impulse purchase that is very different from anything I typically knit (or wear)  and the pattern is so mind numbingly boring that I want to hurry up and finish it before the impulse that got me started wears off!

On a more successful front, I wove two rag rugs. I'd been saving my own and begging fabric scraps from you and any quilters I know. I cut the legs of some jeans that were destined for the Goodwill or garbage into strips. I joined the fabric strips together without sewing them as shown in this video. I spent an evening joining my strips together, and coughing and sneezing fiber. As it turns out, my fear of not having enough fabric to complete a rug were unfounded. I had enough fabric to weave 2 rugs, and probably a third. What I am getting low on is rug warp!

These were quick, satisfying projects. I like the thick/thin variations in the fabrics and the knotted joins in these rugs and the truly random-ness of the fabric strips. It is the pattern of the warp that unites the combination in the rug. I painted a non-skid rug backing to one side of them so we can use them without sliding across the floor.

It is Tour de France Fleece time. I've not joined any "teams" or set any lofty goals. I'll just make a point of spinning everyday, even if it is only for a few minutes. Slow and steady wins the race, right?