Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post Christmas Catch Up

Has it really been nearly two weeks since my last visit? What a terrible month! A nasty cold that led to a sinus infection knocked me out about a week before Christmas and I'm just becoming a human again. Other stresses contributed to the lousy ennui, and for the first time ever, my knitting and spinning mojo took a serious hit.

I am soo glad to see 2009 head out the door. For so many reasons. 2010 is going to see lots of change. For the better. I have a few big blog posts queued up in my head, about Procrastination, Planning, Changes, and the like. Over time they will tumble out and into the Internets.

Christmas was quiet here. We so desperately needed some quiet time; a chance to rest and refuel. I tackled my cold once and for all and PhotoMan got some much needed rest after a grueling six weeks preparing for a show mounted at Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca. If you are in that neighborhood, stop in for a coffee and see the show - two floors of images mostly taken back in the 1980's and 1990's along the West Side Highway.

My big news is a new camera, which I guess I needed worse than I thought. I've just uploaded a bunch of pics to Flickr and am pleased with some of the results. One of the changes I want to bring about is better photography so this camera comes as a blessing. I might find my old photo mojo after all. It was something I did with serious intent about 15 years ago, but it lapsed. I hate to make statements here and then not follow through, so I hesitate in mentioning anything about rekindling long lost let's see what happens.

Lacy Baktus Modeled2

The one thing I managed to finish was a simple Lacy Baktus using some handspun yarn I'd made up back in the Spring, wasn't it? When I'd finished that yarn I was tremendously proud of it, as it represented a sort of milestone at the time, seeming to be more evenly spun. Truth is, it was pretty inconsistent, but the plying was pretty decent. Fortunately this pattern hides a multitude of sins and omissions.

Baktus Progression

It turned out nicely so I won't go into the gory details on how I still cannot count to eight, thus making this into a mutant mess on my first attempt and having to start over after I reached the 3/4 mark. Or how I carefully weighed the yarn at the outset and carefully weighed it as I knit along, in theory so I could make the 1/2 way point on the project match the 1/2 way point on the project yet I still ended up with almost 20 grams left over. No, I won't delve into that, because it's boring and what's the point?

Lacy Baktus4

At the end of the day, I have a lovely neckwarmer and it's seriously cozy and soft. And now I have the added benefit of leftover yarn for another small project.

Lacy Baktus15

Lacy Baktus13

I think I am going to enjoy this camera very much.

Before I sign off, I want to thank you all, dear readers. I love when you come and visit; I love when you leave comments and words of encouragement. You guys make this journey so much fun!

Here's to a Healthy and Happy New Year for us all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crafty YO

Great news! The laptop is back up and it only cost the out of warranty service fee to get HP Support Tech in India tell me what's wrong. Now I have one more trick in my toolbag in case it happens again.

Lots of knitting, planning and studying going on around here. Not much photography to show, I hope to remedy that over the weekend. In the meantime, I thought you all would enjoy this, thanks to Colleen for turning me on to it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Terrible timing, my computer is in GLITCH mode again. Not the battery, as originally presumed. Troubleshooting with Tech Support commences tonight. Crossing fingers this isn't costly. Be back soon!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Break Away

Yesterday, despite the crap weather, Cathy and Dawn and I headed up to Garnerville to Steph's monthly Spin In. It was my first visit. Wow, Steph has one seriously awesome set up! She's tucked away in a wonderful collection of buildings that once housed a textile mill. Her space, nearly 3,000 sq ft of workshop is amazing! Workbenches, storage space, and a huge carding machine she bought from Belfast Mills. And best of all, mountains and mountains of colorful fibers!! Color and variety galore.

Carding machine

One lady decided she wanted a custom batt and set the various fibers on the conveyor belt. It's fun seeing the fibers run through this machine and come out the other end as clouds of fluff! Too bad my camera battery died before I could capture more! Oh well, a good excuse to go back again, to capture more of the magic that happens in this place. I'll bring some of my roving and we will play with Steph's fibers to create a custom cloud of my very own.

Loading up the carding machine

Dawn was wearing her newest accomplishment, and what an accomplishment it was!

Dawn's Aeolian Shawl

She led a KAL through Spin City over the summer to spin up yarn and make an Aeolian Shawl. All of the projects have been mind boggling in their beauty and execution. Like so many others who participated in this KAL (I sat this one out...), she went from fleece to shawl - preparing the fiber, spinning it to yarn, dyeing it and then knitting it with beads. I stand in awe.

Dawn's Aeolian Shawl

Yesterday was fun all around. I did some of my own spinning, got some good advice on how to spin up my Coopworth roving, and got away from home to clear my head of the recent sh*t storm that arrived at my door in the last week or so.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Red Scarf Project

We interrupt our regularly scheduled knitting to whip up a charity knit project for the Orphan Foundation of America. The Red Scarf Project aims to provide scarves to foster kids as they prepare to go off to college.


Last week an urgent plea went out to all knitters across the great Internets. The project goals for 2009 were woefully short and knitters were asked to step up fast! The December 15 deadline loomed with over 1500 more scarves to knit.


I marched upstairs, raided my stash for some red (more maroon but it counts) yarn, and in less than 24 hours later this scarf came off the needles and got blocked. The pattern is a simple Mistake Rib, using 1.5 skeins of Cascade 220. (rav deets)

(please to ignore offensive NYC graffiti...sigh!)

C'mon, knitters - you can do it, too! Check the links for the specs and whip out a quick scarf. It will make you feel good. You know you can do it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vermeer Light

Some yarns either in progress or finally complete. Evidence of projects long in the thought process.

Knithound Dyed SW BFL 2 ply lace Samba

The 2 ply lace yarn started as Superwash BFL, dyed by me back around Easter using Kool Aid. Then I spun it super thin on a Bosworth Mini spindle - the one I bought at Mass Sheep and Wool in May. It took forever and I finally just got tired of the whole thing so I still have almost 12 grams left from the original 2 oz. The smaller skein was my attempt at plying on a larger spindle but I realized I didn't have the patience so I switched over to my wheel and produced the larger skein. All in all, there's about 344 yards of super thin 2 ply lace yarn here, and I have no earthly idea what I will do with it. This was more an experiment to see just how thin a yarn I could make. I call the yarn Samba. Shake it up.

Knithound Dyed SW BFL 2 ply lace - Samba

Southern Cross Fibres, Binary Sunset, spun onto one bobbin, 4 oz. This will eventually be plied with 2 plys of Hello Yarn Alpine to make a nice, round 3 ply yarn. I want to make a sweater and use the handspun in the yoke. I've been thinking about this one for months. I hope I don't screw it up.

SCF Binary Sunset singles 2

These photos remind me of Dutch painter Jan Vermeer. The colors of the yarn, combined with the blue pillow and the light. I should use a tripod to shoot these days with the wan November light, especially with the Northern exposure from my office window.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers. I will be busy cleaning, cooking, eating and maybe knitting a bit. Family arrives in the next 24 hours and I have much more to do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beyond Knitting

Lest you get to believing all I think about day and night is Knitting and Spinning, let me show you some things that have my attention lately.

First up, a photographer named Richard Barnes with a new series out on National Geographic wherein he photographed mummified animals; these were sacred pets of the Egyptian Pharaohs and kings. These are eerie and fascinating at the same time. There's a slide show over on the NG web site worth checking out. Tell me what you think.

Earlier in his career he photographed starlings in Rome, look at this, it's amazing. If you head over to his web site you can see a whole series they are fascinating.

I am always interested in depictions of animals. The taxidermy photos on his website are also compelling. They draw me in but repulse me at the same time. I guess that's what he wanted.

I have the same reaction when I look at Walton Ford's paintings. He had a show at the Brooklyn Museum nearly two years ago and it still resonates with me. I've been a Walton Ford fan since forever, and made sure to see his show at the Paul Kasmin Gallery when it came through.

His paintings are huge, super saturated in color and lurid. They harken back to Audubon, but they also tell the story that lies beneath the surface. The terrible history, the one that no one wants to believe happened. There's an impending doom in Ford's paintings and that's what is so fascinating.

Again, this tension of fascination and repulsion. I love that so much about both these artists. They both straddle that edge; they make art you need to experience with your brain and your gut; the work goes way beyond mere decoration.

Lots of people call themselves artists these days. It's so easy! I'll never forget, back when I was heavy into Photography (you'd never know, would you), I remember a guy rolling his eyes and saying "Everybody calls themselves a photographer these days". Today it's 'artist". I think it debases the true meaning of artist when anyone and everyone can appropriate the title. It's almost offensive. But for nothing else, it certainly forces me to put some effort into discerning who is and who is not an artist. Not that I am the world's leading authority on who is and who is not an artist. But sheesh. Come on, this age of entitlement does not mean you can just call yourself and artist and poof! You are one!

There's a book I saw today in Barnes & Noble, I'd love to have it someday: Bird, by Andrew Zuckerman. Gorgeous photographs of birds. Go have a look at the slide show, it's interactive so be sure to pop it into full screen mode and then tell me what you think. See? Now, it reminded me of Walton Ford and of Audubon, and it reminded me of another book I have in my collection already - Survivors, by James Balog, in which animals on the verge of extinction are photographed against white backdrops.

Oh and did you see the crow photograph? Recent chatter on the subject of crows got me curious, so I ordered up a book called Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Now, when I ordered, I thought it would give me more insight into crow behavior. I've always been a Raptor fan but paid little mind to the Corvids. Well, this book did connect a few dots, but it was more than that. Haupt's story of the crow was a way to weave us into the larger framework of humans, animals and the urban environment. From the crow observations and her stories, Haupt reminds us that we don't need to travel for miles to observe nature. It's all around us.

I still want to learn more about the Crow behavior and there are other books that can show me the way. Okay so the thread here, about art, about photography and about the natural world and the urban environment. Mostly it's about the observing, the seeing, the links to the visceral and to the cerebral. No real conclusions but for my whine about 'artists'. Just more about keeping it real.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's More Than Tweed In My Future

What am I up to these days? Goodness all around. There's definitely a bounce in my step, a bit of a smile, anticipation and excitement.

Tweed vest back

And, there's tweedy knitting happening! Enough to put a smile on the face of any knitter. The yarn has percolated in the stash far too long. I'd set it aside to make this vest for PhotoMan. But he deemed it too 'thick', fearing it would make him look fat. Oh, brother!

No amount of convincing could change his mind and I decided life is too short. I'll make it for myself. And with November being declared Vestvember, what better time than NOW!

The pattern, Dr G's Memory Vest, designed by Kirsten in honor of her father, who suffered from Alzheimers as so many parents do. I know, my Mom is heading there. What a lovely pattern, the knitting just flows, the rhythm easy to pick up.

Tweed Vestember Vest

I've finished the back in less than a week. Furious knitting between classes and studying, on breaks and during travel. Studying?! Cramming, really. 17 out of 20 classes complete, an exam coming up soon. An Important Exam. One that will change my life completely and which I am so excited and eager to take on.

November Knit and Study

God willing, this Vest will be a marker in time for me, that time when I made a huge decision and decided it is so right, so real and I am so ready.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cigar Gloves

My friend P (affectionately P-Diddy) is a huge cigar fan. It's one of those things he takes great pleasure in, no matter what the weather. He and his cronies get together for drinks and dinner and they usually wind up their evenings with a cigar, living the good life. While cigars are not necessarily my thing, for awhile Photo-Man also enjoyed them. In fact there's still a stash of them somewhere, though not nearly as huge as my yarn and fiber stash.

Cigar Gloves in the wild

So P's birthday came around again this year and I vowed this time I would produce what I had promised a year ago! And I wanted them to be perfect. As in all things I knit. Which of course makes me a bit crazed in the execution but it's all for the best.

Naturally, in the quest for perfection we needed several beers discussions. First, there was the time I carefully measured his hands. That might have been over a year ago? I know I recorded the statistics in my Blackberry! I ordered the yarn and then promptly moved on to other knitting projects. Guilty. As the birthday approached this year, it was a great excuse for more beers discussions and this time I produced a half finished sample.

I riffed a bit from a Knitty pattern I'd queued up ages ago. Only for some reason I thought a 3" ribbed cuff would be too much, and chose a 1.5" ribbed cuff. And I jazzed it up a bit with the gold edge color but that took a few attempts to get the right balance - not too much, not too over the top. P is a down the middle kinda guy dressing wise.

Well, he was pleased but I was not. Turns out the short cuff bothered me. And the fit was not quite right. Several evenings of working up different variations I concluded that the pattern as written made the most sense. A 3" ribbed cuff fits and knitting the entire glove on size 5 dpns just fits better and makes a warm, dense fabric when using Cascade 220. Such a versatile, workhorse of a yarn.

Now, knitting fingers is a bit fiddly, I will admit. And because of that and the fact that I essentially knit the equivalent of four gloves to make a pair, the project took a bit longer than I originally anticipated, meaning I missed the birthday again!

Cigar gloves at RR station

I took advantage of that nice day a week ago to get some shots of these gloves, while we coordinated schedules. This time, it was lunch, not beers and no cigars, but these gloves do work well for checking email on Blackberrys too! Ah, modern life. I'm sure P-Diddy would prefer more cigars and less email...

Cigar Gloves for P-Diddy

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yea. It's Come to This.

Lately I've become enamored of The Onion. I guess I just need a good giggle, and they have a steady stream of content worth a good chuckle.

Entire Office Unsure What To Do About Bawling Coworker

November 6, 2009

Bawling Coworker

Human resources personnel have not yet ruled out the possibility of a missed birthday.

FINDLAY, OH—The entire office staff of Altman & Hanson Accounting remained utterly baffled as to what, if anything, should be done in response to the prominent sobbing coming from the cubicle of 36-year-old clerk Jack Underwood, sources reported today.

Underwood, who has been employed by the accounting firm since 2004, reportedly began weeping sometime after 10:15 a.m. and has not shown any indication of stopping.

"He's just in there crying and crying—what are we supposed to do?" said coworker David Hammond, who was not aware of any medical or emotional issues Underwood might have. "At first I thought there might be an-other round of layoffs coming, but [office manager] Sophie told me that wasn't the case, so at least I know that whatever the sobbing is about, it doesn't affect me."

"But still, jeez, I hope he's okay in there," Hammond continued.

Other staff members were also at a loss as to how to approach the crying man. Junior partner Russell Hanson told reporters that he had "absolutely no clue" what to say to Underwood and decided to ask administrative assistant Emily Koe to go talk to the tearful coworker, seeing as she is "a woman and all."

"I really would, but I just don't know him well enough," said Koe, who has worked with Underwood for more than four years. "Someone should call his wife. If he has one."

Thus far, office sources have only been able to speculate as to why the crying is taking place. Accountant James DuBois, who was the first to discover Underwood's uncontrollable sobbing when he stopped by his office and awkwardly dropped off some receipts, said he was pretty sure Underwood did not have any dead or dying pets, but suggested the clerk might be upset about his recent passing over for promotion to senior clerk.

"No one knows why he's crying so hard, but then most people here don't know his last name, either," DuBois said. "I'm not sure what everybody expects me to do about it. After all, it's not like I can just walk up to the guy and, you know, ask him what's wrong."

"He talks to Amy," added DuBois, referring to audit manager Amy Case, who is currently on vacation. "Can somebody go get Amy?

Other theories as to the source of the crying include: recent diagnosis with a degenerative disease; some sort of family crisis; overall loneliness; or probably just something senior accounts representative Paul Greenblatt did. Unfortunately, because Underwood rarely ever talks to his coworkers about subjects other than work, there is little information to confirm or deny these speculations.

Nevertheless, office sources were nearly unanimous in reporting that the sobbing was becoming increasingly upsetting to them and, perhaps more importantly, was making it really difficult to concentrate.

"I feel bad for him, but the least he could do is go out to the stairwell to do his wailing," said Bob Cho, a tax specialist with the firm. "I wish he would just go home, to tell you the truth."

At press time, staff members were considering a variety of plans, including calling Underwood's parents, calling someone in Human Resources, sending Underwood an e-mail featuring a lighthearted Internet video, or just leaving for lunch and hoping that he is gone by the time they return. But whatever the solution eventually turns out to be, the only thing that seems certain is that nobody wants to go over there and deal with him directly.

"Maybe he just hates his job," said one coworker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "That's usually my reason when I start crying and can't stop."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Zombie Buckets

That last yarn I made was destined to hit the needles right away. The colors came out great, and the yarn is well balanced and even. You'll recall it's a 3 ply, which I think looks great worked up in stockinette rather than garter stitch. I had plenty of yardage, the gauge knit up nicely to 4.5 stitches on a #7 needle. All signs pointed to a hat, and maybe end up with yarn left over! Yay!

Close up Zombie

This pattern, A Better Bucket by Amy Swenson has been in my queue for ages. I even bought some bright Malabrigo for it but then never got around to knitting it up. Well, Shannon was wearing a cute tweed version up at Rhinebeck and that triggered my memory to go back and look at the pattern again. After winding and then swatching during the weekend subway rides, my plan was set.

Tip of hat

Two days later a new favorite hat is born! I was so excited about it I skipped the necessary blocking stage to wear it today. I had to travel out to Long Island so while waiting to be picked up from the Farmingdale LIRR station, I used the beautiful day to snap some action shots of the hat in the field.

This pattern represents my first attempt at Provisional Cast On. It took about four or five attempts to get it sort of right at the start, but I think I have the hang of it now. I was wondering when I would have the occasion to use something other than the standard Long Tail Cast On, which seems to be the only method I really know! Hm. I have to expand my skills.

the inside brim

And this is also the first time I've ever hemmed my knitting. I chose some stash Cascade 220 for the inside brim, just for contrast and to conserve the handspun yarn. The hemming was interesting. I got a bit obsessed in making sure none of the provisional live stitches ended up twisted. Most of them did, no matter how I approached them, so I had to go back and carefully turn them around. That one phase took longer than the entire rest of the project combined. More practice needed! But I am pleased with the way the hemmed edge looks now and am glad I am so obsessive with this stuff. Because it does matter!

More smiles

The yarn striped up so wonderfully! The original pattern calls for a button on the side, but honestly I don't know that this one needs it what with all the color going on and all.

a peek at the educational material

This hat will get serious rotation in the coming months. It matches my down coat and my carryall knitting bag (packed with super secret educational materials these days...), and it's a nice change from the beret and beanie styles in my collection. Can't you just picture me tromping around Brooklyn wearing this jaunty hat?!

Cute hat

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rudy Says....

Mommy is feeling much better now, and I haz a happy.

Brownstone Basset

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Glug, Glug, Glug

Tomorrow morning at daybreak I have one of those "medical procedures" that necessitates drinking tons of fluids the day before. And no food for 24 hours. Lightheaded and feeling intensely full of liquid, I cannot leave the house till it's all cleaned out. Gaah, I hate middle age!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lace Ribbons

This project may be at the top of my Super Satisfying Knits list. At least in the Scarf Department. So would that be, SSKL - SD? For once the scarf knitting did not wear me down 3/4 of the way through. This project hit all my sweet spots: color, yarn, fabric, pattern, enjoyment, recipient.

Mountain Colors - Copper - Sock Yarn

For one, the yarn is beyond fantastic. I found this gorgeous Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn, the last two two lonely skeins at Brooklyn General and pounced. Yes, I know I have a jumbo stash, but I didn't have THIS yarn. And THIS yarn was perfect perfect perfect for the project. Initially it was the color that grabbed me. Coppery brown, with subtle glints of gold, blue and lavender. It has depth and roundness.

The next thing that appealed to me was the smidge of Mohair in the yarn. Just enough to add wonderful drape to the fabric and give it a a soft cozy hand and a bit of a halo. Mmmm, this is nice stuff. It's sock yarn - warm socks for sure. Has anyone used this yarn for socks? I'd love to know how it holds up and whether your feet are impossibly hot?

Lace Ribbon Scarf

And then there is the pattern. Lace Ribbons by Veronique Avery has been in my Ravelry queue since forever. Occasionally reviewing the ever-expanding queue, I repeatedly landed on this scarf and thought "someday..." About time, I say.

My work friend L started reading my blog after I pinged the link to her one day after (dare I say, during?) a lengthy contract negotiation conference call. She was so complimentary and I was flattered. Yes, flattery does win points! We've stayed in touch long after the contract was signed...two years it took to close that one...gawd...and I'd promised to knit her a scarf one day.

Lace Ribbon Scarf

That day finally arrived and once I cast on, I could not stop! I found this pattern engaging enough to keep my interest all the way through yet easy enough that I could whip it out while on the commute and polish off a few rows between stops. Perfect commute knitting, and it was nice to work on something at a larger gauge than socks for a change! Unlike so many of my other projects, I stuck with this one for the entire time - usually I put one project down, start another, and well, you all know how that goes. Before you know it, there are five projects on the needles, all of them screaming for attention.

It helped that I was also listening to one of the best books I've 'read' in a long time, "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout. Oh, man what a wonderful book. The words! So so so good. This book won the Pulitzer, and unlike other awards granted this year, this one was deserved. As stated on the Pulitzer's web site, Olive Kitteridge is "a collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating." If you have not read this one yet, run to your nearest bookstore to pick it up.

Lace Ribbon Scarf

Anyway, one Sunday a few weeks ago L and I had a lovely brunch in Greenwich Village and I gave her the scarf. Which she promptly put on her neck and did not take off the rest of the afternoon. We wandered around a bit after we ate and it was a fun afternoon - the weather was that perfect Fall in New York City and the streets were teeming with people, sun shining, lots of things to see.

Lace Ribbon Scarf

When L asked for a scarf she said she preferred neutrals. I gave this lots of thought and realized beige would NOT cut it. I am so glad I took the risk on the yarn. The pattern speaks for itself, I WILL knit this one again. For myself! And as you can see, L looks fantastic, the scarf is flattering, and I am so very pleased with the way it all turned out. Enjoy it, girlfriend!