Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sky Bandit

I mentioned there's a shawl on the needles and for now, it's simmering on a back burner. I might some knitterly and fashionista type input from you all.

Sky Bandit

This is Springtime Bandit, so named Sky Bandit because of the blue yarn. When I bought this yarn, Schulana Merino Cotton 135, I debated over this light blue and a lovely silvery gray. In a fit of wanting more blue in my life, I chose the blue.

Being totally inspired by brokeknits who has been on quite a shawl rampage this year (how many Bandits, Katie?) I realized I needed one too. A simple lace pattern in a larger than lace gauge yarn. Though not quite as chunky as the pattern yarn. With yarn and needles in hand, I took off into the wild blue yonder.

The first hint of trouble was when PhotoMan asked me who was having a baby. Then on the subway one evening with my iPod glued into my ears a lady asked me if I was knitting a baby sweater. Hmmm. So not SKY Bandit, more like GOO-GOO-GA-GA Bandit.

Sky Bandit

With the courage of my convictions, I knit on. At the end of the fourth repeat in the body section, I did a mental calculation to double the body to eight repeats, why not, I hadn't even broken into the second skein! I got to the end of the eight repeats and then realized there's not enough yarn for the edge section. Ooops.

So I ripped back to the end of the seventh repeat and forged on with the edge. Only to run out of yarn 4 rows from the end. Argh. Much as I like the yarn, I don't think I want to buy another skein to complete four rows! And now that it's this size, I can see that this thing has some heft. Here is the law of unintended consequences at work. The cotton in the yarn might be adding some heft to the shawl.

While it simmers I have time to ask all of you some questions:

1. Does the color remind you of baby blankets? Should I overdye this and aim for a smokey gray/blue? Never mind that I have limited dyeing experience...

2. Is there a fine balance one needs to consider when knitting lace? Does it matter if the ratio of body repeats to edge repeats is around 8:1?

Sky Bandit

The pattern shifts from a diamond/leafy repeat to these fluted thingies.

Sky Bandit

3. Seeing as I need to rip this thing back to reduce the body section, what is the stopping point? Six repeats? Five? And then do I just make one repeat of the Edge or do I cast caution to the wind and try for two?

4. Does any of this even matter? Is the old Knithound overthinking things (again)?!

Have at it, readers. I can handle it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hunter Valley

Before I launch into another yarn story I want to thank you all for your lovely comments and encouragement. I try to answer everyone individually but sometimes the commenters are not linked to email so I can never be sure if the replies get sent! I really do appreciate you coming and visiting me and the comments make me feel great, so thanks again!

More fibery goodness - this one another 3 ply, the colors of which make my heart sing. My Mother might have expressed serious interest in this one, too. A hint that maybe she wants to see a pair of mitts like mine...hmmmm?

SCF Merino Hunter Valley

This is Hunter Valley, Merino Top, a generous gift from David at SCF. I love Merino! So soft and a nice bounce to the yarn. I want more Merino in my future. There are some tiny technical issues but I will not go into them here. My Ravelry support group has convinced me to ignore any imperfections and just knit with the yarn, dammit.

SCF Merino Hunter Valley 3 ply

This 3 ply thing, it's got my attention big time. I have found a niche and I want to explore every nook and cranny.

Hunter Valley 3 Ply  Draped

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Being Completely Enchanted

Whew! Three hours of shooting, uploading, labeling and cataloging into Ravelry and on Flickr and I have made a dent in the photo documentation backlog that looms over me forever and a day.

Enchanted Fingerless Mitts

The project I am most excited about these days is this little number, these fingerless mitts. I got totally inspired and a bit envious when the Rooster made her fingerless mitts with her Five Plum Pie yarn. I may have drooled over my laptop upon seeing them all done up. And so I took to my needles and decided the Enchanted 3 ply yarn from SCF was the perfect tonic to ease my serious case of WANT.

Enchanted Fingerless Mitts

Two evenings of knitterly focus and I have something I think I can wear proudly at Rhinebeck this year. I adapted the Toast pattern by Leslie to add a gusset thumb because I like the fit better. And instead of a curled edge, I added a few rows of garter. All in all, a WIN project.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Update With Lame-o Photos :(

It's a cop out not to have lots of great photographs to tell my stories, especially today, when I have several knitting and spinning updates. For me, making the photographs for this blog is the hardest part of the whole process. I have a simple P&S and get frustrated with the macro (lack of).

Most of the time I don't think my photos do my work justice. Coming up with unique and wonderful ways to show it is a challenge. I live in essentially a brownstone wreck. Long, narrow, dark and in a constant state of mess. The back yard is also work in progress (Yes, Marie we are going to move forward just as soon as we can!) and full of mosquitoes. Me and mosquitoes - not so good. I'm too sweet I suppose! Heh.

Well anyway, so just a few teaser shots today.

It's been busy around here as I finished up a pair of socks intended for the photographer. I know what you're thinking: why not enlist him to shoot the knitting and spinning? Well, sometimes I do, when he has the time!

Gentleman's Fancy Sock

Anyway the socks are wonderful. I used a yarn from my stash, and chose a pattern from Knitting Vintage Socks, and the combination worked out great. I mentioned my intention to knit all the patterns from that book and I'm glad I set this as a goal. Loving the patterns in this book. They're almost finished blocking, so next week we can do some on the feet shots.

In addition to the socks I'm working on a stealth project, a gift for a friend. She's been waiting patiently in the wings for awhile now, and I finally found a yarn I love (I hope she does, too!) and a pattern that really works so I am happy with how it's coming along. You won't be able to see this one till it's been sent out, but it's a doozy.

I started a Spingtime Bandit shawl using yarn I picked up from my LYS a few weeks ago. At first it was all gung-ho, but then I started to have mixed feelings about the yarn choice. More specifically the color choice. I'll try to get my act together on this one next weekend because I want to get your opinions on several aspects of this project before I rush off and make changes. However, there's really no hurry. You see, this WAS the project I originally intended as the stealthy gift, but because of those second thoughts, I stopped into another LYS, found the yarn/pattern combination that's on the needles now and I am quite pleased.

Springtime Bandit

That big cabled yoke cardigan I started nearly a year ago is at the seaming stage. Oh, I might have seamed it up...ummmm...three times now. Yea, three. Yea, I can be a huge dope. Yea I make dopey mistakes. All of which caused me to lose some steam on it. Can you blame me?

Cabled Yoke Cardigan Coat

But seeing it spread out on the dining room table is giving me big time guilts and with Rhinebeck around the corner I might find the mojo to throttle on through and finish this sucker. I really want to because there are so many other big sweater projects I am itching to start and I refuse to do it till this one is done.

Those are the knitting projects in the foreground for now. I try to keep it to three or else I find myself feeling very scatter-brained. Some of the unfinished projects are now officially in the hibernating stage but one of these, the humongo garter stitch blanket has to come back into the forefront because I feel the need to give a healing gift.

There's yarnmaking too. Surprise surprise. I made a 3 ply yarn using this combed merino top and learned I need to be much more consistent with my singles if I want to avoid major tangles. Oy, what fun that was, but that's a story for another time.

Hunter Valley

I made some nice looking bulky singles, using Spunky Eclectic's Selfish from June club and from what I can see, it will be wonderful. I threw this fiber onto the wheel last night and just wanted to loosen up with a nice bulky yarn. Originally destined to be a two ply, I loved the look of the singles enough to keep them. The entire bump took me about 3 hours start to finish. What fun.

Selfish 2

Next up I started some Jacob roving I've had marinating since late May. This one is my long draw lesson. I'm halfway through it and I'd say while it got easier as I progressed, I need lots more practice. I'm sure it will ply up just fine for a very rustic looking yarn and there's nothing wrong with that. Very rustic. And the natural coloring of the roving is a nice respite from all the wild colors of the club fibers.

Jacob Roving

I think I will put some energy into finding more rovings like this Jacob at Rhinebeck. I'd like to make a sweater using a natural colored fiber, spun woolen 3 ply. (FLEECE??) That's what's on my needles, my wheel and my mind right now. Have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Redbone with Shawl

Lola, oh Lola. My beautiful, intelligent, stoic, photogenic Redbone Coonhound. I realized not long ago that for some reason I have never posted any stories about Lola, and that's something I want to fix right now.

It might be because she is just so complex. Lola is a fine wine. Deep, layered, nuanced. While Rudy is a beer. Straight forward, unambiguous, what you see is what you get. And with Lola we have many stories to tell, some of them are downright scary, some are hilarious. Where to begin?

Babushka Lola

She's nearly 10 years old now, and we are so lucky she's still around. You see, one of Lola's really bad habits is to GOBBLE. Not CHEW, but GULP foreign objects. This dog has an unnatural fetish for sticks, rubber dog toys, rawhide treats, bones, tennis balls, you name it. And when she gets her jaws on one of these things clamps down hard, refuses to let go and ultimately swallows the object nearly whole. Which has led us to the Emergency Room at Animal Medical Center (translate: VERY EXPENSIVE) four times.

Surgery #3 in 2006 was particularly harrowing. Seems she chomped on a beef rib bone, which splintered and got stuck somewhere along the lower intestine which then punctured it in several places. This dog was seriously ill by the time we transferred her from our local vet office (where she had been under observation for several days after we arrived home on a Wednesday night to a horrendous mess of blood, vomit and you don't want to know what else). When they called me that Friday night to say they did not like the direction she was headed, they were not in a position to care for her, as they are not a 24 hour enterprise, and something terrible could go wrong in the wee hours of the night, I knew we had trouble. I didn't know how big it was and really there was no time to ponder.

The entire ride through Brooklyn and up to AMC on the Upper East Side, she was so calm, so patient, watching out the window at the passing world, not a whimper or a sigh. When we arrived, told them in a rush of words -- our regular vet urged us to come here are her x-rays we think she is in bad shape please please save our dog. These doctors took one look and whisked her off to emergency surgery. Even before we gave permission they were prepping her.

Around 5AM the next morning we got a phone call that she was out of surgery, they'd removed over 12" of small intestine, and she was in a very precarious place. Though she was past the surgery, she had been arrhythmic the night before, causing great strain on her heart and other organs, and the intestinal punctures had made her septic. The surgery was the beginning, not the end and she was a very sick girl with quite a few obstacles to overcome on the road to recovery. The next four days were super tense, because if the sutures burst, there was no saving her. We were absolutely beside ourselves with fear. Every time the phone rang we jumped out of our skin.

But this dog is a survivor. She came home from that event with a tube coming out of her stomach and very weak. People stared at us when we took her down to the sidewalk to pee. All bandaged up, tube dangling, she was a complete mess! Slowly she recovered, but not before she ripped the tube out and chewed the little end thingy. And that meant another trip to the ER for removal via the esophagus. Can you believe the determination?! She is single-minded that's certain.

Lola and Shawl

Which is one of the things I truly adore about her. Though her determination is misguided, it is pure. It is a hallmark quality of Coonhounds to be this focused. Lola is also determidly focused on being warm and cozy. She loves nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a blanket tucked around her. She hates being wet and when it rains she will refuse to go out, preferring to hold it as long as possible.

She may not have the correct conformation for a Redbone, all spindly in the legs and out of proportion to her body, still she's a beauty. It's the look in her eye, her gorgeous mahogany coloring, and her melodious (loud) howl that simply melt my heart.

Lola's communication skills are highly developed. She tells you exactly what she wants by pointing, darting her eyes back and forth and using her head and nose to literally guide your hand to the object of desire. On top of that, she also makes these yowly, gurgle sounds that I swear, she is as close to talking as any dog I've known. It is truly amazing.

Lola is on a first name basis with the doctors at AMC, and we are lucky to live in a place with access to such high quality medical resources. They took such good care of her during that event and since then, another surgery (I told you she was relentless... but that's for another time).

Okay, enough. This is a knitting blog, after all. I asked the resident photographer to take the shots you see here because I thought the mini shawl looked nice on her. And much as she told me she really likes it, I think I will keep this one for myself! Last night I posted these shots to my Flickr and generated a mini whirlwind of response! Thanks, guys! The lesson here is I may need to shamelessly use my dogs to pimp model my knitting more often! Heh. Seriously, I do love the comments as they motivate me to continue with blogging and Flickr-ing. Such a great community, this knitting and spinning world, I love it!

Now about this project. The yarn started as hand dyed Wensleydale from Spunky Eclectic, purchased at the MASW in May. I had so much fun at that little festival, entirely because I got to meet Amy and Adrian in person and I might have been a bit in awe of them, my admiration is that huge!

Spunky Eclectic 100% Combed Top Wensleydale - Estuary

I spun it up over the summer and learned that I truly love working with the long wools. It's a 2 ply yarn, fingering weight, with 4 oz. yielding around 318 yards.

Estuary Wensleydale Top

The pattern is from the talented Kristin Kapur, called Lavalette, and another project tied to raising money for a really good cause, funding research in Alzheimer's Disease. I knit this little shawl intent on using up all the yarn. I used #4 needles because I wanted a denser stockinette section. I was amazed at how nicely the yarn striped up. And you all know how much I love stripes.


As I was working the final lace section I got a bit spooked about running short on the yarn so I omitted the last two repeats of the section. As it turns out, I have some yarn left over, and the shawl is not huge, but it makes a lovely neckwrap and will fold nicely under a coat collar. These colors are well suited to many things in my wardrobe so I predict lots of use in the coming months. It's why I traded a Milk Bone with Lola to keep it for myself!


Knitting with hand spun yarn is fun. My collection has grown to the point that I seriously need to work up some projects. Or sell some??

Sunday, September 6, 2009


What's in a name? Centuries ago people often acquired surnames associated with their occupation. Baker, Cooper, Miller. These names identified the work that the person did, their livelihood.

I don't recall, nor have I done enough research to know if there was a name for a person who makes yarn. Spinner? Spindler? Perhaps it was because women did the spinning, the yarnmaking and women did not get their own surnames? I read somewhere in the history of knitting that men did the knitting and women did the spinning. Yet I don't recall a surname for knitter either. There are a few names associated with the fiber world...such as Weaver. And for those who kept the sheep, the name Shepherd. There's Taylor (tailor?), Clothier...surely there are many more.

Tell me, do you know if there are any surnames associated with yarn making?

If I were to choose a surname now, I would lean toward something fiber related. The one that keeps coming round in my mind these days is Yarnmaker. When people ask what I do with my spare time, I say, "I make yarn. I am a yarnmaker." I say, "I am a knitter, I make things."

I like the idea that I am making things. That my hands and some simple tools are able to make tangible, real objects. The day job involves "selling solutions". There are wires and cables and interfaces and muxes and connections, but they are so abstracted by the time I get involved, the thing I sell is more about solving some business problem, helping to cut costs, increase productivity, or some other intangible. It's not like I can touch it, see it, put it to my nose and smell it. Which is why the idea of yarnmaking is so attractive. When I finish a skein of yarn and I can hold it in my hands, examine the twist, breathe in the sheepy goodness, I feel such satisfaction! There. It's real. And, sometimes, it's really pretty too.

Masham Turkish Delight Singles-1

This skein of fingering weight singles is spun from Southern Cross Fibres Club April 2009, Turkish Delight. The fiber is a British long wool breed called Masham. Long wool is an understatement. The staple on this fiber is amazing - 8" to 10", similar to a Wensleydale, making the drafting a real dream!

Masham Turkish Delight Singles-5

I took David's advice and aimed for a low twist single on this yarn. It practically spun itself. Those long fibers will easily keep the yarn in one piece despite the low twist. To make it a higher twist risks turning it into twine. This is fuzzy stuff! After the bath and a good whack, it set nicely. The gorgeous colors are David's brand of genius, and yes, it is a true Turkish Delight, all 434 yards of it.

Masham Turkish Delight Singles-6

Again, the yarn I make screams "weaving!" to me. Why is that? I am not a weaver yet. But the yarns I make seem to speak in weaving terms, and I am intrigued by the path that is being cut through this forest.

But for knitting, I might say, go with a 3 ply handspun yarn. Like this little lovely, spun up from Southern Cross Fibres, a Corriedale called Enchanted. Yes, it is enchanting!

Enchanted 3 ply-2

My first attempt at a 3 ply, these gorgeous colors, some of my favorites, blended so nicely with the greens and blues popping against the browns and blacks. My idea of heaven on earth. A 3 ply adds roundness and plumpiness to the yarn.

Enchanted 3 ply-4

My original intent was sock yarn. It might be a bit more on the worsted side to be sock yarn, and that's okay because I want to make something more visible - fingerless mitts? A hat?

Enchanted 3 ply-9

It doesn't matter right now. There's 236 yards to work with and I'll know it when I see it. Right now I enjoy looking at it and squeezing it. And I'm making more 3 ply. I can't help myself. And I can't wait to show you all the next yarns to come off the wheel, so stop by again real soon, okay?