31 October 2007

My costume these days

The Berkman Center at Harvard is offering an unusual course this semester through the Extension School on Virtual Worlds. We are nearly halfway through, and unlike almost every other academic experience I’ve ever had, this one just keeps getting more and more fun. In the first half of the course we have read Neal Stephenson, Yochai Benkler, Larry Lessig, and Julian Dibbell, created Second Life avatars, attended Burning Life, created a class wiki, visited LambdaMOO, built little games using Scratch, met for class in Second Life every other week, and gotten our hands dirty building Second Life objects. I’d read Snow Crash, of course, but of the other things all were new to me except LambdaMOO.

Recognize me? I’m the redhead on the left, the one exposing her soft underbelly. (Gotta make an extra effort to cover your midriff in Second Life.) As a sop to realism, I gave myself a big bum, but altering appearance in SL is quite an art, and on the less technical side: you would not believe the pressure to look good in a virtual world! I’m wearing the pre-packaged freebie skin of a woman twenty years younger—pure Stephenson “Brandy.”

Below is our classroom, with the professor, Rebecca Nesson, at the front demonstrating a little pig she built. If you’re interested in Second Life, or virtual worlds altogether, the class is open to “at-large” participation—no tuition necessary.

We’ve been talking in class about the “aggregation of willing energy,” or how to persuade people to join you in your virtual projects and enterprises. It’s one of the problems of blogging, of course; you build it, and... maybe they come.

If you have come, you’ve likely come for knitting content. I don’t have much today, but I do have my knitting corner to show you, and to tell you about the addition to it, which is an antique lamp from Oklahoma.

It belonged to my school friend Martha, who was also from Oklahoma. Like this lamp, she was both elegant and somewhat forceful. Martha, a very fit and healthy woman my age, had a sudden and devastating stroke in July. She never really regained consciousness before dying two weeks ago.

A few years ago, Martha took a job in Barcelona and stayed there for two years. When she returned, we somehow didn’t see much of each other until this July, when one of us proposed breakfast. We had the best visit I ever had with her, in no small part due to the fact that Martha had fallen in love and was, I found, utterly transformed. She was a lovely, wonderful person before. Now she was a lovely, wonderful person radiating joy. I left our breakfast on a pink cloud, and couldn’t wait to tell my own boyfriend all about her good fortune. When she was stricken so soon afterward, and when it became apparent that recovery was unlikely, I was so, so grateful that I had had that little time with her—it was just so purely delightful.

And now I have Martha's grandparents’ lamp, because her sister and her boyfriend kindly gave it to me. It has the place of honor next to the comfy chair. The chair I’ll be knitting in probably every day for the rest of my life. I will be glad to have a little of Martha with me.

A Rather Large Wheel On Which to Spin Fiber, and 2 Cats In Costumery

Here's the glamour shot that yesterday's bobbin is a part of - this is a Country Craftsman wheel that I snagged from craigslist. The wheel itself was crafted in Littleton, Massachusetts - it is a reproduction of a wheel from the 1700s. This particular wheel was only ever used for display purposes, and is in WONDERFUL shape! All I needed was a piece of string!

This wheel differs a fair amount from my other one (Ashford Traditional, for those not paying attention). First of, this is double-drive - see how the string goes around the big wheel twice?The large wheel controls both the whorl and the bobbin (on my Scotch tension wheel, the drive-band controls the flyer). The flyer here is tucked into little hard leather "hooks". Also, this has the giant crazy flax distaff - that big thing sticking up in the front. The overall size - well, the top of the big wheel reaches my waist, and the footprint is much larger as well. The whole thing is held together with little wooden pegs. I've only got one bobbin - I'm either going to see about having a few constructed or find some online. While construction has stopped on new wheels, the bobbin and whorl assemblies are still available.

That blue stuff on the wheel? That's some mystery fleece from Amy - I just grabbed a little something to take for a test drive. I can tell that it will take a little bit of getting used to how this puppy wants to spin, along with the double drive business. I've become very in tune with the tensions and nuances and speeds that I can take my Ashford , and what results I can comfortably achieve - with this new wheel, there will definitely be a bit of trial and error as I get used to how it works. Don't worry - I'll keep you updated.

Oh, and here we are Halloween! Mingo The Cat will be rockin' it "Three Amigos"-style:
I don't know what The Mayor kitty will be wearing - her glamourous cape from last year?

Flying, Sleeping Kitty

Which brings me to this question about Halloween:
Last year, The Mayor was on the front porch helping to give candy to strangers. She was wearing this cape. A gaggle of young girls came a hopping up the stairs, and after oohing and aahing over how cute she was, one of them asked "What's she supposed to be?"

It's a CAT wearing a CAPE - is that not enough?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??

Tomorrow! A sock report - I've opted to rip back a bit of sock #1 (of the SocksThatRock experiment) and then throw on some ribbing. I am currently in 2x2 ribbing boredom, so I will try my darnedest to git some progress on that. So close, but so far. THEN! Well, I haven't really thought about what come after that........

30 October 2007

In Which I Make Books & Knit & Simone Gets Married!

Here ya go! A week in six pictures......

I was teaching last week. I had a most wonderful Limp Vellum Bookbinding class - 7 students, 3 day class, make great book. I talk about the Red Sox a bunch, and harangue the students. It's great fun! I got a little bit feisty:

(photo by R. Craig Fansler)
This is an example of the sewing technique we were doing - the Herringbone Stitch. We were creating models of a 14th century binding. The sections of the book are sewn around alum-tawed skin, which is held taut on these sewing frames. Yeah, I know - pushpins are not the most 14th-century technique, but, hey, ya gotta go with what works. One of my students posted more pictures of books in action on his blog.

Then off to Vermont I went! For the most lovely (albeit rainy) wedding festivities of Miss Simone and Scott - here is the lovely Simone modelling her contract knitting:

One of the photographers had exclaimed "If you get a chance to touch this thing, DO IT."
The ceremony, the food, the setting, the company, ESPECIALLY the wedding party - all lovely! Miss B also had a handknit garment:

A lovely little capelet (NOT a shrug!), which ended up blocking out all sorts of wonderful.

The car-ride to Vermont? Lots of time for knitting! Experiment Number 194595495: What's the big deal with Blue Moon Fibers "Socks that Rock" yarn? Like, why does everyone LURVE it so? I decided to find out for myself:

Lest you think that I am not thorough in my experiments, I present to you TWO of these dandies:
This is the "Loch Ness" colorway - one of about 3 colorways remaining by the time I got to the booth selling this stuff at Rhinebeck. I gotta tell ya, it's pretty freakin' nice stuff. It's rather sproingy, and I like the striping. It is super NOT splitty, It seems that it will weather and wear well. I think I can undertand now, and I will even go so far as to recommend this yarn to y'all. I'll revisit it, methinks.

I'm going to throw out this teaser:

I'll be back with pictures of my new friend tomorrow ;)

27 October 2007

Knitting Again!

So I've started my first new project since last winter. I went with Haruha Scarf by Tikru, and a merino wool in an olive colorway. It's not olive green though but more crimsons to browns and black, like a real olive bar (yum!). Sadly while posting this image I realize just how tightly knit my Haruha is. So once I'm done posting I think I'll go frogging and try again 2 needle sizes larger.

In other crafting I've been playing around with making a Halloween mask I've made two so far and already used one last night. This is my second mask; I kinda rushed it yesterday for a party that evening. I call it the black angler fish (I'm going to redo the antenna with an Ikea holiday light). Crack the glowstick put on a pair of vampire fangs and you're ready to go!

The other mask is a very simple one. I might use this one for fire spinning.

25 October 2007

So much yarn, so little time

So now that I'm back working at a Local Yarn Shop, the knitting side of my brain has gone into hyperdrive. I hate to use a cliche, but I am the proverbial kid in the proverbial candy shop. I have been greatly enjoying being surrounded by so much luscious fiber and friendly faces, and as the inspiration is nigh on constant, I've been knittin' up a storm.

And so, some updates:Meg Swansen Spiral Yoke sweater in progress in Cascade Eco Wool. Such a good deal and for those of you familiar with my habit of smelling yarn - this stuff smells deliciously sheepy. Umm. Yes. If you like the smell of sheep.. which I happen to...

Annual thumbies - I seem to wear through them awful fast - in doubled Classic Elite Baby Camel Blithe.
And Jason got a Meg Swansen Dubbelmossa for our first anniversary - celebrated in NH two weekends ago. I did it in Frog Tree Alpaca Sport, dark green and oatmeal, and it was wicked wicked fun to see what appeared to be a giant sausage casing turn in to double thick hat.

AND - I just snapped up some of Malabrigo lace weight in "Verdes". I'm thinking something in a lacy leaf - but perhaps that is another overly cliche concept?

They make such lovely little cakes....

24 October 2007

Viva La Rhinebeck!

Well, what can I say? It was all that and more. After a rainy journey out Friday afternoon, the weather (thankfully!) cleared up for the Rhinebeck Wooly festivities. I was a bit overwhelmed at the actual fair and ended up not taking many pictures while there - but everyone else did. Cruise around online if you need to see fair pics. Instead, I'd like to share this lovely view with you:

This was the most lovely setting - well, about 40 minutes north of Rhinebeck proper - and it truly is so beautiful and peaceful to take in. We stayed with my cousin, who has the fortune of waking up to this beauty every day. This section of the Hudson River Valley used to play a prominent role in the whale shipping industry, and the region is rich in history and folklore (the main bridge across the river up there is the Rip Van Winkle; it is said that the mountains form his sleeping profile). It's all just so lovely.

But you're really here for the fair, aren't you? Headed down first thing on Saturday with wool and cheese on the mind. This being my first year spinning, I had a new plan of attack . I was very focussed on finding fibers I have not tried spinning yet - after all, this was the ideal opportunity to get a little of this and a little of that. Oh, and in many cases, I could MEET the animals the fibers came from! I also had 2 other specific projects in mind* , and managed to leave with......well, a decent haul. As I was saying while there "I am here to get a year's worth of fiber" and then next year I can go back and do it all again.
I would love to tell you all about these things, but I took very very very bad notes. Here is a mini-inventory, and things that I am sure of: the orange-green-brown bundle at the very top was hand-delivered to me by Amy, the bright pink/red in front of that and to the left is a silk cap (very stringy/sticky), the red to the right of that is alpaca, the 3 in the middle are alpaca (as well as the lavendar), the yarn to the right is Socks that Rock (primarily because....what's the big deal? why does everyone love this? I need to see for myself if it is ALL THAT), and I can't remember what is on the bottom.

Don't these all look so soft and dreamy? There are some wool bundles in there - after all, the roving is the gift that keeps on giving. It's TWICE the entertainment for your buck! Not only do I get to spin it up, but then there is knitting as well. What a bahgain.

Aside from the softness of, well, EVERYTHING, I also managed to meet a gazillion people and make it over to blogger meetup. I'm not going to do links here, but it was great to talk to (I apologize for leaving anyone out!) Lyssa, Boogie, HelloYarn, YarnaGoGo (all the way from CA!), BrainyLady and Veronik, Jess and Casey, AnnieKnits, and about 56290385609 more great knitters. It was really interesting to see patterns that I recognize walk by, on a REAL person, as well as yarn. I was sporting my Branching Out scarf.........too hot for anything bulkier.

On Sunday we went to visit Reggie at Howard Hall Farms - he and Nora have been working on restoring this house the REAL way for a few years now, and the fun has just begun! Reggie gave us a tour of the place, and the chance to see what has been done so far, what needs to be done, and some history on the building while we nibbled on cider donuts. Here's an example of a lovely Japanese joint redistributing a lot of the load on the top floor, and a bit of the detail (and the thickness of the stone walls!) that they are working to preserve:

Along with checking out this amazing restoration, they kindly provided me with an entire FLEECE from one of their sheep! I'm debating how to go about the processing. So now my car smells like a barn.

Oh, and we got cheese OF COURSE.

I'll leave you all with this picture of Amy enjoying her new favorite color:
*more on this to come.

20 October 2007


Hi friends! I'm back from Barcelona and able now to think about something other than food. Really, while I was there, I thought of little else. Every day I would wake up and think excitedly, What shall I eat today?! Then after breakfast I would start thinking, What can we eat next?!

We really did have some amazing food, including an indecently big lunch at one place, Passadis del Pep (no sign, off a plaza, down a blind passageway next to an ATM, never find it again), where we had about a nine-course meal which included a mountain of fingernail-sized clams, baby whelks in rock salt, several kinds of shrimp, and an incredible raisin-studded pudding with a crème brulée top. Even the parsley was somehow the best parsley ever. Another night I had a lovely falling-down-drunk cake, and another place we had some really memorable fried chiles in salt. We had patatas bravas, giant fries with chile and aioli, every chance we got. And more... Oh! You must go. Because it is very nice to get up in the morning, have a delicious coffee and a roll, then start planning lunch whilst strolling and people-watching (and ogling the unbelievable mullets, yes, mullets! on the women), then take hours to eat lunch and then walk it off and ogle more (the open-air budgie market, the red-light district one block from the main drag, the Roman fortifications, the extremely Ferdinand-like narrow little passageways) til you find a likely spot for dinner. Very nice indeed.

Another really nice thing to do in Barcelona is meet knitters. Barcelona Knits gets together on Monday nights near the Plaça Catalunya, which is a little like the Times Square of Barcelona - the kind of place where, sooner or later, everyone you’ve ever known will pass by.

From left, Elena, a really nice girl from the south of Spain, a lovely Argentine girl whose name I forget but who brought some fantastic dulce de leche her mother had sent from Argentina to accompany the announcement of her ¡engagement! (hooray! congratulations!), me, the extremely sweet Paulina, aka Debolsillo (or “pocket-sized”), from Mexico, author of the blog La República de Mi Casa and the podcast En Punto, you know what, these lasses were all very lovely, Trini, Nuria (a beautiful name, don’t you think? and very common in Catalunya), some folks who came in later who you can’t see, and on the right, Danielle, aka laracroft, who also had a wonderful announcement, which is that her crocheted fair-isle socks (yes, crochet fair isle!) will be published in Interweave Crochet in the spring. I struggled along in Spanish; their English was much better. (No progress on Moth. Stitch count horribly off.)

The Sagrada Familia is the thing I have most and longest wanted to see. It did not disappoint. The two main facades outside are staggering; the Nativity side is a very rococo, frothy, excitable sand-castle thing; the Passion side is weighty, blocky, blunt, and very affecting. But they are nothing to the inside. I burst into tears upon entering, which I quickly covered up, because it is so crowded. The scale is unbelievable. The few windows that are done are exquisite; the picture doesn’t convey the subtlety of the colors at all. The columns are of all different kinds of stone and different colors; some come from as far away as Iran. A very powerful experience.

Joe and I also visited the very sweet little knitting shop Persones Llanes (“yarn people” in Catalan) in, appropriately, Plaça de la Llana. Like Paulina, it is pocket-sized and very charming. Their slogan is “all you knit is love.” Barcelona, as I mentioned, is about eating, not buying wool, but I did get some Nepalese cotton for a market bag. (Show you later - it’s plain and simple and very pleasing.)

The wool above is the only Spanish wool they can get to sell at Persones Llanes. It’s used for rug-weaving, so it comes in these long skeins - it’s yarn and a shuttle, all in one.

And here is some absolutely luscious soap from a little hole-in-the-wall soapmaker’s in the Barri Gótic. I didn’t buy enough the first time, and when I went back I couldn’t find the passageway again. (That’s a little Icelandic-honeymoon lava keeping it company. It’s nicer to get your pumice off the beach than at the druggist.)

And this was a really nice fellow who took me to Barcelona with him. Thank you, Joe. I adore you.

17 October 2007

Branching Out & The Potential for Light at the End of the Tunnel

A quick post before heading out to Rhinebeck this weekend, and also very few photos.

Simone received her lovely cashmere shawl this past weekend - I was loathe to give ti up, it is just so luscious, but, alas. I was rewarded with the pattern, yarn, needles, and measurements to craft a little cover-up for Miss B to wear at/during/after Simone's wedding. It's progressing smoothly, though not much to look at yet, so no pictures. Also no pictures: the completed MOTH! I have yet to block it, so at this point it is just another lumpy bundle of green yarn. You've seen it before. Hoping to block it soon soon soon - I mean XTREME block it - but I'm looking for the space - it ends up at some ridiculous size.

I did manage to get some pictures of a quicky Branching Out scarf:
Branching Out

This is using my Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club September offering, "Aspen". It's a merino/tencel blend and has a great sheen to it, which I wanted to show off. I really like the color transitions:

Branching Out

I'm trying to refrain form casting on anything else - I'm hoping to catch a case of Max's Finishitis, and really take a huge stab at my unfinished projects. Or at least make some decisions on many of them. Here are the things that are up for consideration:
- Ugliest Sweater Ever (need to work on collar shaping)
- Assymetrical Light Blue Zippy Cardi - sleeves :P
- some ancient cotton lace scarf thinger (I think i just need to bind off and call it quits on that one)
- Hush! lingerie - dreadfully tedious and boring at this point, but potentially good to have on hand at work for lunch and meetings, etc.

Those are the only major ones that I can think of off the top of my head - those are the ones that have been marinating for quite some time; I'm hoping my gauge hasn't changed significantly. How do you battle YOUR finishitis?

08 October 2007

Those who can, knit. Those who can’t, thrift.*

*I mean me.

Last week at my local thrift, I found my son a nice bathrobe, needed to replace the childhood Holstein-patterned robe that he's clung to at least a year too long now. This one's a workmanlike L.L.Bean number in red-and-green tartan, possibly historically correct, though I don't know its name. Anyway, like many bathrobes that wind up in the thrifts, this one had been separated from its sash. I soon found an inferior robe with sash, and contemplated separating them, but decided it would be bad thrift karma, and I don't need that.

So this week, when I found a lone, karma-free flannel sash, I picked it up, and (silently, unlike some of the other folks there) rehearsed the conversation I'd have explaining to him the mismatch. "Mixing plaids is jaunty! Lots of people do it on purpose!" Not that he'd really care. But when I got it home, and had washed it (in hot water! hot hot hot, just like I wash myself when I get back from there - I once picked up a shirt someone had just used as a handkerchief - wait, is that word a euphemism by definition? I mean to say snotrag - and then evilly thrown it back in the pile, and I think I know who it was, too. And that makes this another entry in the parenthetic blogging Olympics) and dried it and brought it up to his room to thread through the loops of tartan #1 bathrobe, and lo: they are a perfect match. It's a little miracle, because this thrift clears out its entire stock from week to week. I don't know where it goes; maybe to New Jersey, maybe to Burundi, but at the end of the week: all new stuff.

Unironed, but a he won't care about that, either.

It's been more luck like that this week, actually. I also found a wonderful vintage Catalina (my favorite brand; I adore that swandiver logo) bikini in blue, white, and pink, an old-school size 12, which is maybe a US 8 these days? Anyway, I can practically imagine fitting into it! But when I held it up against my chest - so fetching, the stripes! - it became apparent that only one of the two triangles was present. And, you know, not even an Amazon can go to the beach with only one triangle up top. At least, not in New England. The suit was good enough to cling to anyway, even as my companion mocked me ("what, are you hoping to find it at the bottom of some mound in here?!"). And I did! See? (That pink shone like a beacon.)

Look out, New England! Me and my bikini are gonna hit yer beach next summer.

There were other notable finds this week: Vintage fabric for the vintage-fabric Etsy shop I've decided to start;

A beautiful silk scarf, in colors appropriate to the season;

A little cross-stitched thingamajig for Melissa to turn into baby booties; I think she'll only do that if the piece is stained, and this one, happily, is;

A luscious vintage pullover with bell sleeves. Recognize the pattern? It's basically gull stitch, same as the February baby sweater;

and a great pile of once-horrifically-expensive designer denim for my daughter, along with a Japanese skull-emblem bootleg Clash t-shirt. I try to be a good mother, me.

So... Moth... Yes... I've arrived at the place in the pattern (that is, for those of you who are familiar with Moth, I've worked the reverse stockinette band and begun the Twin Leaf pattern) where it should really say: Novices, virgins, absolute beginners: seek advice before proceeding. Because there is a little veil drawn over the part between the end of the pattern repeat as given, and the beginning of picking up the pattern again.

And this is not to fault the designer; this is just to say, Ahhhh, I geddit. When people talk about the skills required for lace knitting, this is part of what they are talking about. They are not just talking about being able to p5tog; they are talking about being able to stay alert, take useful notes, think ahead, visualize several rows down the line, and that sort of thing. I see now. Fields Medal knitting. Shaw Prize knitting. Lace knitters: respect.

And something else I saw: This is the point at which I would normally put the knitting down, never to pick it up again. I would simply reach for something easier, until I got stuck there, too. Rinse and repeat. And that's why I have a lot of unfinished projects lying about, and why I made a commitment this month not to start anything new, but to work only on things I've already started.

Of course, I'd noticed this about myself before. But it's very good to have an extra reason to put my head down and keep going, rather than quit. Because what I observe about my life is that all too often, I stick with things that I'd be better off quit of, and I quit the things I'd do better to stick with. And that, friends, is my spiritual task as well as my knitting work for October.

01 October 2007

What A Little Sunlight Will Do

For whatever odd reason, the nice weather leads me to spinning. I think a large part of it may be that my two (TWO!) fiber clubs arrive days apart, and then I feel the need to catch up. Well, that being said, I'm presenting to you two (TWO!) photos of the same thing:

Sunny "colorado"

And again:

Spunky Club "Colorado"

This is my Spunky Eclectic September selection. It is called "Colorado" and it is a merino/tencel blend. I'm providing the two (TWO!) pictures of the same item in order to better illustrate the sheen, but also so you have a better idea of the colors - neither photo seemed to do the fiber any justice - in different ways - so I figure with a combination of the two (TWO!) you can get a better idea of what we're dealing with here. I have never spun with tencel before - it gives a lovely sheen to the fiber, and also makes it a bit slippery! I didn't really pre-draft this fiber - I just dove in and treadled like mad to get it fairly thin. To preserve the lovely colors and the sheen of the fiber, I opted to try my hand at Navajo-Plying. This is my first attempt at navajo-plying, and I think it went pretty well. I just took my time, and paid attention every step of the way. I think I've got about 200 yards or so, and I'm thinking maybe a lace scarf of some sort.

What I've been Doin'

1. Movin' to Brooklyn

2. Goin' to fairs:

Fair season/"autumn" is by far my favorite time of year. Stacie and I (and Max??) are gearing up for Rhinebeck on $13 a piece, which really isn't going to buy us much cheese (the real reason we go). The Topsfield Fair is this weekend--oh crap, it just occurred to me that I will have no money for this, as I certainly shouldn't dive into my $13 Rhinebeck fund. Hmm...

Well anyway, before I completely ran out of money I attended the Goshen and Guilford fairs in my home state of Connecticut. The Goshen Fair was, as usual, AWESOME. Check this shit out:

Admittedly, there wasn't much competition, but STILL. And I won $8!

It was my first time attending the Guilford Fair, which was pretty standard. Or so I thought until I wandered into Department W: Spinning and Fiber! I've been to many a fair but I have never before seen an entire barn dedicated to such things. There were two old white dudes stringently judging the quality of all the handspun entries. Very serious stuff.

Sadly, I missed the spinning contest.

3. Workin' on projects

It's true, I've started knitting again. After a lengthy break my wrists are feeling better and I've gotten quite a bit done on Cherie: