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Butterflies

For many moons I have waited for the day when the basement studio would be complete and many looms could be set up. That day has not quite arrived, but it quickly nears. Walls were deconstructed, reconstructed and painted. Floors were laid with waterproof laminate, and a storage cabinet was erected in one corner.

Little by little, it comes together.

Matilda the Great, a Glimakra Sovereign rug loom of vast proportions (12 feet weaving width) has arrived at her final destination, her parts lying on the floor as if her flesh had melted away and left only bones of wood and steel.

The L shape of the studio encompasses around 850 square feet. The side shown above is 30 by 19, and the side along the far wall is 35 by 15.

It is a good thing that this house found us, because large looms seem to find me, and, as with poodles, I am helpless against their seductive powers.

The other day I was minding my own business and dreaming up a large double-knit blanket depicting a Viking ship with its one large sail blown full by the wind, like half a hot-air balloon carrying a slice of canteloupe decorated with round war shields.

More than a blanket, I needed something to hang upon the large blank wall in the great room, after it is painted.

Or any other large high wall in the house, for that matter, for there are several.

And so it was that I began to contemplate tapestry, after I had discarded the ideas of cross-stitch, needlepoint, quilts and a large coat of arms blazoned as Azure, two Poodles rampant on a Carpet of flowers, holding in their dexter paws a Sword gold-hilted, and in their sinister paws a Goblet of vin rouge.

Fascinating, eh bear?

Large tapestries require large tapestry looms. A large tapestry loom was not to be found in the house, but after a few seconds of research I found a beautiful Swiss haute-lisse (high, or vertical style) loom on eBay, located close enough to make it possible to bring it home.

In the stye of bippity boppity boo, I bought the loom and several days later my dearest and I traveled the 2-hour distance to Charlotte and brought it home, where its two “rollers” as they were once called, sit in the entry hall hoping that three large Vikings will soon sail in to put them in their place.

This loom, now referred to as “Geneva” has a weaving width of 300 cm (almost ten feet). It is crafted of Beechwood, made and imported from Switzerland in 1981 from ARM, a family-owned business that was created in 1861 and began making looms in 1940.

Now what? I have to learn to weave tapestry! I enrolled in Rebecca Mezoff’s online tapestry course, got out my neglected Mirrix Zach, and have embarked upon the long journey that will one day lead to walls of wool flown in on butterflies.

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The Mystery Shawl

Here I am once again, ensconced in my favorite chair (an Ekornes) in the great room in the morning. I’ve finished my coffee and oatmeal and toast and would normally be headed for the office to work on Qwipple, but for the fact that there is a cat draped across my legs as they rest upon the footstool. It is a Rule that the cat must be the first to leave, barring urgent needs for the Necessary or a requirement to meet an appointment.

It’s freezing rain outside, the fireplace is putting out heat, and I’ve no great need or desire to abandon this cozy scene quite yet. So I’m working on my mystery shawl.

Most of you knitters think of mystery shawls (or mystery fill-in-the-blanks) as a project that you knit not knowing what it will look like when it is finished. You obediently follow a set of clues, each of which is released on a predefined schedule, such as weekly or bi-weekly or on set dates. Eventually you finish the thing, and you look for the next one.

But the mystery in my shawl is a story in which the plot involves a meandering set of blog posts on no certain schedule. The denouement will, after much intensity and drama, provide the answer to these questions and others: Which shawl am I knitting? How long will it take me? Will I really finish it? Will I like it? Will I wear it?

The first clue for you is this. It is a drab green-gray triangle in garter stitch, started with one stitch and growing by one stitch each row. Currently there are 148 stitches on the needle. The opening lines of our story might be something like this:

It was a gray and stormy day; as gray as the cat which lay upon her lap, and as gray as the beginning of the shawl she would wear in due course at an occasion suitable to its fabric and color.

Stitch by stitch she knit, feeling the crisp wool singles yarn slip through her fingers on its way to forming the linked loops that were garter stitches. It was as repetitive as her heartbeat, as easy as breathing; the same thing over and over, as relentless as the icy rain outside. She let her hands take over and her mind to roam elsewhere. Like a series of still life paintings, visions came to her of…

Well, hopefully some visions will come.

Here is a vision of my lovely Gisela, just having returned from a trip outdoors and having a bad hair day.

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A Fresh Idea for the Prevention of Stash Infection

At long last I have amassed all of my knitting yarn into its forever room, but as I have been putting it away, I find (as if I didn’t already know) that I have way too much. I honestly don’t know if it will all fit into the big walk-in closet, the two 8-foot tall and 40″ wide armoires, the bookcase and the trunk.

As a few of you already know, last fall I came down with a serious case of Miss Babs fever. But even before I moved away from Seattle I had ordered and received one of her beautiful gradient kits, called Enlightenment. In my obviously flawed memory, I had done nothing with it yet, and it was still in its bag waiting to be wound and used.

As I sorted stedfastly through the stash today, trying to find room for it, I came across this and screamed a little inside my head.

I then vaguely recalled a certain poodle puppy with a scientific nature.

He wouldn’t play with real balls, but he loved to toss yarn balls in the air, observe them as they fell, and repeat the experiment until he got caught. When that happened to Enlightenment and whatever it was that I was knitting with it, I simply stuffed it all back in a bag and forgot about it. (Beowulf no longer does this, as he now has Gisela to play with and he is much more mature).

It took me an hour just to restore the gradient, and it will take at least another hour or two to wind the silver yarn back into recognizable condition.

I had a lot of time to think while I was untangling. I am an oxymoron: both a planner and an impulsive yarn buyer. I don’t buy many clothes or shoes; I don’t spend much money on sports events or vacations, but when it comes to yarn, I splurge.

So, I wondered– what would actually make me pause before buying yarn that I thought I wanted? What would prevent me from doing it?

Ok, I thought, what if there was a (voluntary) international Stash Offenders list which all of the yarn shops and online stores had access to? And what if, when anyone on the List ordered or bought yarn, the vendor was required to unskein and tangle up every yarn that the offender was purchasing?

If they did that, then these people (including me) would know that when their yarn arrived, they would have to spend many hours untangling it. It would not be beautiful to behold right away. It would not lend itself to being nice displayed in a photo or drawer until the untangling had occurred. It would be a mess!

This would definitely be a deterrent, don’t you think?

In reality, there will never be such a list. But, as we can imagine such a thing, maybe we can use the idea to help cull our stash.

From now on, as I survey my stash, I will ask myself “would it be worth it to me to untangle all of this in order to use it?” If the answer is no, it needs to go– I’ll set it aside to be listed or taken to the Anything Fiber sale. If I love it enough that I would spend the hours to untangle it, then it is worthy of the stash.

There’s just one problem. I adore all of Miss Babs yarns, and my stash is definitely infected with it. So now what? Perhaps I can persuade her to add a fee similar to the winding fee: the tangling fee. It could be negative amount, so if I chose it I would save money. Besides, how much fun would the Miss Babs staff have throwing loose skeins of yarn up into the air like a scientific poodle?

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The Consequences of Ennuiphobia

When I was a child (and the Dead Sea merely sick) I was bored much of the time. There weren’t enough books to keep me entertained, and besides, my father did not value reading and if he saw me doing it, he would likely tell me to put the book away and “go outside and play”. Going outside to play was boring. Reading was interesting.

I loved to make things; to sew or embroider, but the funds either were not there or not released for such as this.

So I developed a lifelong fear of boredom, (I think that would be called ennuiphobia) and the result is the accumulation of an overabundance of things to do. On the one hand, I enjoy having lots of options, and knowing I won’t be bored as long as I am at home (or out where I can do non-boring things). On the other hand, there is a thumb. No, wait, that’s not right!

Combine this fear of boredom with a love of matched sets and a fear that something will not be available in the future, and you get a big stash of fabric, yarn, fiber and equipment. I know I am not alone in this. I hope I am not alone in this!

Take last night, for example. I was winding this beautiful laceweight 2/36 cashmere/merino/silk, all 1250 yards of it, into this incredibly small cake…

…when I caught sight of the beautiful Miss Babs Wild Silk that I bought in the famous Miss Babs Rampage of 2017. It is a beautiful coral.

So while I am winding my newest beauty, the Black Pearl, I am also cheating on it by eyeing the coral. I eventually finish winding and take both cakes downstairs. (Knitting and Spinning supplies are upstairs; Weaving is in the basement). I had an Orenburg lace shawl in mind for the Black Pearl, but hadn’t really settled on a pattern for the coral. I like to try to use as much of the quantity I have in a yarn on a project, and this takes research. A few Ravelry searches later, I settled on this pretty shawl, the Osmanthus. I cast it on and began, completely ignoring the Black Pearl.

So what’s the problem? you may ask, and I will tell you. The problem is that I did not start a project in Ravelry to record this. Here’s the thing: if I do what comes naturally to me, I will get bored with this in a week or two, put it in a bag and put the bag in the closet. Two years from now when I re-organize things, I will find it and wonder what it is. That is the problem. That is exactly the problem I have with this:

I don’t know what it was to become. It is lost in the mists of memory, but I like how it’s going and would love to continue.

And that, my friend, is why I have to learn to start a Ravelry project when I cast on– not before, not after it’s all finished, but when it is started. I think I’ll go do that now.

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I just woke up and it’s 2018…

That was this blog speaking, shaking its sleepy head and rubbing the sand out of its eyes. He looked at me forlornly, somewhat vexed that I had not woken him up, pointing out that all the other blogs were active. I retorted by naming several blogs that have long periods of time between posts and he was somewhat mollified. However, I would not promise him this would never happen again. That would be asking for trouble.

Note: Beowulf and Gisela asked to be models for this post, even if they have no knitwear.

Fiber arts pursuits in the Hendersonville NC area have been good to me. In October I attended SAFF for the first time, and two weeks later the fall Carolina Fiber Frolic. I really enjoyed the Frolic, and met some really nice people (about 50 of them) in a relaxing setting with great food. It’s only about 45 minutes away from me, in Sapphire. I’m looking forward to the spring frolic which will be held in March.

Last week I attended the Kanuga Knitting & Quilting Retreat (KKQ) which is five minutes away, held at the Kanuga Lake conference center (60 knitters and 40 quilters there). I took a lace knitting class that covered Estonian, Orenburg and Shetland techniques. I learned a couple of new things and got motivated to knit some lace.

Alas, I have a problem. This will be no news to those who have known me for any length of time. Here’s the problem: I love to engineer Plans, Great Plans, sophisticated Plans– but most often I do not follow the Plan.

Yes, they know about this.

I spend hours researching the perfect designs on Ravelry and putting them in my queue. I would be better off using those hours to actually knit things.

One of two things happens while I am looking at Ravelry:

  1. I find a “perfect” pattern, but I don’t have the yarn for it (which is surprising, considering my stash) and, under the influence of a glass of wine, I order it; or
  2. I bought yarn for a pattern and then realize that it is not perfect for it, so now I have to find a new pattern for it, which leads back to 1

So it is that in the last few months I have added over a hundred things to my Ravelry queue, and quite a bit of yarn to the stash.

This must stop.

(do you hear that rumbling sound, sort of like the beginning of an avalanche? you know it’s coming… it’s a bird, it’s a plane– it’s a SuperPlan. It also sounds a lot like poodles playing in the morning.)

But really, I’ve had this Plan for quite some time. It’s a Plan to make a Plan. To put it plainly, it’s software. The app was named in 2011 (gotta do the important things first!) and the domain name secured at that time. It’s called Qwipple. I backronymed it to mean “Queue and Wip Prioritization by Learning from Experience” But Qwipple is much easier to remember, and the name rolls trippingly off the tongue, no?

Since then, some yahoo (that’s pronounced yay-who, btw) has come along and made some game called Qwipple. Not the same thing, and in an entirely different business, and I had the domain first, so I’m keeping it.

I might have quit my paying job and moved to the Blue Ridge mountains, but I am working harder than ever on Qwipple. It’s satisfying work, I am my own boss, and I can let it grow organically as long as I know what the end goal is. Which, of course, is to make end goals.

Gisela approves.

More about Qwipple in future posts… and hopefully about knitting, too.

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Forth to the Fourth on the Fourth

Perched high on the Bebbanburg ridge, we are and were the unwitting witnesses of several sources of fireworks, starting on Saturday.  We can only imagine what tonight will bring.  One of the Saturday displays went on for at least 45 minutes!  Hopefully this means that we will never again be compelled to fight crowds of people in order to take in the light shows of Independence Day.

Once I knew that Twisp of Fate Katie was also knitting the Windfeather, I was inspired and encouraged to rip out the undersized stripe and begin it anew.  All has gone well since then and I am now onto my fourth big stripe. I am knitting the largest size and expect I may live in it come winter.

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If you think the piece seems slanted, that’s good– because it is supposed to be on the bias.  I really like knitting this; I’ve memorized the lace pattern now and I can knit fairly mindlessly except for watching the change of needle sizes.  Lesson Learned!

I’m looking forward to the arrival of a great friend and knitting pal tomorrow,  and another one joining us on Friday.  Hopefully I will remember to take photos of the places we go and the yarn we resist– or not.

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up to add a cross-stitch project to the works in progress.  I hadn’t realized cross-stitch has “come back”, but when I started searching for projects thinking it would be fun to return to it (I was an avid cross-stitcher in the 80’s), it became obvious.

I’ve selected my project, ordered some fabric and after my guests have said goodbye I will embark upon it.  You’ll see.

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Non impedimente ratione cogitationis

You may have noticed my fancy Latin motto in the header of this blog.  Today it is quite relevant.  (It was used by Car Talk and I thought I would borrow it for myself):  Non impedimenti ratione cogitationis:  Not impeded by rational thought.

It’s pretty funny to me that the famous Meyers-Briggs temperament analysis always has me as a Rational (INTJ).  And for the most part, I am.  But too often I get caught up in other thoughts and forget to think about what I’m actually doing.

Take this for example.

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It’s my start on the lovely Carol Sunday design, Windfeather, in the Taos colorway.  I love the frequent color changes and the way they all flow together like facets of the ripples on a pond, reflecting something different in each wave.

This is achieved, this lace alternating with garter, by changing needles each time the color changes– size 4 for the garter, size 6 for the lace.  I finished the fourth color last night with an immense sense of self-satisfaction and eagerness to start knitting with the next color.  It has occurred to me that anticipating knitting with a color named Moth might have been frowned upon by the wool god Lanae Tuus, who determined to impress upon me his great displeasure, for I went to pick up my smaller needle and realized I had knit the entire Delft section with the wrong needle. It’s pretty obvious in the photo.  Non impediment ratione cogitationis.

Luckily, the Bebbanburg gansey has progressed a bit further, and if there are no known kerfluffles with it right now, it is because it began its life because of a kerfluffle.

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A couple of years ago I decided I simply must knit the At Sea Gansey with this Claret Frangipani.  I knit both front and back welts, overlapped and joined them and was knitting the plain portion.  About 4 rounds into it I realized I had twisted the welts and I was now knitting an unofficial moebius.  Non impedimente ratione cogitationis.

I calmly put the beginnings, such as they were, into a plastic bag and stowed it where the sun doesn’t shine. (In my knitting armoire of course).  This time around, though I’ve made up my own pattern, I was extremely careful not to twist the welts.

It remains to be seen whether I stow the Windfeather stole until the pain of remembrance has gone away or whether the feather in disgrace will be ripped out and reknit immediately.  We shall see.