General · Pets

The Great Wool Migration

nb:  It’s difficult sometimes to know what to talk about here and what to talk about on the Chronicles of Bebbanburg, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the chronicles should talk about the house renovations and other stuff, except for weaving, goes here.   That way folks who have no interest in fiber arts won’t be bored to tears.

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It’s raining cats and dogs today,  after gloriously dramatic thunderstorms during the night.  We slept in and enjoyed a lazy morning.

Brian, ever the responsible homeowner, went out in the pouring rain to check and clean gutters, taking Beowulf with him.  Beo had a great time, but got a bit wet.  Here he is after he was toweled off!

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But last night he was tired from all the excitement of exploring his new home, and Katie let him use her as his pillow.

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Meanwhile, Stonewall has settled in and seems very happy with the new digs. Before we left Seattle, we had taken all the pets to the vet. She was concerned that Stonewall was too thin. But here in NC, he is eating more, drinking more and being nicer to everyone. So even though I was in the middle of winding a skein of yarn on a nostepinne (my ball winders have not yet made their ways here), I was happy to let him settle in my lap and take a nap.

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Loki, who needs to lose weight, settled in to a cat bed with the end of a curtain and sleeps to the lullaby of the falling rain.

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Meanwhile, I put on my tennis shoes and had an aerobic workout. I’m glad we sold the Stairmaster– who needs it when you have two long staircases to go up and down?

When we were here in March, we took delivery of the first pod that we had packed. We had used lots of bags of fiber as filler around items. We had friends visiting us, who helped to unload the pod, and so rather than figuring out where it all went, we put it all into the master bedroom walk-in closet. I then put in a couple of moth repellant capsules, shut the door and wedged towels underneath it to block the odor and prevent moths from having a party. But now I need to put them in their proper places.

These photos were taken after I had already removed quite a few bags.

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My workout consisted of taking these bags and boxes (not all of them– I probably have another 3 workouts in that closet!) up or down stairs. Upstairs in one guest bedroom I’m putting spinning fibers, and in the other guest room, knitting and needlepoint yarns. Downstairs goes sewing, quilting and weaving yarns and fabrics.

I kept track of my heart rate on my new Apple Watch (got it for Mothers Day) and kept my heart rate up for about an hour, with a couple of rest breaks. Beo insisted on running up and down with me, so I had to stop, right? I didn’t want to give him a heart attack!

There is still much to reposition, but as we unload our second pod, it becomes necessary to have the master closet back for such fripperies as “clothes” and “shoes”.

Knitting · Pets · Spinning · Weaving

Begin Again?

I don’t know if the era of the knitting/weaving/spinning blog is past or not.  I notice that many blogs have gone by the wayside and wonder if it’s because the blogger just tired of it, got too busy, thought nobody cared, or some other reason.

From time to time I think about resurrecting this blog, but I’ve never really had a compelling reason.  I’m older, it’s harder to try to be funny (though I can’t help being silly sometimes), and I just don’t have as much time and energy as I used to.

But now I look around me and acknowledge the data that tells me that I will likely not finish anything I start.  In the past, it was fun to show my progress on the blog and get encouragement.  Just by knowing that I wanted my photo to show a bit more progress on the next blog post, I was motivated to work on an item.

Last week, a reader of one of my former blogs from many years ago wrote me to tell me how much I had helped her and enabled her, in turn, to help someone else.  That was a heartwarming message, and caused me to further consider the future of Material Thoughts.

So here I am, with Plan B (plan A: knit one thing at a time and finish it, has been declared officially impossible).

Plan B is the Blog plan.  For one month I will commit to posting 3 posts per week.  Each post will contain description and/or photos of my progress on projects.

If I can do this for one month, Plan B will get approved and extended to 3 months.  And so forth.

At my company, we use what is called the Agile methodology to plan and execute how we build software.  “Stories” are written in a specific way.  They have to say what is being done and why, and the why must be measurable, in the format “As a [person, organization or system] I want [something] so that [statement showing value].  So here is my story:

As a maker of things from yarn, I want to write blogs posts 3 times per week for one month showing continual progress on one project from each technique (knitting, weaving and spinning) so that I can make progress on works in progress.

Seems simple, right?  I hope so!

The Project On The Needles

Just started yesterday, Cynthia Wasner’s fabulous Saint Olav and his Men cardigan.  I am using the yarn called for (Rauma Finullgarn) in the colors called for, except subsituting Rose for the Orange. This is the photo from the pattern, since my 1/2 inch of ribbing isn’t very photogenic right now:

Full Disclosure:

I’ve committed to also knitting the Dale Peace Sweater, so I will be posting about both of those projects, which should both progress, but I haven’t received the yarn for it yet, and it will require some design changes so as to avoid knitting fair isle back and forth.

The Project On A Loom

Started last week (after actually finished a class sample), a small Navajo rug of my own design using traditional motifs.  I have two inches of this complete.  The goal of my Navajo weaving is to accept that Navajo weaving goes slowly, to savor the satisfying placement of the colors and the beat of the fork and to delight as the pattern emerges.

This is the design, which I created in Excel:

And here is my humble 2″ start.  The bottom is wobbly because I am a beginner and didn’t secure my edge twining properly.  Next time!

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The Project On a Spinning Wheel

In line with Navajo weaving, I ordered a lot of Navajo Churro rovings in different colors, from Desert Churros Rovings on Etsy.  This is beautifully prepared roving, not too “rustic” and the shop owner is absolutely wonderful.

I have spun up about a dozen skeins of this so far, on my cherry Hansen miniSpinner, aiming for a sport weight.  I have at least that much more to spin.  The darkest churro comes from Dyers Wool, and it had a bit of dandruff in it (I knew that before I bought it) which is hard to get out, but I hope it comes out with washing.  The dark heathery charcoal also comes from Dyers Wool.

It’s hard to get things washed these days, thanks to the new inhabitants of the laundry room, who haven’t quite attained citizenship in the Greater Household.  Spencer and Katie were adopted last week, born of feral mothers from two different Washington locations.  This brings us up to four cats and one dog.

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Knitting · Pets

The Perfect Yarn

For many years I have loved and admired Cape Cod, a gansey designed by Alice Starmore for her Fisherman’s Sweaters book and  expressly created for a feminine wearer.  The yarn used in the original design, like many of the venerable Rowan yarns of yore, is long discontinued.  It was a 50/50 silk/wool blend, and knit up at 34 stitches and 44 rows per 4 inches.

Because I did not have access to the original yarn, and did not know of a suitable substitute, I did not ever knit the sweater.  Over the years since Ravelry has come into existence, I periodically look at the implementations of the Cape Cod design as knit by other people, but nobody’s choice of yarn has ever struck me as perfect.  I therefore refrained from adopting any of those yarns.

In the last month or so, largely inspired by Gordon, I contracted a serious case of Gansey Fever, and so began once again my hunt for the perfect yarn for Cape Cod.

The characteristics of this yarn, in my opinion, would be that it is soft in appearance and feel, but not so soft that it stretches into nothing as it loops around the needle; that it is tightly twisted so that it shows great stitch definition,  but not so tight that it is harsh; that the color complements the design and is not overbearing.

One day it all came together, my perfect yarn:  Renaissance Dyeing 4-ply Poll Dorset.  The color is called Pastel, reminiscent of wispy clouds across a pale blue sky.  It knits at the perfect gauge on a 2.25 mm needle, and is everything I ever dreamed.  It has the bounce and softness characteristic of this breed of sheep, and I am infatuated with it.

In this picture you can see the bottoms of the shells and the beginnings of the horseshoe cables above the welt, see the sharp relief of the purls against the knits, and if you could also experience its softness against your skin you would agree that this yarn is perfect for Cape Cod.

Change of subject:  I told you about Stonewall in my last post, and here he is to greet and to wish you, with his operatic meow, a very Merry Christmas!

Knitting · Nihon Vogue · Pets

Treadwater Knitting

The Nihon Vogue Vest (Project 1) has arrived at its necessary state of completion for the next class.  Front and Back are knit, shoulders are sloped with short-rows, ribbing is bound off in the prescribed manner.   This is a round-neck vest with ribbing at the neck and arms.  I chose to use Blackwater Abbey’s 2-ply worsted, in the color Iris.

 Thor, who is normally a fairly reclusive cat,  sometimes decides to be almost comically sociable (presumably depending on the current phase of the moon).  It was fun to have him involved in this photo shoot:

Before the next homework assignment takes over my knitting time, I feel I must tread water, saving up my strength to swim the next few laps.  For that purpose, I have two projects at hand.  The first is to complete the sleeves for Misty Gardens (my own design, using Alice Starmore 2-ply Hebridean).  While I love the color and pattern combination, I’m not thrilled with the drop shoulders.  So I will complete this one for a dear friend who loves drop shoulders, and then I will start over.  I want to have set-in sleeves with a wider, more ballet-style, collar.  I hope all the people who expressed a desire for the pattern will forgive me; I must presume that most of them would also prefer set-in sleeves.  If you look realllllly close, you can see that I have picked up the sleeve stitches and knit about three rounds:

The second project is a one I’ve wanted to knit since it was first published last June:  the Traveling Sweater, by Karen Alfke, using the Blue Moons Woobu I bought at Madrona, in the color Midnight Oasis.  This is a fun pattern to knit because the short rows are constantly entertaining.    The shiny-ness of the yarn is exquisite, and it is really nice to work with.   I saw the sweater on at least half a dozen people at Madrona, and it looked great on all of them, from small to large and in between.  Hopefully I can finish it before I am overcome with the urge to knit one of the Bohus sweaters that is due to arrive on my doorstep at any moment! 

Knitting · Pets · Weaving

Maidenhair Revisited

A knitter’s project must be paired with her mood.  Is this not so?  Who’s to say what project suits what frame of mind?  You’d think that a week of chaos would make me want to knit something mindless like garter stitch.  Instead, after rambling through all my yarn, patterns, books and abandoned wips, I settled on this one.

It must have been five years since I worked on Maidenhair.  At the time, I thought it extremely laborious and finicky.  Now I find it smooth and satisfying.  I love working with the gansey yarn and needles that seem impossibly small for it.  I particularly like the central lace pattern.  If I were to start it all over again (which I won’t) I might substitute something else for a couple of the smaller panels, but overall this is a very pretty and satisfying knit.  Perhaps I will finish it.

Someone else has learned to enjoy watching the movement of the needles while perched just above my shoulders.

And as for the dish towels, I’ve managed to wind a sample warp of 60 inches that I hope to get beamed on today.  It’s like swatching for knitting– time consuming and irritating, but time-saving and valuable in the end.

The  monthly family funeral trend continues, with the death on April 1 of yet another family member.  I’m hoping this trend ends now, but that party on the other side is sure attracting a lot of folks!

Events · Family · Pets

The Christmas Story

I hope you all had a very cozy Christmas and that you are still in the holiday spirit!  You know this kind of spirit, right?  The kind where there’s a mild blurry haze over everything, there’s a fire blazing in the fireplace and in the distance you hear the faint music from a choir of angels?  Yes, that’s the one.

I don’t have knitting or weaving progress to show and tell today, so I thought I’d show some photos from the main event of our Christmas– the dinner.

Venturing into unknown territory, I decided to try cooking a standing rib roast, commonly known as Prime Rib.  I was more than a little nervous after we bought the meat; we felt like we should have had an armed guard with us to protect our investment.  Therefore it was imperative that nothing go wrong with the actual roasting.  But thanks to extensive prime rib cooking information on the site  What’s Cooking America, failure was not an option.  We turned this:

into this (inside was mouth-watering buttery tender to-die-for succulence):

Brian, the quintessential pie chef, made two pies (I made one, too, from a crust he made for me).  It is a joke at our house that Brian carries on all the pie crust conversations and exchanging of recipes with guests who rave over the tender flakiness he produces.

Sherah and John joined us, also bringing delicious food:

And we all had a feast.

And the cats?  They watched, feigning disinterest,  from Sherlock’s tent

And that concludes our Christmas story.