Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunflower Guild Does It Again

This weekend I attended our local guild "Knitting in the Heartland" spring conference. I had a great time. I went to the vendor market and didn't buy yarn, yay! But I couldn't resist getting some spinning fiber. It was just too luscious to resist.

I bought shades of green such as this green alpaca:

I am normally not a "blue person" but for the past month or so I've been really CRAVING blue. Here's some blue fiber I got.

And finally my FAVORITE thing. I just LOVE the colors in this gorgeous roving. They are colors that normally wouldn't go together. I never guessed that shades of pink, blue, lavendar and teracotta would go well together - but this colorway looks AMAZING to me. Especially for spring. For some reason, the addition of that autumnal orangish/brownish color really makes this otherwise spring colorway "pop" and I love it.

So all in all, in spite of the cold/rainy weather (will we ever see sun again?) I had a fabulous time and hopefully spinning up some of this springlike roving goodness will make me feel much better. Now if I could just sit outside on my deck one SUNNY day - please PLEASE let there ever be sun and warmth again - then I will show you how it spins up.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Am I Ever Blessed

Several weeks ago, I was going through a rough time and recovering from some minor surgery. And guess what? My dear online Ravelry friend Debbie (Snookums on Rav), is also in my Prayer Shawl group. You know what she did? She decided to make me the most beautiful shawl!

It's called The Reader's Shawl - and it is a lovely cream color with pockets. It is soft as clouds and totally warm and comforting. It even has pockets. It's a rectangular stole and is one of the sweetest things I can imagine someone knitting for me.

As if that weren't enough, she sent me some other wonderful items as well:

A little Easter basket full of goodies including: Died in the Wool, a knitting mystery by Mary Kruger - how did she know I love mysteries, and especially knitting-related ones?

A wonderful alpaca/silk blend of beautiful yarn. How did she know Alpaca was my favorite?

I am just absolutely warmed by her kindness . . . and her shawl.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oh No Snow!

Here we are, on the first day of Spring having a less than Spring-like day. What? Snow. Lots of it. Yuck. I think we can agree most of us are sick of it.

Spring. Please?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Storm Cloud Shawlette

Some of you in the Sunflower Guild or those who attended the Jefferson City Fiber Retreat have already seen my completed Storm Cloud Shawlette in person. However, for those who haven't, mainly my handful of blog readers and knitting group members, here are photos of the shawl.

If you like it, it's a free pattern on Ravelry. It's a semi-circular design. It starts with only 4 stitches and increases from there. It's based loosely on the Zimmermann Pi Shawl concept. The good news is that it's one of those mindless, truly easy projects that you can do while talking, watching TV, and the dropped garter stitch actually goes faster if you DON'T pay too much attention. It's so easy you can very quickly memorize the pattern. It only requires for the smallest version, 150 yards of yarn, so it's a good way to use up those single skeins of really pretty yarn you have stashed. It can be made in sock weight yarn, sport yarn, worsted or even bulky - of course the finer the yarn used, the airier the effect.

For mine, I used a whole skein of the glitzy yarn, Feza Festival, which is a medium green with gold thread type novelty yarn, so I used about 250 yards on mine, and carried it along with a sock yarn called Dream in Color Smooshy in "Spring Tickle" - a very light green strand. The two yarns were carried together throughout the body of the shawl, and then on the ruffle, I used 2 strands of Feza Festival. You can make the shawl with the ruffle, or end on Row 70 and leave the ruffle off entirely. If you want a larger, fuller shawl, just keep going with the increases and you can make it as large as you like.

I finished the Storm Cloud Shawlette in only 4 days and I love wearing it. When out and about in public, I've received more compliments on this shawl than any other. Goes to figure that the simplest and easiest knits often get the most credit.

So if you have a skein or two of pretty yarn that you want to put to good use as an over the shoulder wrap, I'd highly recommend this project.

And if you make one, let me know. I'd love to see it!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Back from Spinners' Nirvana

Okay I spent the weekend at a Fiber Retreat in Jefferson City, Missouri. It was my first year there - and what a fabulous experience. The scenery is idyllic. Even though the weather was COLD and rainy, it was sweater and shawl weather, which just gave the spinners, knitters and weavers a chance to wear their favorite projects. Each year, this conference focuses on a different theme. This year it was spinning. Even though I've been really tight on money, this conference was well worth every penny and wasn't expensive. It was very affordable and I felt like I got as much or more information out of it than some people get at more expensive conferences.

The first class I took was Beyond the Basics with Nancy Barnett. It was a really good chance, in a relaxed atmosphere, to ask a lot of questions about our spinning problems and figure out how to spin better in terms of technique. We learned how to use a drumcarder and hand cards, and how using each created different yarns. The teacher, Nancy, raises angora bunnies and taught us how to spin angora and to extend it by combining it with other fibers to make it more durable and go farther. The angora is a short-stapled fiber, and it can be challenging to spin, but she guided us through and when carding it with other fibers, I found I really liked the softness and warmth of it.

Patsy Zawistoski taught the next class I took on "Spinning Designer Yarns." This class was really intense - we analyzed commercial yarns by unspinning them and analyzing the plies and how the mill spun the yarns. We deconstructed yarns, basically and talked about what yarns are beneficial to try to replicate and which ones are easier to just buy at the yarn shop. She gave us a really handy tool to use to help in decoding it. This class taught me SO MUCH. By taking yarn apart, we learned how a variety of types of yarns are made. Fascinating. The time flew by.

Then I had my first ever official "Acid Dyeing" class with Gail White. It was called "All Tied Up in Knots." We learned about printer's and painter's colors. Painters are brighter in tone - jewel tones; whereas printer's are more muted and subdued. We dyed 6 different skeins of yarns using acid dyes - I've never come away from a class with so much yarn! It was so much fun playing with color and getting ideas for how I might try it at home.

The last class and probably my absolute favorite out of all of them was "Spinning Sock Yarn" with Janel Laidman, author of The Eclectic Sole and Enchanted Socks. That woman is amazing. She knows her stuff. We learned what qualities make good sock yarn and what wool or other fiber content creates that ideal. We spun a variety of structures and tensions - as well as plied different configurations. She checked to make sure we were spinning the right grist, strength and texture. We learned about how you can use different fibers, such as tencel and bamboo and nylon to stengthen socks. We learned different plying methods to get us the type of sock yarn we like best- either long-wearing or warmer and softer. The fiber she brought for us to experiment on was gorgeous. Wow! I came away really feeling confident and eager to try to make my own sock yarn - but first I have to finish spinning for Oatmeal sweater.

That's it folks, when they said, "Fiber Retreat" that's a misnomer because I was busy concentrating and learning that it was muore stimulating than relaxing. But it was a blast and I definitely will want to do it again in the future. Definitely a "two thumbs up."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Springing Into New Projects

In an effort to prepare for Spring, even though it hasn't totally "sprung" yet, I decided to cast on for not one but TWO Spring projects. Don't worry I haven't given up on my handspun cardigan (Oatmeal), it's just taking longer to spin and knit than anticipated, so I'm trying to break way into some new projects that I might actually be able to wear while the weather is warm. I'm looking ahead with "cautious optimism" as my boss at work is fond of saying.

I went over to see the Borders knitting crowd yesterday and that was really a blast! Hi Lorenia, Hi Celia, Hi Kelly, Hi Donna. They really inspired me with their projects and I enjoyed having a chance to catch up with them.

Lesson learned: whenever you are down in the dumps, as I have been lately, you feel a natural inclination to want to curl up in a ball and keep to yourself, especially when the weather is cold or nasty. But this weekend, since the weather was better, even a bit sunny, I forced myself to take a break from the errands and go see the old Borders gang, and it really gave me a lift. So what I realized is that when you feel like pulling back and turning inward, sometimes the best thing to do is the opposite, reach out and connect with others.

Back to knitting: I'm trying to use up some stash - so I've cast on for the Rufflicious spring top. It's a Kim Smith design. Plus in starting it, I learned a new technique - how to knit down a hem. Clever.

The Borders gals also inspired me to start a darling and EASY little shawl - but I'll show you that next time. Hopefully I'll have it finished in short order. It always feels good to get some things on and OFF your needles . . . and in this case, onto the shoulders.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Hang in There - We're About to Turn a Corner

Back around 1973, when I was a turbulent teenager and going through a really ROUGH time, my best friend at the time, Ginny, gave me a poster of a kitten hanging from a tree and it said, "Hang in There" - you can see it here. That poster, sappy as it was, really kept me going on some hard, emotional days. I kept it up on my wall as a reminder for a couple of years, until it became curled, torn and too ratty to keep.

Though I no longer have that poster, my memory of it lingers on. It seems appropos right now. I know so many people who have hung on and hung on through adversity this winter until their paws . . . err make that FINGERS are bloody.

All I can do is urge you (and if you are one of those bloody-fingered folks YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). Hang on. With everything in you, hang on just a little bit longer. Know that you aren't alone. Know that times are really tough right now. Know that it's okay. Know that it really WILL get better. Know that there are others out there who love and support you. Know that spring is either already springing, or really TRULY not far around the corner. Though we haven't had a really warm day yet, the sun has been out all week and I've been soaking it up with every sun-deprived fiber of my being.

What you can do to give encouragement to others? To yourself? What gives you hope?