Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Modern Libraries, Gaping Fish?

Modern Libraries: quick thoughts on E-books & opinions of librarians

I let my political leanings slip earlier when I mentioned how fabulous I think Al Giordano's The Field is - so I'll share a recent situation from the week:
A few nights ago I decided to walk 10ish blocks to the local libe and pay off that overdue fine from 3.5 years ago to check out a few books. I was pleasantly surprised to not only find the books I was looking for on the shelf-- but one was available as free e-audio books as well! Shocking. I asked about this feature in depth (again, shocking!), and both librarians had no idea it was offered. period. After reading the fine print, about 400 books are currently free to download in the St. Paul public library system as long as you have a personal PC or MP3 with media player formats. (I have a mac book and ipod at home.) These downloads don't expire after a set period of time, either. Anyone else shocked at this? It's really cool - but no end period, ever? Suffice to say, I checked out the books pictured below:

Once one of the librarians looked at them and made a Ferraro-esque comment to me. [That is, words G. Ferraro has become infamous for saying during this primary election.] I'm sorry --and perhaps this is post-feminist of me-- but should one forward primary gender-based vitriol onto patrons of the library? Aren't you there to help people find resources and inform the public-- not offer your opinion (in an offensive way) to the people? I just smiled and said, 'check me out please' instead of offering... well, my strong feelings on the subject.

Since this is a knitting blog, do these socks look like gaping fish just out of the pond & on the dock? I can't knit them without thinking 'fish', 'gaping fish drowning in oxygen'. Last night I started decreasing for the toes, and I'm hoping to finish them at lunch today.

During the last post I might have mentioned how much I have enjoyed knitting with Handmaiden's Cashbah sock yarn. Since spinning has taken over at chez Cashmere Dreams, I've been really good about buying only pre-yarn materials, not actual yarn. These socks made me fall, and fall hard. It's the cashmere blend, I swear! The Yarnery had a new shipment in this week.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Spinning

Over the weekend I was supposed to garden...
Plant, garden, garden, plant. Instead, I played outside without doing any work - and spun a little bit. (Co-workers did come to take some well-propagating zebra grass on Saturday. That counts a little, right?)

So, here's some Crown Mountain Farm BFL roving that you've seen before in Stonehenge.

The singles were spun up - 4 oz. per bobbin last week.

After plying, I washed the skein and placed it in the shower for drying. (Yes, I had to move it to shower last night.)

The 8 oz. spun up into about 475 yards of light fingering weight yarn. What do you think about knitting Laminaria with it?
I had a small amount that didn't fit on the large skein. It dried pretty quickly, and I was able to take an accurate color shot:


The Twisted Fiber Art shop opened up two weeks ago, and I purchased a wee bit of roving from them. One was a skein of Guardian-colorway- in 'lively' - superwash merino. (Cathy gets the enabler badge for starting my wee addiction to this fiber line.) My hank of Guardian had dark purple instead of black - which I loved.I used the fractal 2-ply method for spinning the braid. This creates long striping barberpole yarn. Here's a quick how-to I learned on Ravelry:

1. Split the roving in half. 2. Split one half lengthwise in multiple strips. (here, I had 10.) 3. Spin the first half with looong color repeats. 4. Spin the second half -the short repeats- on a separate bobbin. 5. Ply together.

You can get a sense of how the yarn stripes when it's on the bobbin.Off the bobbin and on the stretcher (niddy noddy, although I like to type 'knitty noddy'), it just looks like barberpoling handspun. Ze stripes have disappeared!

When I spin, the wheel is right next to a window and the couch. Both dogs like to either wistfully look outside, or seemingly glare at me for spending time with fiber instead of them. Here's a little proof with Paco pics:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spring! (monkey edition)

In an attempt to prove that I haven't completely gone over to the spin side, here's my latest knitting project:

Yeah, I'm knitter #15,637 to finally knit a pair of Cookie's Monkey pattern. Honestly, I don't know why I waited-- there's noting short of love for this pattern once the purl stitches are replaces with knits. It's great, I highly recommend it-- and yes, I'll be knitting another pair!One more modification here - Eye of the Partridge Heel was used instead of a regular slip stitch. I love the way EOP looks in variegated yarn, and I actually like the fabric it creates better than the semi-ribbed slip stitch version.

The yarn used, oh - again, pure love: it's Handmaiden/Fleece Artist's Casbah. It's a merino, nylon, cashmere superwash heavy fingering blend that can only be described as near perfect sock yarn. Some people (a minority?) may think the blend feels a little velvety - I think it's cushy soft and fantastic. This yarn receives a thumb's up from me.


Signs of spring at work-- a large bird's nest directly in view of skyway walkers in downtown St. Paul. Still no signs of life within, though. ...and here's the nest that stopped me in my tracks. Between the 400 Robert and Town Square building there is a marble enclosure with anti-pigeon effects. These include a substantial fake plastic owl hanging by a rope with light-up eyes and a bed of nails tucked into the marble niche to stop birds from seeking shelter in this spot. Low, and behold- pigeons have created a nest of their own poo on top of the bed of nails. I counted four babies and one un-hatched egg stuck between the nails. Two adult pigeons at the nest a few hours later. What a precarious beginning to life.

A co-worker gave me an antique men's sock blocker - size 12- a few weeks ago. I keep forgetting to take a picture of it! A woodworker in the office asked me what the heck it was. After a short explanation and demo, an offer to make a set that fits came up. The next week he asked me what kind of dogs I have. The sock blockers aren't ready, but a prototype did end up on my desk this week. How cool is this??? I'm about to have a set of Basenji Blockers!

As always, Toby is thrilled for his human. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

surprise gift + meme

When I came home last night there was a large box waiting at the front door. Instead of running inside to take the dogs for a walk, I decided to open it right then and there-- Look at what was inside!It's an unexpected gift from Cathy-Cate -- a Sheep-to-Shoe kit in the Eggplanted colorway. She went to Sock Camp a few weeks ago picked this gorgeous kit for me. Thank you so very much. I just love it!

Last week Carolyn at Yarn Therapy tagged me with a "Five things about you" meme, so here goes. Since I'm not a meme person I'll go ahead and humor you - but will follow just a few of the rules. I'm not going to tag anyone - but if you want to play along consider yourself tagged and read the rules here:
1. In high school and through most of college I listened to a stellar radio station. Here's the honorarium website for Revolution Radio. Once it went off the air there was a very long and sad radio drought. Brian Oake ran to Cities 97, and Mary Lucia had completely disappeared... Then a gift came from Minnesota Public Radio – The Current is the best station that we've heard in the Twin since Rev 105 was taken off the air. Eclectic playlists are back! Who doesn't want to hear Patsy Cline with their Jayhawks and Atmosphere? Local Minnesota music is highlighted, DJ’s and listeners actually pick a good deal of the songs. Interested in listening online? Just click.
2. Like Rosie Grier, my brother loves his needlepoint. As a video game aficionado (especially old-school Nintendo like Zelda), he has been known to design a pattern or two – a melding of two passions into one. He has zero interest in knitting, but thinks spinning is cool. His girlfriend wants him to stick to needlepoint only-- they live in a space-challenged one bedroom condo.
3. I have two collections in my house- the first is obvious. The second: Dansko shoes. I’m now up to nine pairs, one of which should be thrown out from serious wear.
4. One of my undergraduate majors was Art History. This gave me an excuse to visit Europe repeatedly throughout college. Man, was I spoiled! I never go anywhere now.

5. I grew up on a hobby farm in a small town in Minnesota. We had to drive 30 minutes to get anywhere. Now my brother and I both live "in the big city". (St. Paul really isn't that large. :) We had a constant revolving pasture door of animals. Chickens and wild barn cats were the only constants. Sometimes we had Holstein cows, ducks and geese incubated from eggs, few horses until the teenage years hit, and often had sheep. Two old neighbors would come in their overalls to shear the sheep, my parents threw the fleeces out. Hurts to hear, doesn't it?
6. Well…. Here’s an extra one. (note: not following rules again. is that officially #7? :) Usually I read knitting/spinning blogs only. With the crazy US political scene around us, I was nudged by Erik to start reading Al Giordano’s “The Field”. (He's also the creator of Narco News.) Once you click and start to read, you’ll quickly find out that I’m an Obama supporter – as (nearly) all of us who devotedly read this genius of a blog are. Al has helped me weather the crazy storm of a primary season thus far with stellar examples of true journalism, spot-on predictions (check out his Super Tuesday picks – then the results. Wowza.), sarcasm, and a touch of reality when "Chicken Littling" started to set in. Seriously, he’s the best thing since sliced bread. If I could only read one website during the day, this would undoubtedly be it. (I also read PoliticoBen Smith in particular, and Mark Halperin’s “The Page” at Time.)

Last night I finished spinning singles from Crown Mountain Farm's Blue Faced Leister roving in Stonehenge. I started to ply the two bobbins below together--and my driveband popped off. The cotton just split in two right by the knot. I'm going to take Angela's advice and will try a thin stretchy drive band from Paradise Fibers. It's the same one used on a Lendrum, but a great deal thinner. Anyone actually know what the band is made from?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Shepherd's Harvest 2008

Here we go, it's the annual Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival re-cap - 2008 Edition.

The markets were larger this year by about 1/2 of a building. There were three buildings packed with vendors with festive banners above: Smiling faces with new wool-y purchases were around every corner.

Kerry had just picked up her processed fleeces from Morning Sun Farms. (Correct me if that's not the right farm- I'm new to this processing thing.) Click the link to see what's inside those bags!
Miss Amanda was working on her stash once again. She had just picked up some gorgeous 2-ply silk laceweight for a shawl.
Marge, Pam, and Myriah were just starting their adventure at this point. (I was walking to the car at 9:15 a.m. with my first purchase - see below.) They did not leave light-handed, either.
No matter when you walked through the second building, there was music to hear.

My mom loves sheep skins. She found great steering wheel covers, and purchased one. I popped in on her neck, then couldn't get her to take it off all day long. Argh. :)

Apparently she now wants one for every vehicle in the family.

Lots of bunnies for sale-- isn't he cute?

Here's where I confess and tell you about stash acquisitions. My plan was to buy pre-yarn items only - including ONE fleece. Just one.

The event opened at 9 on Saturday, and here I was at 9:09 at the RiverWinds Farm booth. (I couldn't find them on the map - but they were pretty easy to find with a quick scan.) The 4.5 lb bundle of Cormo fleece on the table went home with me.

I purchased Jasmine's fleece. She was the grand champion winner two years ago at Shepherd's Harvest - but is a touch out of her prime and was not entered in the competition this year. Apparently I'm lazy today-- for more information on how to buy one (or combed cormo roving for $20/8 0z! What a deal!), click to embiggen the image for info.

Cormo is incredibly soft and lovely. It's kinda like cashmere, but a step or two down. I'm not sure of the micron information - but I am planning on spinning thin singles and plying tightly to avoid a yarn that will pill.

I'm thinking of perhaps trying a natural dye to create a light tan - perhaps Am Kamin would be just the right pattern for a sweater if I get gauge. The fleece is unwashed, although Jasmine was coated - and her fleece was skirted. The lanolin is definitely there- but it's actually really nice. Many fleeces feel really gross and slimy to me. I'm actually thinking about 'spinning in the grease'. This means that you don't wash the fleece before spinning the wool into yarn. Imagine wool with lotion in it. :) Remember how I was going to buy one fleece? Well, I cheated. Burr Oak Farms sells washed fleeces in 1 lb. bundles. There was a gorgeous bag of Border Leister Lincoln cross looking me in the eye - and for $10, how could I refuse? After walking around with the fleece for an hour, I came back and purchased another pound from the same fleece. I spent $20 for this gorgeous wool! Ivy was her name, and what a sweet fleece she has.

I have to say, I'm more excited about this fleece than Jasmine. Yes, the tips are bleached blond - and yes, a few tips broke off when I started carding. Breakage was minimal and I just created a throw-away pile on the table. The basket above has about 3 oz. of carded fiber in it.
Here's a close-up of the bag, and locks are below. The staple length is approximately 5.5", and Ivy is primarily a light grey. There are many, many shades in the wool - from blonde to a dark, dark grey. Most of the fleece isn't this sun-kissed, but I have to say I just love it. What a sweet fleece.

So, in 2008/2009 you're about to see a good deal of spinning with natural colors - and some natural dye experimentation. My goal is to spin and knit at least one sweater from a fleece purchased.

Due to rain, I didn't visit Llama Magic this year.
Ah, well. Something to look forward to next year.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fiber Forward

Minnesota fibernistas, this weekend's Sheep and Wool fest in Lake Elmo, MN is almost here. Shepherd's Harvest will make for an exciting (and wet) weekend. I hope to see you there!
(I'll be around Sunday morning just after 12 noon outside of the lunch building for the Ravelry meet-up. Stop by and say hello!)
Over a month ago I purchased 8.5 oz of superwash merino roving from Crown Mountain Farms in the "Oh Pretty Woman" colorway. Here's what it looked like after I opened up the white package:

CMF does this cool thing when dyeing sock yarn: The roving is continuous, but the dyework is not. One half is always brighter/more intense/darker and the other is lighter/subdued/less intense (depending on colorway). So, here I've split the roving in half per dyework:
After pre-drafting, the roving was spun into singles:
Singles were plied together, and after a little wash gorgeous sock yarn emerged. (These photos were taken early this morning, and color on my screen is not 'true'.)
In total, 8.5 oz spun into 650 yards of fingering weight yarn. I thought this might be a good fit for this Lacy Cable Knee Sock pattern.
Two months ago my Wednesday night knitting buddy Addie (pictured front and center here) welcomed a baby boy into her family. A group of us (Renee, Deepa, November, Connie, Marge, Jeanne, and I) knit a group project for the little guy. We did not know the gender at the time. It's the Mason Dixon Moderne Baby blanket in Knit Pick's Swish. We had a great deal of discussion over the color combination-- and I was relieved to hear her say, "I love it. It's just my colors." last Wednesday evening.

Since most people give gifts for the new baby, I though the new mom might like something for herself:
Here's a better pic of the handspun. I used Hello Yarn's Wensleydale in an unknown colorway (Strata?). It's approximately worsted weight and 125 yards. Did I mention that Addie really likes green? :)