Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Maple Leaf Shawl

Maplewing is finally and officially a finished object!

There were a few modifications to the pattern: the yarn used has a finer gauge that what was recommended, so I used US 2.5s instead of US 5s. Since I had a shorter row gauge, but still had quite a bit of width, there is an additional repeat of chart B, and I used a double-stranded German twisted cast-on.

The edges were intentionally blocked asymmetrically to mimic a Maple Leaf. What do you think - did it work?

Pattern: Maplewing Shawl by Anne Hanson (
Yarn: Wollmeise lace-garn in Terra di Siena-dark
Yardage: About 175 grams from a 300 gram/1740 yd. skein
Knitting time: early April 2009 to June 22, 2009.
Needle size: 2.5 US

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Maplewing came off the needles about two weeks ago, and I suddenly realized that I needed blocking wires. A few friends said they would lend theirs, and after trying to remember who they lent them out last to (or trying and failing to locate them); I ordered a set for myself.

The wires arrived yesterday evening. After evening duties were completed, I soaked the shawl for about 60 minutes in wool wash. Seven wires were painstakingly wound through the outer points and central "spine" panel. After shaping and re-pinning the shawl, I checked my watch and realized that it took 140 minutes!!! On top of this, the only space large enough to pin it out was the queen size bed that I sleep in, so sleep was found elsewhere in the house.
The shawl increased 55% in length and 75% in width.
Look for final pictures in the near future!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fall shawl - Now?

Sometimes you find yourself working on unseasonable items.

Take for instance my shawl project of the last five weeks. That's right, I said five.

Hey now, there's over 47 thousand stitches in this shawl thus far. Is it just me, or does it look like a whole lot less work than this?

I decided to go crazy and knit the "tall" version of Maplewing. (Here's a Ravelry link to the project.) I loved the pattern instantly because of the leaf motif on the edge, the faroese shoulder shaping, and how it easily translates as a Maple Leaf! My version has a few deviations from the original pattern: it was knit with an extra leaf motif to the border on chart B, and has a double-stranded twisted German cast-on.

Ok, the skein on the left is the what I started with - Wollmeise lace-garn in Terra di Sienna (Earth of Sienna) dark.

Next to it is a picture of the shawl taken 3 weeks ago before the hosta below the stone wall exploded. Notice anything? Like how stinkin' hard it is to photograph this color?!? Seriously, none of these shots are accurate. The skein at the left is the closest depiction. It's a really pretty color - certainly not hunter-orange, nor a dull terra cotta.

Honestly, I can't wait for this shawl to grow up and become a huge wispy leaf of a thing. I'll be great to wear it this fall!


Is there anything better in spring than sweet & tart rhubarb and a great pair of socks on the needles? I think not.

By now you all know that I love to knit socks. For a while now I've been thinking about Sue Grandfield's free Wollmeise Poppy sock pattern. (It's a Ravelry download.) Sue has also created a medium weight version. While digging through my stash, I thought "Rhabarber" (rhubarb) and "Frosh" (frog) 100% Wollmeise sock yarns complimented each other well. After knitting the corrugated ribbing, I absolutely loved the combination.

Unfortunately, the sock itself is too small to go over my high insteps. So, I'm deciding whether to change the classic Kaffe Fasset pattern motif, or to make short socks. Whatever decision is made, I will finish these socks-- and the second one will be knit with reverse colors!

Since it's the perfect time, here's a great recipie for spring. Enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

- 2 1/2 cups rhubarb, pieces
- 2 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
- 1/2 cup sugar (I often use half of this amount)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons orange juice. Sometimes I use orange zest, or other citrus juice.
Ingredients for Topping:
- 2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
- dash of vanilla (optional)
- 5 tablespoons butter
- Chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.
In a mixing bowl combine and toss the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and orange juice.

Transfer mixture to the buttered baking dish.
Mix the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
Cut in the butter with the mixture becomes coarse crumbs.
Mix in chopped nuts and spread over the fruit mixture.
Bake until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling (25-35 minutes).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Navajo Ply, certainly not on the Fly.

After watching Cathy navajo ply on her spindle, I was tempted to try the "non fly" method on my spinning wheel. (Navajo plying a yarn allows you to turn a single strand into a 3-ply yarn.)

I started by picking out the roving below -- kettle dyed Jacob Humbug roving by Shunklies Jacob sheep are rugged, beautiful two or three toned animals that often have 4 horns. Their fleece is rough and tumble as well. It's not soft and plushy like merino, but certainly seems to be hard-wearing stuff. This particular roving has been dyed to create a perfect ombre from color A to B to C, then C to B to A. I really didn't want to disturb the way the color was dyed, so I went ahead and spun a single ply, then used the navajo method to create a 3-ply yarn. The final yarn was wound into a ball, and it certainly reminds me of a ball of Noro's Kureyon or Twisted Fiber Art's Dutchess once wound. This was spun around the time that my niddy noddy broke (it was used-- not that nice to begin with, and the wood split where a screw was holding it together), so I have no idea what the yardage is. I'm guessing that it's around 110 yards, and it's a worsted to aran weight yarn.

With it's rugged-ness I'm not sure I'd like to wear a hat from this yarn unless it was lined with something lush. An alpaca, angora, or cashmere/merino blend would be great!
You might remember the roving below from March. It's Bluefaced Leicester superwash (BFL- "the poorman's cashmere") inspired by spring flowers, even though I dyed it the previous fall. I don't know why, but I created seriously long repeats! Whenever you dye superwash roving, it has to be braided first (or set in a crochet chain). If you don't do this, the fiber can (and often will) detach from it's neighbors, and you won't have roving anymore!

Here's another look at the seriously loooooong repeats when the yarn was just a single:
The resulting yarn is fantastically soft, and is a dk weight of unknown yardage. I think this yarn is destined to become a pair of mittens! I think there might be enough for another small project, too. Perhaps I should set a goal to knit with my handspun!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Koigu Mash

One of my favorite things to do at a local yarn store is to dig deep into their koigu mill-end bucket and play with color. Unfortunately, this often leads to a handful of skeinlets and handing over of a piece of plastic before I walk out of the store. Although, I have to admit that I do really love the socks these skeinlets knit up into:
I used 6 kpppm skeinlets & two US 1 circulars for these socks. They were knit toe-up with Judy's Magic cast-on, and the sand stitch gussets were inspired by Marjan Hammink at I did not use a pattern, and I learned quite a bit about how to create a smooth wrap pick-up on the wrong side. (One sock looks great, and the other one - not so much.)

All in all, they're my favorite socks knit to date.

Navajo Ply on the Fly!

Cathy taught Renee and I how to navajo ply on the fly! Here's how it all happened:

It all began when Cathy went to Madrona Fiber Arts (a.k.a "Madrona") last February, and apparently caught some sort of 48-hour fiber-enthusiast bug. She was filled with soo many ideas and concepts that she couldn't possibly sleep. How do I know this, I tell you it was all the late emails with crazy talk of ply-as-you-go spindle spinning! (Scroll down, waay down after you click the link on the left to see Cathy's post about this technique.)

A short time thereafter, Cathy and I were able to meet-up at the American Swedish Institutes' knit-out to celebrate the final week of the Bohus Stickning exhibit in Minneapolis.

After reading about her late-night insanity, I forced her to show me how to do this! Cathy pulled out her spindle with a smile, which looked like this:

See that wee loop on top? That's where the crochet chain was set to begin. Although we're really in a chicken-before-the-egg situation here. First, she had to prep fiber to spin a single:Isn't that shawl gorgeous? Go here to learn more about it.

Once a section of single was spun turning the spindle to the right, Cathy stopped and picked up the loop from above. Here she pulled the single through the loop creating thirds. This also creates a crochet chain:Here Cathy plys the chain together by spinning the spindle in the opposite direction as the single: Once complete, she attaches the loop and spins another single section. How cool was that?

Now, I think that spindle spinning is pretty amazing - perhaps I should give it a try again. Honestly though, I just love the speed and ease of a wheel. Do you know how long it would take for me to spin a four ounce bundle of fiber? Yeah, neither do I-- but I'm going to guess that it'll be just about forever!
Cathy is to Twisted Fiber Art as I am to Wollmeise. About a year ago I picked up a 4 oz. bundle of "Sleek", a superwash merino/tencel blend by Twisted Fiber Art roving. The colorway is Scorched. Sometime in March it just looked like spring to me - and a great color for Cathy.
So, I split the roving in two equal parts. The first half was spun with long color repeats, and the second half was split lengthwise into ten skinny pieces. These short repeats were spun, then plyed together with the long repeats to create a barber pole that will stripe when knit up:

Cathy just received the skein on Saturday, and I can't wait to see what she knits with it!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Therapy knitting & spinning

My former work mentor is out of the hospital & his pain is medicated appropriately. He's started radiation -- and all we can do is hope that it'll shrink (and hopefully destroy) the tumor in his brain. On top of this, my current work partner has to have emergency surgery. So, my workload is about to double. Fabulous. Time for some therapy knitting and spinning!

Last fall at Yarn School I dyed pounds and pounds of fiber. I've only taken pictures of production from day one. Above is BFL superwash roving that was crocheted into a single chain braid before dying. It was soaked in water, doused in acid dye, sprayed with citric acid, covered in plastic, and heated in a microwave for about 5 minutes. The color turned out great, and I love the chromatography affect as the color spreads into undyed sections. I've started prepping this fiber to be spun. I'm a little stuck on a regular 3-ply, navajo ply, or fractal method. We'll see.

In the fall I like to knit autumn-looking socks. For some reason the colors above forced me to pluck them from the mill-ends bucket at Needlework Unlimited and begged to become a pair of socks. After a little play on figuring out a toe-up heel flap formula that works for different sizes, I found something that worked.

and finally, here's a pair from last spring that have been marinating in my desk at work. Again these are toe-up socks knit from Koigu mill-ends. Many cousins in my family have received a pair of hand-knit socks. These are destined for Mary!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Do you ever find yourself in a strange obsessive-compulsive state when upset? Tonight I found myself standing over the produce section trying to find the perfect blood orange, the perfect bosc pear, and trying to decide what varieties of apples to buy...
Work has been intensely busy, so there's little time to reflect during the day. Today someone whispered something in my ear - a message to be discussed downstairs. It was horrible, horrible news.

Up until ten months ago I had the most wonderful work mentor. We almost always shared the same philosophy and goals to serve. Working side-by-side on multiple projects, we never grew tired of each others' company. I always knew that I was lucky to have him help guide my career. He was certainly more disciplined than myself when it came to exercise and diet -- and I always aspired (I still aspire) to reach his level of devotion to health.

I was upset, yet happy to see him leave the workplace when he decided it was time to retire. He's been on my mind recently because we both just celebrated birthdays - and the candles from the cake I made last week were from his retirement party.

Ten months after that party he is now resting in a hospital just blocks from his former work space to mitigate severe pain. A hospital, I hear, who does not have fruit that lives up to his standards. He has an aggressive form of cancer. The tumor in his brain grew exponentially in the last two weeks and he's started to lose vision in one eye. Today was his first day of radiation therapy-- it's just too dangerous to surgically remove the mass.

We're going to have lunch together tomorrow. So, this evening I found myself looking for the perfect gala apple and perfect asian pear...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Focus on Finishing

Anyone else currently forcing themselves to focus on finishing any languishing UFOs in sight around the house? My "Sock Drawer of Shame" continues to grow, and I have two unfinished sweaters who want to be worn sooner rather than later! (Wild Apple for me-- or perhaps my mom since she won't stop asking for a Turquoise Light Bohus sweater, Patrick for my brother.)
Hopefully by the end of March I'll have a few finished FOs. To get things started, here's the first one:
Last fall I started a pair of super simple socks at the same time. They were knit with koigu purchased from the Yarnery about three years ago. I used 2 US1 (2.25mm) k.p. circs with Cookie A's fabulous and free pattern at Monkey. (Yes, again!) The pattern was modified by knitting the purls, and changing YOs to M1s.
...and, they were too small. The results above were frogged in December.
I ripped back to the ribbing, and changed the M1s to YOs. This minor change gave me enough stretch to pop these tubes over my high instep. In retrospect, I'm really happy that I had to rip, because I just love the pooling results:

Now, I thought these were pretty short socks. Apparently Wollmeise sock yarn has really spoiled me with 510-575 yards/skein. Koigu only has 175yds/skein - thus a total of 350 for this pair. Right as I was decreasing I ran out of yarn! After a little stash diving I found a skein of dark brown koigu just for the tips of the toes.Perhaps this is a little silly, but I love knitting socks that match your lovely, well-worn shoes:


So, now I'm finishing another pair of koigu socks - this time from last spring!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Happy Time"

Today we celebrated a co-workers birthday, and I ran into a slight problem with the cake that I prepped for her. The plan involved a great fat-free rainbow cake recipe from Aleta at the Omnomicon Food Blog. (It's a funny post, and a great theme cake.) I played around with the shape for a bit of a Seussian look. The candles, I thought, spelled out "Happy Birthday". When I assembled everything this morning, well... a slight improvisation was necessary:
"Time" was the best I could come up with out of "Retirement"!
February 26th is now official "Happy Time" day at work. :)

Here's a sample of what the tie-dyed cake looked like inside.

The cupcakes were all different colors.

Another co-worker wrote a "Green Cake with Icing" poem for her as well. Happy Birthday, C!

As a quick aside, thanks to friends, family and co-workers who have treated me like a queen in the past week for my birthday. (+ random Ravelry well-wishers as well!) From the fiber folks I loved the STR, spinning & natural dyeing books, crystal & pearl earrings, and great dinners out! To my family - what a treat to spend all day on Sunday with you!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Looking for a Knitting Break?

Clara is 93 years young and is just a gem. Her recipes from the Depression era are not only thrifty, but they look mighty tasty as well. My family may not have ever been this inventive when cooking with potatoes, onions, and oil over and over again. I've embedded episode #3 instead of #1 because her reason for quitting school is quite surprising, and it's fun to see her grandson and friends dig into her just-off-the-stove meal. Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Handspun on a Tuesday Evening

+ gratuitous dog picture

Anyone a little tired of winter? I'm certainly getting there. Today the St. Paul mercury raised to a balmy 38 degrees (F). My lunch time walk was pure bliss.

My dogs have been living in their puppy parkas in my relatively cool house, and they're ready to take them off! (Sorry, I need to snap a pic of them. It's too adorable to miss!) Above is a rare moment for Toby-- sans puppy parka.
Honestly, I haven't quite figured out how to move pictures around in blogger on a mac. One of my favorite professors in college was a modernist who always stated that the only way to truly convey Dadaism in a lecture was to have an assistant project random Dada images for the entire conversation. So, here we go-- a post in Dada form!
For the past two weeks I've been spinning yarn to knit Deep in the Forest Mittens by Tuulia Salmela. As soon as I saw a pic of these mittens pop up on Flickr, I quickly added it to my "must knit" list. The plan was to spin squooshy fingering two-ply yarn. The trick was that I had different fibers for each of them.

For the background (white) I selected 4 oz of "Kansas Snow" roving from Art Club at, a glorious alpaca/llama/merino blend. This is Nikol Lohr's store, and yes - I did but this gorgeous stuff when I attended Yarn School last fall. The singles were unbelievably soft and squooshy. November kept on pushing them down on the bobbins and saying "wow. just wow." They were soo very different from the superwash sock singles I've been spinning. When I plied it against itself, and the yarn became the absolute opposite of the single. They were plied looser than I ply sock yarns, and I'm still mystified at the final resulting yarn-- a soft, dense two-ply that almost looks like a single. It did fluff up a bit after a soak, whack and dry-- but the plied yarn is a good deal thinner than the single ply. Clearly I have more to learn about this fiber combination. I was aiming for 200 yards per 4 ounces. The Kansas Snow came out to 208 yards in length.

The foreground (brown) is 4 oz. Crown Mountain Farms' superwash merino in "Wild Horses". Oh, is this a pretty colorway! The singles were just as puffy as the Kansas Snow blend, but no where near as squooshy. Once plied, it became a thick, poofy fabulous yarn that I expected the alpaca/llama/merino to end up. Wild Horses measured in at 210 yards once plied.

The really weird thing is that right after I took the picture below I wound both skeins into balls. They both became huge balls of the same size. Huh. After swatching, it looks like they will work perfectly for the pattern. The brown will pop out a bit from the natural white - but I think this will be a nice addition to the forest motif. It calls for 400 yards, so I should be fine-- but I also have enough fiber to spin another 400+ yards if necessary.

Over the weekend another five inches of snow fell. It certainly cleaned things up, but certainly doesn't help you at least pretend that spring is around the corner.

Last fall I spun CMF superwash sock singles in the "Born to Be Wild" colorway. They sat on my bobbins for at least 3 months. Last weekend I thought enough was enough, and I plied them while watching a so-so episode of "Meet the Press". (Oh, how I still miss Tim Russert!) It's about 650 yds of tightly plied fingering sock yarn.

When I posted this yarn to Ravelry in my stash, I couldn't help but call it "Soo Girly". It's not quite my taste, but will make for a great future gift!

Stonehenge Cowl

Was it last fall when I bought this beautiful BFL "Stonehenge" roving from Crown Mountain Farms? I remember Angela loved this roving after seeing it, and bought a bump of it, too. We both starting spinning at about the same time-- Interestingly enough, I think we both preferred each other's received version of the colorway. Mine (above) was pretty, yet muted. Hers had a bit more of a punch, and turned into this truly gorgeous laceweight!

I split the 8 ounces of roving in half and spun them into singles on my Reeves Frame. I did not use the fractal method. The color was spun just as it came.

The singles were tightly plied together, and I was really happy with the resulting sport weight yarn. All in all, there was 475 yards.
After letting the yarn marinate in the stash for a few months, I decided to knit the spiral cowl by Keri McKiernan with it. What a joy to be able to knit with yarn you have made!

After a wet block, it's just perfect.