Turning Things Into Other Things

Thing the first:

A week or so ago, I turned this (4 oz of 80/20 BFL & Silk top from the Pulling at Strings fiber club)……….


Into this………


Its about 250 yards of sort of unevenly spun, reasonably balanced yarn that is soft and yummy and drapey, and I don’t actually love the way the colors plied together.  The fiber, though, was wonderful–I think BFL/Silk is a new favorite.


Thing the second:

Today, I spent some time playing mad scientist in the kitchen.  Over the next few weeks, this (two bags of Tazo’s Joy tea steeping in two cups of water with a bit of sugar, that will be mixed with a bottle of plain, raw Kombucha)……….

will (hopefully), grow a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, also known as a Kombucha “mother”) so that I can brew the stuff on my own and stop spending nearly $4 a bottle at Whole Foods.  As I understand it, the little bits of culture living in the bottled Kombucha will feast on the sugar in the tea that I made, and when I uncover the bowl in two weeks, instead of the wee amoeba-looking thing that was in there when I covered it up (visible here towards the top right)

I’ll find a big pancake-looking culture that I can transplant into a jar of sweet tea.  They’ll ferment together for awhile, and in about a month, I should have a drinkable batch going.  I’ve made home-brewed Kombucha before, but I’ve never tried growing a fresh SCOBY from scratch.  Whether it works or not, I’m excited to see what happens!


WIP: Christmas

We have a Christmas tree:

And last night, there were 30 people in our house for a Yule party.  (I know.  We’re a few days early.)  You might think that means that I have a big house, but no.  One bedroom condo.  I think its wonderful.  I’ve been hosting a party for Yule every year (except one, and that year felt all wrong) of my adult life, in some form or fashion, and its one of my favorite nights of the year.  I love cooking for friends, I love the energy that having so many people eating and drinking and laughing brings to a home, and I love having a chance to see most of my favorite people all in the same place at the same time.  This year, Jason and I fixed a ham (we’ve done that a few times, and it makes me really happy to make the ham that never seems to turn up at Christmas anymore) and wassail (which dates back to my very firs Yule party and is absolutely a mandatory thing to have) and the dining room table was full of noshy food. There was, as has become Yule party tradition, limited edition Jones Soda for tasting.  This year’s flavor was….bacon.  Yup.  Bacon soda.  All that I can say is that it tasted like carbonated bacon and also a little like anger and despair.  It wasn’t as vile as the brussels sprout flavored soda we had several years ago, but as far as I’m concerned, it was at least as bad as the roast turkey.

There were babies this year, which confirms the fact that I am getting a little bit old, and Reindeer Roulette with some really great gifts for stealing. I think that the Reindeer Roulette gifts this year go a long way towards proving that my friends are really awesome people.  There were games, including Zombie Dice and Pocket Mr. Jack, both of which were stolen the maximum of three times (and now live respectively with Fil and I), there were Star Wars t-shirts, there was wine and coffee and y’all?  There was a Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.  It lives with Andrew and Meghan now, after a seriously cunning and maybe a little underhanded tactical two-part steal.

And, there are no real pictures because two friends with badass cameras and rockstar photography skills seemed to be on safari in the house all night, and I’m trusting them to Flickr some pictures when they’re ready.

There has been Christmas knitting, most of which I can’t show because….well, spoilers.  But I can tell you that I spun yarn to make a hat for my nephew.

And I can promise to post a parade of Christmas FOs after the 25th.  For now, there is more baking to be done.  Next up, vegan banana bread……..

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I’m more than a little disturbed to find myself suddenly on this side of Labor Day, but the weather in DC is at least being a good sport, and allowing us a taste of fall weather.  The summer was crammed with a lot of work, three trips, and a lot of knitting.  I’m not quite ready to give it up, so the cool weather feels like a little bit of a consolation prize.

Since I blogged last–months ago!–I’ve been to Chicago and met Sue, the largest, most complete T-Rex.

I love the Smithsonian and feel really blessed to live someplace where there are so many free museums, but I enjoyed The Field Museum more than I’ve ever enjoyed our Museum of Natural History.

Later in the summer, Jason and I went to Seattle.  We spent a few days together visiting friends and exploring the city.  I really, really loved Seattle, but as soon as we got home, it rained for about a week to remind me that I couldn’t handle the Pacific Northwest’s weather.

After a few days, I left Jason with Liz and Nate to continue romping around the city, and I headed out with a group of Ravelry friends for a knitting retreat in the mountains.  We spent the weekend in a cabin at St. John’s Pass, knitting and spinning and talking and laughing.  Its always great when online friends are just as amazing in person as they are on the internet.

I test knit a sock for Allison, which has since been published on Ravelry.  It uses some crazy New Pathways type construction that was a lot of fun to work with, even if it did require math.  A month later, it is still just a single sock.

I taught myself to Navajo ply (this is Targhee, dyed by A Verb for Keeping Warm):

And then tried again, and did a much better job:

(That one is BFL from Teresa Levite Studios.)

And, I made a few sweaters, which still need to be properly photographed and, in the case of the one at the top, properly finished.

Summer in Fast Forward

It feels, as usual, like we’re careening through the year, and its moving too fast to keep up with.

My nephew turned one at the end of June…….

And enjoyed his birthday cake in the way that only babies can.

Never ones to do things half way, his parents gave him an entire ear of the cake–not because there was any danger of him eating much of it, but because it was more fun to play with.  Black icing maybe wasn’t the most charming idea, but he sure did have a good time!  (Shockingly little of the cake wound up on the floor, and probably about as little went in to his mouth.)

Jason and I celebrated our fourth anniversary at a Bed & Breakfast in Oxford, so that we could be in the area for Jerry’s birthday party.  The building was a Victorian mansion that dates to 1875, and it was just spectacular.  I wish I had made time to talk to the folks who run it and learn more about its history.

We went kayaking on the Tred Avon river, and explored Oxford and found the house where I lived when I was very young and my father was the foreman at one of the shipyards there.  We tromped around St. Michaels and were surprised by how much it is starting to change.  And we sat on the lawn and the porches and marveled at how lovely and peaceful it was.  (The rest of the photos are here.)

There has been lots and lots of knitting and spinning, but not a lot of my taking pictures of it.  I finished spinning a braid of alcapa sometime back in June.  In a way, this was a big victory.  The fiber had been sitting in my stash for a year because the first time I tried to spin it, it just pulled apart and turned in to a whole lot of nothing.  It was great to realize that I have enough experience to work with it now.  On the other hand, it made me realize how spoiled working with a wheel has made me.  This was spin on a drop spindle and plied on a wheel, and it felt like it took forever to spin.

Its dyed by Sanguine Gryphon, and the color is Walden.  About 200 yards, maybe a little less, spun at something that averages out to worsted weight, although its pretty inconsistent.

I finally got around to blocking a baby sweater, and its just darling.

Its a short sleeved variation of Helena, knit in Three Irish Girls Kells sport merino, in the colorway Georgia Peach.

I finished a mini-Clapotis and I love it.  Everyone involved in the online knitting community has at least glimpsed Kate Gilbert’s pattern, and after knitting one, I understand why it went viral.  Its a great pattern–just enough variety to keep it interesting, but simple enough that you aren’t constantly referencing a pattern, and the finished product looks great.  There is a least one more, larger version in my future.  Maybe more.  I think the pattern is just perfect for handpainted yarns.

The yarn is Three Irish Girls Springvale Sport (which feels thinner than sport weight to me, but that’s probably just because the twist is so firm that it doesn’t squoosh down the way other sport weight yarns I’ve used have done), in the Cherry Blossom colorway.  It really does remind me of DC in the spring.

There is more–vests and sweaters and socks that I didn’t mean to be knitting, but I think I’ll save them for their own post.

The Past Few Weeks…

…(mostly) in pictures.

I finished socks.  Pyroclastic, on Three Irish Girls Glenhaven Cashmerino in Rhubarb.  I love the color.  I love the yarn.  I love the shaped arch.  I modified the oattern to have one less cable repeat and therefore be smaller, and I don’t love that I didn’t realize it would make the point of the top of the foot happen between two cables instead of at the center of one.

I discovered Burnt Mills park and the wonderful boulders and creek there.  Can’t wait to go back and spend more time, and to explore further down the trail.

I spun yarn.  This is silk and merino from a Sanguine Gryphon batt that Christine gave me for Christmas a few years ago.  The color is called Blanche Fleur.  Its far from perfect, but it was the first time I had spun from a batt, the first time I spun silk, and the first time I made anything so lightweight.  (This is something like a sport weight.)  There is about 350 yards here, and I think it might want to be a shawlette when it grown up.

And, I visited Glen Echo for the first time in several years.  We rode the carousel (an original 1921 Dentzel).  It is magical.

Spun: Maiden

Possibly the only thing more lovely than handpainted yarn is handpainted roving and that is only because I get to turn it into yarn myself. Spinning is still a real challenge for me and always involves a lot of unladylike language, but I’m able to at least turn out a useable product….if by useable you understand that the weight is not at all consistent.

I managed to drag the process out for, oh, four months, but that amount of quality time with Liz’s spinning wheel turned this Marianne roving from Yarn Love:

Into this:

That’s about four ounces of 2-ply merino yarn that I’m calling heavy worsted weight, even though there are a few parts that stray boldly into the bulky weight catagory. Its pretty well balanced, has a really nice drape, and is as crazy soft as you would expect merino to be.

How to Spend a Sunny Weekend

Step I:  Marianne (superwash merino) spinner’s top from The Loopy Ewe.  Hand dyed by Kate of Yarn Love.


Step II:  (Please note the cat feet.  feline company is a crucial ingredient.)


Step III: About a half ounce of spun singles.

Everything from the last post, only bigger.

My FLS is finished blocking, but it still needs buttons.  Its hard to think about buttons for a wool sweater because suddenly, it is 90 degrees in DC and the thought of touching a sweater strikes fear in my heart.

I’ve finished the neckline on Ms. Marigold and joined it into the round.  I hate, hate, hate the needles I’m using.  I’ve never been a huge fan, but after working with the Knit Picks circs, which have a reasonable cable, working with my old interchangeables feels like knitting with two needles connected by a tree trunk.  It is impossible to lay the vest out flat so that it looks like anything at all, but I did my best.  The stockinette does not loot at all even and pretty, partly because of the slightly uneven texture of the yarn and partly because of my frelling needles, but I’m pretty confident that it will smooth itself out after it has a nice soak.

And, I’ve finished spinning the January Wooly Wonders shipment from A Verb for Keeping Warm.  Its Falklands roving, and I would love to work with this fiber again.

The yarn weight still isn’t as consistent as I would like, but I’m getting there.  I think this is the most balanced yarn I’ve managed to make, which was exciting.  Its really easy for me to overtwist when I ply.

I love the colors in this yarn, and how they shift from greens to browns in a very organic way.  I don’t know what this wants to be, but it reminds me of a few guys I know, so I’m sure by this winter it will become something for one of them.  I’m not naming names because it might be a Christmas present, but if you want to put in a good word for yourself, now would be the time.

An experiment.

I’ve been wanting to knit a Thorpe (Rav link) and I’ve been wanting to knit with my handspun, and so the other day, I tried putting the two together.

The first stumbling block was not having the proper needles, which I solved by pulling out some square Kollage needles (which are, in case you’ve been wondering, fabulous) and figuring out how to magic loop.  Much like cables, once I saw how simple magic looping really was, I felt silly for not trying it sooner.

I’ve been knitting for a bit now, and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I am no longer knitting a Thorpe and the hat is destined to be Something Else.  What I don’t know is what they will be.  Stay tuned.

Things What Spin

Things that go round and round seem to be the theme of the week.

Over the past two nights, I spent some quality time at the spinning wheel and turned half of this:

Into this:

I’m going for a worsted weight yarn, and even though I have no bloody clue what I’m doing, chances look good that I will get close to what I want.  (Through no fault of my own, I’m sure.)  The second half of the roving is a darker red, so I’ll spin it separately and then ply them together.  After the roving that I’ve been learning with, the BFL is like spinning butter.  I love it, even if it does pull apart on me every ten minutes.

Today, I cleaned the bedroom and as a reward when I was finished, I set up the ball winder and swift that Jason got me for Christmas.  How have I lived this long without them??  When I got my nostepinne, I was all about how it was as high tech as I needed to be.  Ha!  Quaint and traditional is nice and I’m sure I’ll still use it for small bits of handspun, but I’m here to tell you: that winder and swift are at least as fun and cool as Jason’s Xbox and personally, I find them way more enchanting.  In about fifteen minutes, I wound the yarn for the hat I want to make for myself (As an aside, I was a little late to the party and missed that the Koolhaus hat was named for an architect and inspired by his design in the Seattle Central Library and spent some time digging around and reading about him and have decided that he’s pretty cool.  See?  Knitting is educational–even if it doesn’t teach you to avoid run on sentences!), the yarn for the sweater I want to knit for the niece or nephew who I’ll get to meet in July, and and a skein of yarn for my sweater so that I’ll have one ready to go when the current ball runs out.  In fifteen minutes, and that includes a small snafu with the first yarn, while I worked out the mechanics of getting everything to stay where it needed to be and not get all wound up around the gearish bits.   It wasn’t pretty, but I got it figured out and am still thrilled to pieces.

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