Rhinebeck Redux – Part 1

This year, I was lucky enough (again!) to have a work trip out to the NJ/NY area that ended just before Rhinebeck (aka New York Sheep and Wool) festival began, so I once again had an experience of a lifetime.

As two years ago, I stayed in a house down in Hyde Park, just slightly more sane than actual Rhinebeck, and drove up with better directions and a shorter trip than last time — by at least an hour.

Patsy, my host, was welcoming again, and this time I got the lovely big room with the rocking chair, and queen canopy bed. Very smart choice, and I loved it.

Last time when I went to Rhinebeck it got a little lonely hanging out all day on my own and not knowing anyone, so I put up on the Ravelry board that I was looking to join in dinner with anyone, and Amy of Hudson Valley Knits responded that we could have dinner. Now Amy did more than that, she invited her whole knitting group – the Peekskill Knitting Group to have dinner, as a preview for Rhinebeck (Amy called it the Rhinebeck Rehearsal Dinner!). Amy’s husband is a chef, so she knows good food – we had dinner at Birdsall in downtown Peekskill. A lovely craft beer/ale/cider house and focusing on locally sourced food, we ate in the garden (there were heaters), and had a wonderful evening:

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These ladies are a ton of fun! What a nice warm-up to the actual event!

This year, because I had screwed my ankle up, I did not take in the whole adventure the way that I did two years ago – I didn’t make it to the animal barns, I stayed away from a couple of the meet-ups because the hill footage was too much for my right leg. I did, however, get to take a class with Abby Franquemont, in fact, two classes.

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They were lovely, and she has an inductive style to teaching classes, so you can think that perhaps she doesn’t know what she’s doing unless you figure it out. I got there early the first day and we chatted about teaching adults, since I’d just finished doing that myself, so I knew what she was up to. I learned to spin on a low whorl spindle, and a couple of new tricks to do long draw in a more ergonomic manner. Plus, we had a young spinner in our midst. Meet Ashley.

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She is 10, and the granddaughter of one of the organizers, who brought her and her little sister along to be runners for the classes, but oops, she ended up being a spinner. By the beginning of her second day of spinning, she already had five balls of yarn (!!!) She is spinning tussah silk in this picture – amazing and wonderful.

At the end of the first day, I had bought some stuff, eaten lunch, oh, and bought Clara Parkes new book and gotten her to sign it. More photos and experiences tomorrow, including the stuff I acquired!

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FO: Dark and Stormy

In a time of grieving, a comfort knit is a very good thing. The yarn for this sweater was ordered before my mom died last spring, and it arrived the day after she died. Talk about good yarn karma. It’s Yowza! Whatta skein from Miss Babs in the Rainforest colorway. I knit a swatch, wet it, and through it in the dryer (it’s superwash wool):

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I had been gifted the Dark and Stormy pattern for some reason (now lost to history), and it was sitting in the library for quite a while. I’m not terribly fond of top/down raglan sweaters for me, because I have a bust, I’m short, and the proportions can get really off. But I really loved the back cable on this sweater, and top-down seemed about all I was up for knitwise, so I began, and I got through the yoke, separated for the body of the sweater, and knit down to a couple of inches below the bustline (after having added in some short rows), and summer came. A hot knit on the lap was not in the offing. It sat off to the side, in knitting timeout, waiting for another day.

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In the meantime, I worried about whether it was a good thing to do the top-down raglan, even though everything seemed to fit. I worried even though I  had tried it on at a yarn swap to see what my knitting friends thought – and it had passed inspection. I mused and pondered.  Maybe I should rip it out and start over, using the cable, but  instead knit the sweater in pieces with set-in sleeves, but because I was alternating skeins of the lovely hand dyed yarn, ripping out the yarn would be a big old pain in the you-know-what.

Finally, I decided I should just go ahead. I didn’t want to go back, and sitting half-way done would have been the stupidest decision of all.  Let not the dream of the perfect create obstacles for the good! I kept knitting, and tweaking to make sure there wouldn’t be too much fabric under the arms. You can check my project details on Ravelry here.

And requisite feline inspection also occurred:

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The shawl collar and button bands were completely reworked – I blogged about it here, and the result is really lovely. The buttons were a totally great find (you know about the Button Emporium, right?), and this will be my Rhinebeck sweater (she says hoping that there will be a crisp coolness in the air along the Hudson Valley).

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I hope to get some photos of me walking at the Wool and Sheep Festival with it on!

Dark and Stormy she’s not – she’s a hug from my mom. I still need those hugs.

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A Trip to Big Sky Country, Part 2: Fibermania!

We last left me in Bozeman on the cusp of leaving for a road trip. Friday morning opened with light snow falling – in June! I thought my friend Carol might want to cry, having finally put her garden in the week before, because if she didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything to pick in August. But fortunately it wasn’t cold enough for anything to stick.

At this point I think I should mention that in preparation for the trip I had a “what was I thinking?” kind of moment. All along, I had planned to go to the Big Sky Fiber Festival, where an online friend, Suzanne, with whom I’ve been with on an email list (and now a private group on F$%#book), helps to run it.  It is the city of Hamilton, about 45 minutes by car south of Missoula.

Well, a few days before I was to leave for Montana, I got in my head that I was actually supposed to go to Billings. Now, Billings is a lovely city, and it happens to be closer to Bozeman, but in the opposite direction. See?

And I even cancelled my reservation at the place I had near Hamilton and made one for Billings. Can you see the problem here? About a day later I realized my (idiotic) mistake, and rushed to leave a message with the place I had cancelled saying I wanted the room after all. Neither time did they respond to me.  When I got to Montana, and realized that my hard-charging Bay Area ways were not needed here, I figured that they probably thought I was a crazy person, and would have a room for me. Such was my faith in Montana ways!

So, with the weather looking like this:

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I got on the road. Interstate 90 is a lovely road, and has the added benefit of not very much traffic on it. my rental – a Subaru something or other (looks like a Honda CRV) that handled well, and cruise control was my friend along the highway.  Rivers amble alongside the road for much of the way, and every valley is simply spectacular in terms of vistas. Anything you are worried or concerned about just gets put in perspective.

It turns out that the Bitterroot Valley is just as wonderful as the Bozeman Area:
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and my room outside of Hamilton – a delightful if quirky cabin in the middle of the woods.  By the middle of the woods I mean a couple of miles down an unpaved road! And I was the only one staying there – so much for my worries about them “saving a room”!
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The Big Sky Fiber Festival is quite lovely – its a small festival, but in all the essentials, it is great. There are proper signs:

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and the added benefit of another event at the county fairgrounds at the same time:
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Yes, Montana Mule Days! and it was really interesting to see the two groups check each other out. I went  in the arena one afternoon to find this:

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Yes, men in drag playing a kind of polo on donkeys with a huge green ball. Totally hilarious! I’m sure they thought we were as weird as they were!

The marketplace is in a lovely new building:
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and I finally got to meet Suzanne, who was manning her own booth!
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She has the loveliest Targhee wool in several natural shades.  Targhee is a springy, very bouncy wool, so we cooked up a scheme for her to put together about six shades of it into a kit so I can spin it gradient style.  I can’t wait to see what it will look like!

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Spun some fiber in my spinning classes with Judy Overbeek (she was knowledgable and delightful!):

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Played with dyeing fiber with Joan W Contraman:
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who also sells her batts to yarn and spinning stores – her company is called Crosspatch Creations and I got one of her lovely  batts that I think will be the next thing I spin (ok, I’m supposed to be on a team for Tour de Fleece as well, so simultaneous spinning may occur):
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and I got  a new spindle from Spinnolutions, which has weights that can change the weight of the spindle form 2.5 to 4.5 ounces, which will be quite handy if I decide to spin more bulky yarns! It looks cool when it spins:
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And I got my share of beef and pork. Seriously, if you like to eat meat, I daresay that Montana is quite the paradise. Lot’s of it, organic, locally grown, grass fed. I might have eaten more meat in a week there than I usually do in one month. One place worth notings is Naps, which advertises the best burgers in the country:
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They are quite good! And with my tummy stuffed with a pulled pork sandwich on Sunday, I traveled back the way that I came for the final installment of my Montana adventures!

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Spinning, Woolen Style

I probably have mentioned that I’ve only been spinning on a spindle about 8 months or so, having learned last summer at a class at Llama Llama Knit. All that I’ve done has been based on that class, and what I’ve read in Respect the Spindle, and tried to see on the DVD of the same name (not easy).

But there’s been no feedback, everything has been trial and error, and some things went well, others not. I’m pretty good at getting a consistent single now, but my joins were awful and frustrating. Plying has been ok, but I need to learn a lot more.  I’ve stuck to worsted spinning style, and couldn’t figure out what the woolen thing was all about.

For the new spindler, the class opportunities are surprisingly sparse in the SF Bay Area – once you’ve done the intro class, everyone expects folks to get a wheel, I guess. Finally, I saw that Michael Wade was teaching at Article Pract (which I’ve still never been to – hmmm, East Bay trip might be needed!), but then I couldn’t take the class, and then he was teaching at A Verb for Keeping Warm and I could take it – yes! Even though it was on a Sunday, it was in the afternoon, and did I mention that these classes are hard to find?

It was cloudy and rainy, and it was the end of winter break for schools (fondly known as “Ski Week” in our neck of the woods because so many families head to the Sierras), so the traffic was awful, but I allowed plenty of time to get there. So I was able to buy anything I could think of totally essential items for my fiber life.

And Michael, of Fiberbeat fame, couldn’t have been sweeter or more helpful. Seriously, the guy is amazing – he podcasts, blogs, turns out amazing knitwear and spinning, and is a great teacher too. He helped me figure out new joining methods in a snap (SO helpful), and even made up some shoe-box plying boxes (how sweet is that!):

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But the best thing for me personally was figuring out the woolen, over the fold method of spinning. I had been doing a very short draw with the over the fold, which is kinda half-way there, but with Michael demonstrating I totally figured it out. I took home the lovely undyed BFL and spun up my singles in a snap. Last night, having got home before 10 pm for a change, I plied the rest of it and set the twist, and woke up to this loveliness:

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There are still some things to work on, but it’s a very good start!

Isn’t the shine just something to behold – all that lovely squishiness just is so lovely. The plan is to make some cat toys over the weekend for a kitty toy swap – so they’ll hold catnip and have the handspun aroma. I can now dye bits of the yarn with my food coloring, so I feel all so crafty now!

Next-up – I’m taking Michael’s navajo-plying on the spindle class on March April 17th – a whole new set of skills to perfect – yay!

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just a little problem

Last year when I went to Stitches, I bought very little – a swift (which has made life so much easier), a little bit of yarn, a book. It was a simple year.

This year, not so much. I learned to spin over the summer, and since only one of my LYS carries fiber (thank you, Llama Llama Knit for enabling me so well), I really was in the mood for more. Taking a spindling class with the Amazing Michael at A Verb for Keeping Warm the Sunday before Stitches only increased my yearning to BUY ALL THINGS FOR SPINNING. MUST HAVE! NOW!!

Yeah, a little bit of a problem. So it should come as no surprise that I more than made up for my parsimonious ways of last year:

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–two spindles (yeah, after I bought a Kundert on Sunday)
–lots of fiber (Targhee from Abstract Fiber, silk and silk merino from Verb, a couple of 1 oz luxury mixes from Knitifacts (including a 40% alpaca, 40% camel, and 10% silk)
–a WPI tool
–a amazing goodie bag from the Knitmore Girls, including a retractable measuring tape, soak samples, free sock pattern and a skein of hard-wearing Regia sock yarn. They are truly lovely women, and such a great example of mother-daugther bonding.
–a free bag from the Verb (after I went back and bought my spindle and looked yearningly at the bags)
–sock yarn from Miss Babs (Babs gave me a free little stitch marker as a new customer)
–charting software from Intwined Studio (a new start-up – friendly people with a good cheap product)

I also felt as though I got to meet a lot of great folks – the lovely folks at Pigeonroof Studios, Deborah at Asciano Fiber Arts Tools who sold me an incredibly beautiful spindle, Kristine at Verb, Robin Page of Pagewood Farm, and so on. And just sitting and meeting other prayer shawl knitters at lunch was fun, and catching up with old friends that I haven’t seen since the year started.

It was such a lovely couple of days, I’ve floated since then!

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Homestretch

I’m getting there on the sweater – the sleeves are done, joined to the body, and I’ve finished (i.e. designed on the fly and knit) the first color pattern for the yoke, done the first decreases, and beginning on the second color pattern (to match the sleeve).

I’m pretty happy with it:
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and so is Izzie:
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The goal is to finish the knitting today, and do the blocking today and tomorrow.

Yesterday, I went to the intermediate spindling class, it was awesome, and I’ll more after Stitches West. Just too much happening this week!

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Ok, let’s get focused

The Ravelympics is fun, but I think I probably am stretching my limits given time constraints. The stranded sweater is not getting all the attention that I wish for it. I finished the lower body, but I’m still on the sleeves:

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Part of the delay on the sleeves was working out the detail for the cuffs. I finally came up with this, after an emergency run to the yarn store for the heathered gold:

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This is what you get when you don’t plan out the sweater or follow a pattern.

But the other issue is that I started to ply the Falkland fiber – and once I started, I wanted to finish the plying ball; more accurately, I needed to get it all done before Sunday, when I’m taking an intermediate spindling class. The class is with WonderMike (the guy who does the great Fiber Beat podcast), and I own only one spindle. People assure me that the one spindle thing will not last long, now I see why, it’s like owning only one pair of knitting needles.

Back to the fiber: I am really happy with the beautiful colors. This is what it looks like pre-setting the twist. Lovely, isn’t it?

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This is about 2 oz of the 4 oz that I have spun, so I’m quite glad that there will be enough lace yarn for a real project. As I plied, I saw all kinds of funkiness in it, and I’m just letting it go, because I’m learning, and whatever I make out of it will be lovely because of the color and softness.

This has meant that the stranded vest with the steeks has gotten very little love. I’m hoping it gets done (because it is supposed to go to Afghanistan), but we’ll see. Next week I have a bunch of meetings, and Stitches West. Yeah, looking tough, isn’t it? Oh well!

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Ravelympics Update

I cast on, and I am plowing through the stockinette. Isadora apparently approves:

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My idea is to do a colored stranded set of patterns for the yoke, like this, this and this. We shall see what I come up with. I might need to pull out the food dyes if I don’t have a color I need. This new idea (cooking up a color) is so fun!

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The Knitting Teacher

I am back from the Big Easy, and it was awesome. Sometimes the best trips are the ones where you don’t spend months planning, it just comes together and you go with the flow. That was this trip. But I haven’t finished my photos – you can check out the ones I’ve posted to Flickr here.

But onto knitting. I did a bit of teaching when I worked in an in-between part of my life at Marin Fiber Arts, which has sadly closed. I really enjoyed it, but then I was working a whole bunch and didn’t have time for it anymore. Now life is back to less busy, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be teaching some knitting classes at Bluebird Yarn & Fiber in Sausalito in late October and through November. Toe-up socks? Yep. Triangular lace shawls – you’re covered. Very cute stranded baby hats – oh yeah! There are a couple more classes too.

Check out the offerings – there are other way-cool classes at Bluebird as well. Mirto’s crochet classes are tempting me – I did a bit with her at the freebie day she did, and I learned so much~

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Happy Kitties

I participated in another kitty toy swap. This one included an “assmat” (say that three times quickly, I dare you), and a kitty toy.  But our Ravelry crowd is a generous lot, so we give and get more than that.  This time, the kitties and I all enjoyed our package from Jenny in Kent, WA:

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I love the mug and the tea. The cards have those sheep with the wiggly eyes.  Brandy really likes the mice:

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and Izzie has completely adopted the assmat – it’s double size, so all of her fits on it nicely:
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