Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attack of the UFOs!

Hi, everyone.

EEK! I am being attacked by UFOs!

In the knitting world, UFOs are UnFinished Objects--okay, the acronym is not 100% correct, but at least it's memorable. I'm the kind of knitter who likes to have several projects going at once; that way, if I'm up for a challenge, I can work on a difficult pattern, and if I'm tired, I can work on something I don't have to concentrate on too much. (I also discovered recently, I think, that I tend to start new projects when my various UFOs are becoming problematic--when I have to do something complicated, for example, or if I think there's a BIG mistake somewhere and I'm trying to decide whether to rip out my knitting or try to fix it... I'm not sure if I like this aspect of myself, but it's interesting to discover it.)

So here are a few UFOs that are bugging me lately:
This will eventually be a pair of socks for Dexter (in my own basic sock pattern), but as you can see, I've not gotten very far yet. And a certain someone keeps asking, "Are you almost finished yet? Is this the second one?" Oh dear. (There are a couple rows in the middle that look like mistakes; actually, they are cables. I thought I would cleverly add in randomly placed cables in his socks to entertain both knitter and wearer, but they don't really work with this yarn. Am I going to rip back and start over? HECK NO.)

A pair of socks for me, in the "Spring Forward" pattern from Knitty. Awesomely entertaining pattern--they are MUCH easier than they look--but every time I work on them I feel guilty that I'm not working on Someone Else's sock. Ahem.

The Icarus shawl. This photo, as with all photos of un-blocked lace, makes it look like miles of cat barf. But when I block it, you'll be able to see beautiful details like this:
I'm in the middle of the complicated section, so I really need to be able to concentrate when I work on this project. And most of the times/places I'm knitting these days (late at night, SnB) are not concentrate-friendly.
The Mr. Greenjeans sweater, also from Knitty, in the most gorgeous shade of dark teal that my camera apparently did not pick up on very well (it's a bit bluer than this). Time to bind off on the bottom and knit the sleeves!

The Ab Fab throw, in the "Wild One" colorway, colors that definitely did NOT come out in this photo--the original is much more purpley and orangey. (You can see the right colors in the link there for the kit; happily, I got mine on sale for half price when my local yarn shop was going out of business...) I've only got about 30 more rows on this puppy, then it's time to weave in lots of ends (ruh roh) and add fringe. This one's a fairly simple knit, and I foresee having it finished really soon--just in time for hot weather!--but my loathing for weaving in ends might mean that it gets relegated to the problematic pile until fall...

I need to sort through these. They are filled with yarn, some of which I would like to give away (or maybe trade) and some of which I would like to keep. But I need to get it organized. I have been mostly knitting from stash lately because, as you see, I have ENOUGH of it! There are projects and yarns in there that I love; I just need to get going on them.

I totally have 2nd moccasin syndrome. (Yes, I made that up, but now I think it really exists.)

Here's the 50% merino/50% silk blend roving, all spun up into singles. Time to ply! (scary!) See how there are bumps on the bobbin? That also reminds me that I need to move the hooks on my wheel as Judith instructed--which involves getting out the drill, and getting that thing anywhere near my wheel gives me the heebie jeebies. I need to work up to it...

Some of these need to go in pots, and some of them...
... along with some of these, need to go in here:
which, as you can see, is TOTALLY not ready. Those are weeds, my friends, growing healthy as horses in my veggie-and-herb garden plot. And, to top it all off, I want to do a raised bed this year here, since the soil just seems to stay clayish year after year.

The item on the left is a book I need to finish reading as I'm working on a new article (about the 1798 novel Reuben and Rachel, by Susanna Haswell Rowson--1798 is not a typo; R&R is a really early American novel!); the item on the right is an article I wrote about the autobiographies of Black Hawk & William Apess that I need to get published. Time for one last revision and then I'll send it off to purgatory--er, a scholarly journal. (No, I am not going to light them on fire with the stove, though I have been sorely tempted. That's just where the light is passably good for photos right now.)

And I don't have photos of countless other things I need to do soon--return some phone calls to people whom I love & want to have longer conversations with, put some things in the mail to friends afar, finish the chick lit novel I've borrowed from the library (it's due soon), start in on a pile of novels I want to read for my teaching, watch the Netflix movie that's been sitting on top of my tv for at least a week... My list of UFOs seems nearly endless, and putting them in writing and pictures here on the blog seems, in some ways, like a bad idea. It makes the list seem a tad overwhelming.

I have been thinking a lot about TO DO lists lately--specifically, feeling frustrated with how seldom I seem to be able to cross an item OFF the list despite the fact that I do not sit around and twiddle my thumbs all day long. What the heck do I do all day? Some friends and I have been talking about this problem as well--frustration around the to-do list--and shortly thereafter I was surprised to see a post from the Yarn Harlot about her daunting list.

So here are a couple rays of hope. First of all, the Yarn Harlot (like me) very quickly decided to put some things on her list that she KNEW she'd get done. (Here's the hilarious post; be sure to read the previous one first.) Some days, I put "brush teeth" on my list. And some days, I cheat a little and put something on the list AFTER I've done it, just so I can cross it off. Some days, instead of looking at the list again, I write in my journal, and I'm only allowed to start by listing things I've accomplished.

Today I discovered another way to feel mighty in spite of the list: get one thing done that requires the use of POWER TOOLS. I'm sorry to be so gender-predictable, but power tools kind of scare me, and I don't use them very often, so wielding one today, with pretty good results, gave me quite the sense of accomplishment!

Rather than heading to Home Depot to price some cedar planks or a garden box (spendy!), I took some scrap lumber...

... and a power saw and made this:

Ta-da! It is quite possibly the ugliest raised-bed box in the county, and it will require a liner since I used wood that is not eco-friendly, but by golly that is one DONE garden box. (Yes, the back wall is old, and half of it is just a sheet of plywood leaning against the old broken wooden wall there, but I think it'll do.) Patrick helped nail stuff together and pound the supports into the ground. When we began digging holes for them instead (we're nothing if not quick to learn!), I became the worminator--I kept accidentally chopping worms as I was digging. I hope that story I've heard since I was little is true: that the two halves can grow the other halves back. I'd like for the worms to stay, actually, since they are so good for the garden.

Anyhow, just a few thoughts on the list. Tis the season when the to-do list grows, as we move outside and spiff things up again. I hope you get a handle on yours--or at least feel like you do!


Friday, May 8, 2009

An Adventure with Fiber Goddesses!

A couple weekends ago, I had another sabbatical adventure of the educational variety. I attended a three-day workshop in Indiana on knitting and spinning for Estonian lace, with Nancy Bush and Judith MacKenzie McCuin.

Now... the folks out there who read Interweave publications just got excited, while the folks who don't are probably drawing a blank. Nancy Bush is the author of at least FIVE knitting-related books, and she's the western world's expert on the traditions and techniques of Estonian lace, a special knitting genre developed by the entrepreneurial women in Estonia as tourists began coming to their country in the early 20th century to seek out the mineral baths. Here's a link so you can have a look-see at some of the beautiful work published in her latest book; scroll down to the preview box for photos of some of the pieces.

During the workshop, we learned special techniques used by Estonian lace knitters, and Nancy shared with us in person some of the pieces from the book as well as her travel photos from many trips to Estonia. I loved hearing her stories of how she happened upon this work, and what Estonia has meant to her since then... She's been there at least a dozen times in the past 10-ish years, so clearly, she loves the place!

The other half of the teaching dynamic duo, Judith, is the goddess of spinning. She has been working with textiles all her life; every few minutes, she'd share something she learned from her many experiences with fiber--as a sheep shearer, a sheep farmer (rancher?), a wool classer, a cloth and clothing designer, a weaver of huge art pieces for corporations, a textile restorer in the Middle East, a designer of carding machines, and a spinner and knitter. She's got a new book wherein she shares some of her knowledge, but seeing her in person is a treat--she has a great way of telling stories, and the most poised yet engaged demeanor I've ever seen!

So... in other words, they are fiber ROCK STARS!!! And I got to learn from their experience and wisdom, along with about 28 other people. Awesome!!!

During the workshop, our goal was to a) spin and ply different types of fiber to laceweight specifications (i.e., very THIN but crisp & tight enough not to fall apart), and b) use that laceweight yarn to make some samples of Estonian lace (which are kind of pictorial). I managed to get most of the spinning done, and some of the knitting. So the goals were a bit ambitious for my level of abilities, but I learned a LOT and am continuing the work here at home (in between other projects, of course).

The setting was also excellent: the farm of Susan, who owns and runs the Trading Post for Fiber Arts. She & her husband have converted one of their barns into a shop with a large open room upstairs. So we were able to knit downstairs in the shop, and set up our spinning equipment upstairs.

I have never seen so many spinning wheels in one place! I tried to get some photos of what that looked like:
Luckily, I managed not to drool TOO much.

Here is my new friend Anne with some more wheels on the other side of the room:
Here is Judith demonstrating (she's the one spinning on the left):
Here is Patricia (I'm sorry I caught her doing the Santa-about-to-fly-up-the-chimney pose) and her Journey wheel, which looks from this side like a wooden box, but is a spinning wheel inside! It was so cool.

And do you see that blonde beauty on the left? (I'm talking about the wheel... the one in front of the empty folding chair.) That is my new Kromski Sonata!!!! Less than a week before the workshop, I bought this wheel--my second--for travelling. It folds down into a neat package, then goes inside its travel bag. I'm hoping to take it on summer vacation with me as well as to spin-ins at friends' houses and parks and the like... (I've got the spinning bug pretty badly, to be buying a second wheel only a few months after getting my first. But I foresee using both for years to come!)

Before the workshop, I was really nervous about being able to produce a good yarn. After all, I am a beginning spinner (having gotten my first wheel in December 08) and my technique is... kind of sketchy. I didn't want to embarrass myself, especially in front of a bunch of other people (shades of junior high!). But luckily, within just a few minutes, I was spinning a really thin single.

My first yarn experiment turned out okay, but with the usual beginner's mistakes: not exactly consistent, and too loosely spun in the singles. Here's a photo (nickel included for scale):
I like it a lot just because it is my first attempt at laceweight yarn and it's not totally embarrassing. It was kind of "interesting," though, to knit with--there are thick bumps in places that make the lace... um... we'll call it "textured". (I'll share photos of the lace samples when I've got them all done!)

My second attempt was much more successful, in part because I put a lot of twist into the singles, and in part because it wasn't my first. Here is a photo:
This yarn is slightly more consistent, and if you look carefully you can see that there are more "bumps" per inch than the first yarn because it's more tightly spun--this is better for lace. I was UNREASONABLY happy whilst knitting the sample out of it. :)

(Notes for fiber geeks: the first yarn is spun from grey roving, a Rambouillet/Shetland cross raised by Judith! The second is spun from Falkland top; Falkland is a kind of Merino.)

The third sample, which I'm still spinning the 2nd single for, is a merino/silk top, 50/50 blend, which means it's softer than a baby's butt. Srsly. It's a bit slicker to spin, and therefore a little scary for me--I can make it really, really thin, but it kind of flies through my fingers and then I get scared that it's going to disintegrate because it doesn't have enough twist. I'll post again when I have a finished yarn to show (after I finish the 2nd single and ply)...

Here are a couple more photos...

Looking out the window from our spinning roost:

Donating some fiber to be used in birds' nests:
(There were gale-force winds all weekend!)

I must have gotten "camnesia" at one point, because I didn't take any photos of the animals on the farm--a horse, some wonderful big fluffy dogs, and LOTS of alpacas and llamas. (Here are some of Susan's photos of her animules...)

It was a wonderful adventure. It was great to learn not just with my brain, but also with my hands. And my heart.

Happy weekend, everyone!