Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eat. Wash. Spin!

(Just not necessarily in that order.)

Porcini-mushroom roast chicken

Parker house (wheat) rolls & mushroom gravy

Fresh green bean & shiitake mushroom casserole. Not to be missed.
Taken from the Nov. 2007 issue of Saveur Magazine. Page 42.

After all the work I did this weekend, I was very very hungry.

But OH, I had such a good time working up that appetite!!!!

First on Saturday I re-read the relevant section in Alden Amos' Big Book of Handspinning (despite the fact that I keep messing up poor A.A.'s name - I keep calling him Amos Alden - this book is still SO on my Christmas/birthday list!!!!) and then I pulled out one of the two (TWO!) fleece that Oma sent me a few weeks ago and decided that I was going to wash it.

To try this the first time, I went with what looked like the more amusing fleece - the crazily-curly 1st place winner - which was a Lincoln/Shropshire mix - from the Northwestern Pennsylvania Sheep and Wool Association Field Day.

Here my pound of curly locks sit, in their plastic bag with Mr. Frog happily watching over them.

Following Alden's directions, I filled the tub with HOT water, added a large capful of appropriate detergent, and then carefully let the fleece sink down and slowly slowly slowly patted it along in the water from one end of the tub to the other. Back and forth. Back and forth. He said to do this as if you were herding a bunch of kindergarten younglings down a very narrow museum hallway. This is what the tub & fleece looked like after a few trips were made up & down.

UCK. See that kind of scummy film on the water? Double-uck! This is just about where I stopped thinking that magically Oma had gotten me a fleece that was naturally part white and part brown, and realized that the "part brown" locks on the fleece were in fact part green, and were most likely green from sheep feces.

Triple uck.

I drained the tub, and shuddered.

Then I filled the tub again with hot water (with the fleece resting & draining safely above), added in only half the amount of soap this time, and repeated my sinking, patting, and herding. This time around the water was much cleaner, and the tub refuse was much less disgusting.

Then the third time I filled the tub only with hot water as a last-step rinse.

And while I have no doubt that the slightly yellowish cast of some of the curlier tips on the fleece means that I have not gotten out all of the grit and muck, I think I have gotten as much out as I currently feel safe removing. (Being new at this, and having NO idea of what I'm doing, I'm quite worried that I'm going to felt this entire thing in my enthusiasm to get it really, super clean. I will - however - wash it at least once more after it is spun and plied just to be on the safe side.) I laid the fleece out to try on the guest bed, turned on multiple fans, and walked away.

I had expected it to take a full three days to dry - as A.A. says it should in his tome, but apparently A.A. never reckoned on the drying power that a 93-pound dog has on a pound of spread-out damp fleece. If said dog spends the night on the drying bed, your fleece will be bone dry the very next morning, and won't seem even the slightest worse for wear. AMAZING. Please note that I would only recommend this for dog owners. Certain insane-cat owners {coughcoughjessiecoughcough} should probably avoid such things at all possible costs.

I think that some carding will bring this curly mass of white loveliness around lickety-split. I have borrowed a drum carder from the art department of campus, and spent a good hour or so this past weekend cleaning it as best as I could, but the thing is just SO disgusting and dirty (I wore gloves to clean the drum carder, but not to wash out all that green sheep shit - what does that tell you about how filthy & nasty the drum carder was?) that despite it being cleaned I still don't feel safe using it. Isn't it lucky for me, then, that Gryphon is an Ashford dealer (I chuckled when I said that to Kim feeling like someone who was doing something illegal - "Woooo hooooo!!!! We've got a dealer in the neighborhood!") and can easily send me a pair of basic but oh-so-useful-and-necessary Ashford hand carders! Plus - you know - a few locally-made yarn storage baskets that she now has for sale. Just two. Or three.

I also was lucky enough this past Friday to find my missing spinning-wheel piece when I went and re-poked around the storage building where it had spent the past year or so. With some help from Peggers I found a necessary (and totally missing) correctly-sized nut lying around our workbench that was needed to keep the treadle leg in place, grabbed some light machine oil, and got the piece in good working order. I then promptly dropped everything and tried to spin, and butchered some of the deep red fiber that Gryphon sent my way over the summer along with a loaner drop spindle. I loathed the drop spindle (so much so that I simply put it down & felt no compunction to keep trying with it whatsoever!) but loved the fiber. The result is the overly-spun little unbalanced skein below. {SIGH} My first ever baby handspun!

After messing around with the red, I tried my hand at some hand-dyed roving that I purchased at a county fair over the summer. Despite the butchering that happened while I played around with it, I had the most WONDERFUL time with both it and the red roving, and after watching a few video clips on the Joy of Handspinning website have picked up a few tips about what I am doing wrong (drafting over too short a distance, mainly, I'm also going to try and pull 'up' on the fiber to draft it instead of pulling 'down' as I have been doing. I'm also going to try to pre-draft my commercially prepared bump and see if that helps) and am going to take another crack at the rest of the fiber I have left either tonight or tomorrow night.

This is what I produced after sitting down a few times Saturday & Sunday with the county-fair roving that I purchased. Reminds me of cotton-candy colours! Still exponentially overspun, but at least a bit more even in thickness (at least in lengthier spots!) and a bit better overall. Once I'm finished with this bump of fiber, I'm going to 2-ply it and see what fun end result I get.

I only have a single drive at the moment, and so am wondering if maybe a double-drive would help some. I am consciously trying to treadle v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y - - so much so that my wheel will sometimes stop, I'm going so slow. This is why I'm wondering if the double-drive will help........or will that just speed me up and increase my horrid overspinning? Ah well - 'tis so much fun that I don't at all mind that I'm making wool versions of DNA every time I let the tension go on the yarn & it doubles back on itself!

In fact, I'm having SO much fun that I went right out and ordered several bundles of dyed fleece from Jessie - one in the most amazing chartreuse/purple/midnight blue blend - I can hardly wait to see what that turns into when I get my hands on it!

I also, after reading her two part posts on plying experiments, bought a double-bump set of hers in a super-bright/deep purple and a nicely-pale lavender complimentary colourway.

See why I couldn't resist the temptation to try some plying experiments of my own?

Fun fun fun fun fun!

My Christmas/birthday wish list is just growing by leaps and bounds every day now!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Still raining

It's still raining here (woe that I could send some of this steady, soaking rain over California's way!), I'm still missing crucial pieces from the loaner spinning wheel, and I'm still adrift in a sea of stockinette.


My shrug is getting closer and closer to being finished in that the huge swath that spans my back is probably only 2 inches away from completion. I'd show you the picture that I bribed my husband to take showing this miraculous progress, but it unfortunately makes me look like a chunky linebacker after a huge pasta dinner, so I'll refrain from showing such amazingly unflattering pictures of myself in public.

The worst part of getting this close to finishing the shrug is that once I actually make the back section long enough I'll have to truly acknowledge the fact that the pattern is almost certainly and truly LOST back in the Outer Banks. I have searched for it high and low, but alas - still for naught. I don't know what to do. Wing it, based on the other half I've already knitted? Plead with the designer to send me the basics for the ruffle along the front (the only info I really & truly need) - plead with a fellow Belle Shrug knitter that I met via Ravelry to take pity on me and send me the missing specs and instructions?

My hemp paper bag is coming along well - my previous attempt at a increase/decrease - slipped stitch - decrease/increase technique was successful but simply too messy with this stiff hemp twine, so I have changed techniques entirely and am now working in single sections in a slightly nontraditional way - with much happier results. Hopefully an almost-finished shot to come soon.

I am also back to working on my design-a-sock project for Gryphon and Knitty with so far happy results - but alas in my enthusiasm to get started on it the unthinkable happened:

Can't see what happened? Look down at the bottom of the bag - just below where the bamboo needle crosses the "M" in PREMIUM. Keep going down. Keep going..........keep going.................

............see how there's NOTHING ATTACHED at the bottom of that bamboo needle?

*snap*! It made such a sad little sound when it just broke right off in my hand. I kind of caught my breath in a little sob, and then looked up in bewilderment like a small child does when the unthinkable happens to them.

I still have the original packaging, and I seem to remember somewhere that Addis come with a lifetime guarantee if you have the original packaging. Does anyone else seem to remember this hope-inspiring bit of information as well?

I was able to switch over to dpns with nary a problem - and it turned out to be a blessing in the end as the pattern stitch I'm using has a "traveling" sort of tendency where every so many rows you have to move a stitch from one needle to the previous or vice-versa - - very annoying to do when using two circular needles but easy as anything to do with dpns. So if I can get the circular needle replaced with a minimum of fuss then all will be well in the end, I feel fairly safe in saying.

Tonight Kim is coming over for dinner (and then bath & story with the Munchkin) and then after he's safely in bed she and I get to sit and knit and chat - and I get to wrap my head around a little challenge that Laura (of Fiber Dreams) sent my way! She's currently knitting a beautiful blue pair of socks that have a slightly little tricky two-cable-needle cable in there - and she and I got talking about cable needles and cabling without cable needles. So she sent me the cable specs and I'm going to mess around tonight and see if I can't figure out how to do this particular 5-stitch cable, 2-cable-needle cable without even one cable needle - and post appropriate pictures here for anyone who is interested to see.

If nothing else, the pictures that Kim will be able to take of me struggling along making a huge tangled mess should be good for at least a laugh or two!

Friday, October 19, 2007


The wheel got a nice Murphy's bath last night, followed by the first of many bathings in lemon oil.

It's a wee bit happier now:

Now that I had a good chance to look the wheel over, I find that it's missing a few pieces. Most importantly, I'm missing the conrod that connects the wheel to the treadle. I'm also missing the tension knob, a fourth bobbin, and the base to the Lazy Kate. Obviously I can live without the base to the Lazy Kate (more honestly, I can make my own) and I can obviously totally live without a fourth bobbin for now - and I can probably figure out how to jury-rig a makeshift tension knob for the time being. But I cannot do without the conrod.

I'm going to go back to the storage spot and do some more poking around the next time it's open to see if I can't find these missing pieces - and if not............?

..................check around to see if I can order the conrod & tension knob from an Ashford dealer on line?

What else would the spinners out there recommend that I also get? A decent drive band? The wheel now has nothing fancier than a knotted cotton string - but I've read on the Ashford site that they now offer a 'polycord' version that doesn't slip and makes pedaling much much nicer. And anything that makes spinning much easier/nicer sounds great to me. Also, the flyer is only a single drive - would those of you in the know out there recommend that I get a three whorl flyer, or maybe even a lace flyer? (Ooooohhhhhhhhhh..........spinning lace. It boggles the mind to think that maybe possibly someday I could learn to do that...............)

Spinners? Serious education is needed here, por favor.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

dirty, dusty, grimy

.....it might not be a beauty queen at the moment, but for the time being, it's mine and I'm going to have tons of fun playing around on it! The drum carder (poor abused thing that it so obviously is) is for the two half-fleeces (an Icelandic & a......something else that's fun & curly that I forget this very second) that Oma sent my way - I need to do some washing and carding before I can do any spinning, and when I saw the carder just sitting there in the dust and grime and dirt and it was offered to me along w/ the wheel I certainly didn't turn it down!

The wheel (an Ashford) could maybe possibly end up mine forever, but the carder is only a temporary figure passing through my life. 'Sokay. I can live with that. I'd prefer the wheel over the carder in the end anyway!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I'm going all Linda Richman on you.

Look. Just look at what was in my Ravelry inbox when I peeked today......

From: franklin
To: Susan B

re: I know I don't actually KNOW you....
Sent at 5:59 PM October 9, 2007

Well, that's one of the best things about Ravelry for me...now I have a chance to get to know you.

So consider yourself friended. ;-)


Franklin. THE Franklin. Of Panopticon. You know. Insane lace knitter. Long-suffering roommate of Dolores, the world's only (hopefully) chain-smoking sheep. Majorly proud uncle of one of the cuter babies to grace the knit-world in quite some time.

Why is he writing to me, you might ask? To ME?


I groveled shamelessly and sent him the following 'Friend' invite on Ravelry...


To: franklin
From: SusanB
I know I don't actually KNOW you....
Sent at 11:02 AM October 9, 2007

....but seeing as how you're so incredibly kind to let all of us in your virtual living room (so to speak) you truly feel like a friend nonetheless.

(Plus if 160 others can eagerly claim you as their friend, I can surely muster up the courage to do so as well, dammit!)


  • Susan

...........and now that I've done so, and now that he's responded, I'm absolutely charmed by how sweet he was, thrilled down to my toes by the fact that his little cartoon picture is now listed in amongst my 18 Ravelry friends, and absolutely horrified at my impertinence. I have the urge to dust off my zafu, pull out my finest pair of lace-knitting circs, and start chanting to Elizabeth Zimmerman and Sharon Miller as a sort of knitter's penance.

(~ say it with me now, my ducks~)


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Vacation Swag

I was able to pick up a few fun things while on vacation - sadly there was nary a single yarn shop on the entire Outer Banks that I could find. I had done some pre-vacation poking around online first to try and find the name/location/phone number of any LYS, but kept coming up empty. So once I was actually on-island I did the next best thing - I asked at my LCS (Local Coffee Shop.)

"Nope," they said. "Not a single one. You'll have to go off-island for something like that."

As off-island in this case meant a full hour & a half drive, I was quite unwilling to go through that just to potentially end up with some novelty yarn at the other end. So instead I contented myself with puttering around all of the beautiful places that we had already planned to go - and on the island of Ocracoke I hit the jackpot in a knitting-related way. (Note to any future vacationers - the island is a 45 minute ferry ride away - BRING KNITTING!)

View from the Ocracoke ferry. Happily, I had brought along my entire vacay knitting posse, so I had a plethora of projects to choose from during the watery wait! Plus, we saw dolphins.

In Ocracoke there are several little fun shops - if you want home-made fudge or hand-made candies there are several nice options (heh - ask my newly-gained 2 pounds how I know this!), but even better if you would like books or clothes there are two wonderful options. The first is called Books To Be Red/Red Drum Pottery an incredibly cool place that has just about everything you could ever want in there - fantastic wooden children's toys, fantastic books (local authors, Oprah authors, you name it!), wonderful cards, postcards, lotions, earrings, locally-made pottery, beautiful woven items like napkins and placemats, and just fun tchotchke items like what I found below.

Oops, that's right! I can't show you what I actually bought, because it is intended for someone who reads this blog, and I don't want to spoil the surprise.... And while I certainly did think about posting a picture of the actual swag behind a link or suchlike, I have to admit that I'm not 100% sure that I credit her with being able to resist the temptation & clicking on the link and peeking ahead of time.


But after she gets her package, I'll share the picture.

So what I show you instead is the package that I will mail out to her tomorrow. Aren't the labels FANTASTIC? They are courtesy of Elli at Elliphantom Knits and I just luuurrrve them. If you visit her blog you can download them yourself for free too! In fact I lurve them so much that I went ahead and used them also on my Book Mooch package - even though the book I'm mailing has not a single thing to do with knitting.

Address blocked to prevent the poor recipient from getting lots of unwelcome attention from a bunch of rabid knitters! I will have you know, though, that the above address is blocked with a new purchase from Books To Be Red - my new little nifty goes-everywhere-with-me notebook where I have everything important written down - how to kitchner, the corresponding inches for men and women's shoe sizes, a list of things to do ("send thank-you note for tomato knife"), and the contact number of the garage where my car is still being worked on. (Three weeks now, folks, three whole flippin' weeks. My advice to everyone out there? Call up your car insurance now and make sure that you have a rental car replacement in your policy. Costs almost nothing to add it in. The cost of a rental car for three weeks? Probably absolutely staggering. I have no clue as to the exact amount because I wasn't even willing to shell out close to that much cash, nor was I willing to risk partial reimbursement from my rental car company who is currently taking the other driver to court...)

Book Mooch, for those of you who do not know, is extremely cool. Pile up books you own but no longer wish to keep around, list them in Book Mooch & send them off to folks when asked. Earn points for doing so. You search the database for books that you want to own, and other folks will happily send them your way when you correspondingly ask. One book = one point. Build up points, use up points. Except for the cost of shipping (and if you use book rate, it's very cheap) it's all free. So far I've sent off a good half dozen or so and we've requested maybe 4 or 5 - and have been thrilled with both sides of the transaction. Laura of Fiber Dreams was the one who turned me on to this - a brilliant idea! When I came home from vacation I found that my most recent request - The God of Small Things - was there waiting for me. Oh, what a lovely occurrence! Brilliant book - brilliant system!

The other really cool shop on Ocracoke that I visited and scored some knitting 'stuff' was a hemp-clothing shop where I found (what else?) some hemp twine. I snatched up two balls of it (400 yards each) and have already started messing around with a design to knit myself a hemp version of a standard brown-paper bag. I know that there is a felted version of this on Knitty, but I don't want a felted version - nosiree - I want a hemp version that I can toss in the washer/dryer and know it won't shrink or get funky. I want something that gets softer and softer with use but won't ever ever EVER wear out. I wanted hemp, and hemp I got. Pictures will come soon after my knitting progress looks like more than a small tan twine rectangle.

No real other knitting news to report - one more embossed leaves sock to finish - size 11 women's, so no small task, that. 1/3 of a Screw-y II sock to finish for Peggers. (God,but size 13 feet are looooong!) Hours and hours and hours left of Seraphim to finish before the really pretty lace parts at the end kick in. Miles of stockingknit to accomplish on Belle before I get to join it back in the round for the other sleeve. (Think I'm exaggerating? Not quite - I have 10" of the back finished - I need only 20" more. U.G.H.) Lots and lots of knitting slogging here at Chez Pointysticks. I do think, however that excitement is on the horizon. Once my current socks are done I'm thinking long & hard about starting a pair of Chuck's Cabled Socks after seeing Mel's latest pair and developing some major knitted-object lust. And once my Belle shrug is finished I'm thinking that it's most certainly the time for me to finally (!) start on my Cable-Down Raglan that I have all that luscious alpaca stashed away for............

Ummmmmm............sooooooofffffffftttttttt. And waaaarrrrmmmmm!!!!!

My only other minorly exciting news to report is that I purchased a new chair for the Munchkin yesterday, as he's outgrown his current highchair and both Peggers and I have grown tired with the constant squirming and feet-on-the-table behavior that a too-small chair causes.

Ducks, meet the Stokke Tripp Trapp chair.

Funky, a bit expensive, European, and I think about to become one of our smarter child purchases ever.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Sour Cherry Upside Down Cake

The view 50 feet from our vacation house

Kite flying

Vacay knitting - Belle shrug on the Ocracoke ferry

The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Our last sunrise on the beach