Saturday, April 28, 2007

Freedom at last to work on Stash-Buster Socks

The splint is off and I can now drive. I celebrated my return to the world by going to Bartley Ranch Park's Planting Day where some of the Guild were busy demonstrating spinning and dyeing. It was fabulous to get out after a couple of weeks confined to the house. No spinning yet for me. The doctor said to push my limits and keep the elbow moving, so I have tried a little knitting. I can only manage a few sock rows at a time, but it is gradually improving. It is ever so satisfying seeing progress on my stash-buster socks.

What are stash-buster socks? They are a great way to use up those little balls of early uneven handspun that are cluttering up your fiber stash. There is not enough of any color for a project on their own, and they are neither terribly attractive nor terribly evenly spun, yet you can't bring yourself to throw them away. So they sit forever in a corner of your stash. With stashbuster socks, you pair them up to have enough for a pair of socks, then knit them in stripes to make it look like you didn't just run out of the first color. If the dye job is, well, not too attractive, or if the colors don't really go together, you can either wear them with jeans, or drop the finished socks in a dyebath that will pull the varying colors together. I am debating whether to overdye these with yellow or blue.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lack of Progress Report - or One-Handed Reflections

Here I am, complete with mummy-wrappings and an alpaca mitten. The splints inside the bandage keep the arm up, so the mitten is necessary to keep my elevated hand warm. My enforced one-handedness has made it very clear to me just how much of a fiber craft addiction one can have. I am longing to knit and spin and weave and dye and felt. I had planned to do a bit of dyeing, but have been stymied by the need to lift and empty the full dyepot. There is always Koolade dyeing by wrapping it in plastic wrap and microwaving, but I quickly discovered that manipulating plastic wrap with one hand is an exercise in extreme frustration.

So I wait. I surf the internet looking for new patterns. I make one-handed lists of future projects. I read fiber-themed mystery novels, knitting blogs, and old issues of Spin-Off. And I gaze longingly at my inactive wheels, spindles, needles, and fiber. I had no idea how hard this would be.

On the plus side, I can do some woodburning. As I say this, all the exposed wood surfaces in my house are cringing. Hmmm... perhaps a pattern of entwined snakes on the heater closet door... Or stars and planets on the door to my office... They are safe until the splint comes off and I can stop elevating the arm on stacks of pillows. After that, we'll see.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007

"Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back."
-- Dr. Seuss

Raccoon print on boardwalk, Big Thicket Swamp, Texas

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

GiddyUp Part 2: Bisbee and a little bit of Tombstone

Several folks have asked to hear more about my recent trip with the little trailer, so here is another episode.

The first half of the Sisters on the Fly GiddyUp was held in Usery Park near Phoenix, AZ. All 100 vintage trailers were lined up together and much visiting (and partying) ensued. For the second half of the week the whole group moved to Tombstone. To get there, the trailers were divided into groups of 10 to 15 for caravaning the 200 miles.
Each caravan was led by an Arizona Sister, and with advance notice to avoid an accident which was clogging the highway north of Florence, we set off in about 20 minute intervals. My caravan took the back road down to Florence then headed over to I10. We took a wrong turn in Florence and got a bit lost in some farm fields. Eventually we made it triumphantly to The Tombstone RV park.
Happily it was after 2pm when we arrived, since for unknown reasons this park closes the bathrooms every day between 11am and 2pm.

For the two remaining full days of the GiddyUp, folks grouped up to tour Bisbee one day and Tombstone the other. I had the most fun in Bisbee! First we went on the Queen Mine Tour. They fitted us up with oilskin coats, hard hats, and heavy battery pack belts running hand-held lights. We rode a trolly down into the quite chilly mine, getting off occasionally to scramble up or down side tunnels. The guide for the tour was a retired miner and did a great job.

After the tour we went to the famous Dot's Diner for truly fabulous hamburgers.

Luckily there was room for our party of 6, since there are only 8 seats in the diner!

Dot's is right next door to the Shady Dell. The Shady Dell is famous to vintage trailer folks. It is a collection of restored (and decked out in themes) vintage travel trailers that serve as a hotel.
Folks come from all over to stay in the 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion, the 1957 El Rey, or any of the dozen or so others. We were allowed to peek into the ones not currently occupied.

After the Mine Tour, Dot's and the Shady Dell, there was a little time for dashing in and out of some of the many antique shops, then it was back to Tombstone for an evening at Cowboy Doug's.
Cowboy Doug, with the help of the Arthritis Boys String Band, served up good grub, cowboy poetry, and some rollicky old-time cowboy music.

Add in a beautiful sunset, and some late night singing and laughing around a campfire and the day was complete.

There is not as much to say about the following day in Tombstone. Tombstone is all tourist and all western-themed shopping. I had lunch with a big group at Big Nosed Kate's Saloon, and bought some cool old iron stove handles at the gift shop of the World's Largest Rosebush. (Rob and Dad will not be surprised to hear it is a Lady Banksia.) I did manage to make my very favorite purchase in Tombstone: I am now the proud owner of a fabulous bright red cowgirl hat!

And believe it or not... the final evening's entertainment was an Elvis impersonator. One has to wonder how much business there is in Tombstone for an Elvis impersonator.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sock Books

It has been mentioned to me that I am a bit of a fiber book addict. It is true that my considerable collection is straining my capacity to house them. So I have a new feature for my blog. Totally opinionated lists of fiber books. In the spirit of today's Guild meeting, I had thought to make the first one a list of dye books, but some of them are still out on loan. So today's theme is socks.

So here is an annotated list of my sock book "holdings":

1. Simple Socks,Plain and Fancy: a Short-Row Technique for Heel and Toe
Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts, Nomad Press, 2001

Priscilla Gibson-Roberts has been my knitting guru since I first picked up needles, and her no-nonsense, percentage-based, knitting techniques translate perfectly to socks. The short-row heel is smooth and comfortable to wear and looks especially nice in stripes. And no picking up of stitches is required. These are my standard socks. Extra bonus is the Zigzag bindoff technique that she borrowed from ancient Greek socks.

2. The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook: dyeing, painting, spinning, designing, knitting
Lynn Vogel, Interweave Press, 2002

This book is pure eye-candy. There are plenty of sock-knitting techniques, but the true value is in the wild colors and freeform stripes that are pictured throughout in glorious technicolor. One flip through and the reader is easily convinced that matching white socks are totally unnecessary and should be forever banned from taking up space in one's wardrobe. This book would also place near the top of any list of books on dyeing and includes detailed instructions on how to obtain all those glorious colors.

3. Sensational Knitted Socks
Charlene Schurch, Martingale and Company, 2005

Charlene Schurch's books and workshops have an analytical approach that takes out guesswork, yet encourages successful experimentation. Along with charts, the book includes line-by-line instructions for 4-needle, 5-needle, and 2-circular-needle knitting of each pattern. Added to this are a huge variety of rib patterns suitable for socks, each beautifully photographed to show their texture. This one book provides the knitter with an amazing number of variations to try.

4. Folk Socks: the history and techniques of handknitted footwear
Nancy Bush, Interweave Press, 1994

I have always been fascinated with the ethnography of textiles, and books that combine history and ethnography with modern patterns and techniques are impossible for me to resist. As a staple of my sock-knitting library, my favorite aspect of this book is the variety of heels and toes that are provided. Bored of the 'Shaped Common Heel'? Try the 'Balbriggan Heel' or maybe the 'Half-Handkerchief Heel'.

5. Knitting on the Road: Sock Patterns for the Traveling Knitter
Nancy Bush, Interweave Press, 2001

This is just a nice collection of interesting sock patterns inspired by the author's travels. I am particularly attracted to the pattern called Denmark, and hope to get around to trying it at some point. Minor drawback: the book is a funny shape, making it hard to find a good spot in my tightly-filled bookshelves.

6. Fancy Feet: Traditional Knitting Patterns of Turkey
Anna Zilboorg, Lark Books, 1994

More eye-candy. Bright, riotous colors in distinctive color-stranded patterns. The color-stranding makes them extremely warm and fairly bulky, so these make great slipper socks. The rhythmic patterns can be easily adapted to use in sweaters or other projects.

7. Knitting Vintage Socks: New Twists on Classic Patterns
Nancy Bush, Interweave Press, 2005

Several folks have extolled the value of this book to me, and indeed it includes lots of wonderfully classic patterns with elegant detailing in structure and knit pattern. I browse through the book occasionally and know I would treasure any of these socks. So why have I never attempted any of the patterns? Because they lean toward the 0 to 1 size needles (a far cry better than the 00, 000, or even 0000 needles in the patterns that inspired these). I'm typically a size-2-needle sock knitter. And although my spinning seems to get finer and finer, size 1 would be about it's finest, and since I am not a tight spinner, I would wear through that yarn way too fast.

8. And a Time to Knit Stockings
Katherine Pence, Pence Design Works, 1997

OK, I admit it - I am easily swayed by cool packaging. This smallish book (37 pages) came bound with a long bamboo knitting needle. The pages are punched for putting in a 3-ring binder, which you will need to do because before long the binding fell apart. Still, it was cool while it lasted. There is a sock pattern for each month of the year, plus a couple of extras. The Gansey Sock has a particularly nice looking heel that is based on the principles of gansey gusset shaping.

That wraps up my sock books. I have even more mitten books...

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Sorry to be slow to blog lately - I have been busy, busy, busy with... well, just stuff. Spring inspires me to start lots of new projects and spend hours organizing about the house and digging in the garden. Unfortunately, this spring is a little bit different. Alas, I am soon to be temporarily down to one usable hand. This means no knitting or spinning for an unspecified number of weeks, probably months! How will I stay sane? I am bursting with new project ideas and they'll all have to wait.
My current burning impulse is to use some amazingly bright orange and yellow wool to spin up and knit a lace shawl in a sunburst pattern. Here is a picture of the wool, though the photo doesn't do justice to the colors. Yes, I am still entranced with lace knitting. I just purchased a copy of Lace Style from Interweave Press. Very inspirational!

Mostly I have been working to get the garden ready to be self-sustaining for the summer. I trimmed all of last year's bloom stalks from the lavender and trimmed back the Caryopteris, Salvia, and Coreopsis. Unfortunately several of the lavender plants were damaged by frost and may be slow coming back. Only one may be a total loss, but I am not giving up on it yet. I reinstalled the drip timer, with new battery and new programming, so the front yard should be good to go. I had hoped to start building my rock wall, but with elbow surgery on the horizon, it will just have to wait. I have mostly installed the main arteries, so to speak, of the backyard drip system and plan to finish it next weekend. I may not be planting new stuff this summer, but at least I can put the lilac and mock orange on drip.

I have also been attacking the house a bit. Something about spring, I guess. I am in the mood to do massive decluttering.

All this semi-focused tizzy has been exhausting! This afternoon I looked outside at the beautiful weather and decided to go AWOL. I settled myself under the blooming cherry tree in my "Outdoor Office", put some music on the iPod speakers, opened a cold Reed's Extra Ginger Ginger Brew, and knitted. Above was a canopy of cherry blossoms, which drifted down like snowflakes whenever the breeze freshened.
Next to me was my ancient (50-some, anyway) lilac bush, just at the edge of breaking into bloom. After I stayed settled for a bit, the throngs of quail returned to scuffle and strut about the yard, holding an active conversation as if I wasn't there. When it started to get cool I just wrapped myself in my Seraphim Shawl (which has turned out to be very handy) and kept on knitting.

As for my upcoming hiatus from 2-handed hobbies - I may have to pick up a few good books. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Quickie Project

After the semi-success of the knitted-roving-then-fulled bag I decided to try my hand at another fulled bag made from unspun roving. This is the perfect project for roving that had already started fulling when I dyed it - still usable for spinning, but not without a lot of prep work.
This time I started with a garter-stitched rectangle for a flat bottom, then picked up stitches all around to knit up the sides. I decreased a little on the way up. I didn't have enough of the original roving, so I added some dark purple, also slightly fulled, roving in a wide stripe and as the rim of the openning. To get the right thickness for knitting, I split each length of roving, being careful to not draft it out at all since I didn't want weak spots. I used slightly thicker roving peices for the rim around the opening to give it a nice rounded effect. The strap is 2-stitch I-cord. It only took a couple of evenings, and I was feeling pretty smug when it went into the wash. Then I took it out. :-( The purple accents in the multi-colored roving had washed out to a dirty pink, no longer matching the purple roving. Sigh. I stretched the wet bag over a Christmas cookie tin to dry (I knew there was a reason to procrastinate putting those tins away). Here it is finished. After a couple of days I have concluded that it is not the ugliest bag ever, just kinda unattractive.
Lessons to be learned: 1. A quickie project results in a quickie product. 2. Just because two dye jobs look the same color, it does not mean they will stay that way when washed. 3. More pre-planning will result in a bag big enough to actually be useful. And 4. Regardless of how advisable it is to balance the load, NEVER felt your bag in a washer load with a white terry-cloth towel, unless you want to perform a chimpanzee grooming ritual of picking little white bits out of the felt.