Monday, February 28, 2011

Stitches West 2011

I was sidetracked by the new kitty, but here is a belated report for Stitches West:

Allison and I figured we'd avoid some of the crowds and went over to Santa Clara on Wednesday and returned Saturday. The drive over took about 6 and 1/2 hours instead of the usual 4 due to the storm in the Sierras. I've never driven through quite that level of snowstorm, but the brand new tires on the truck did their job and we had no problems. Spring has already sprung in the central valley of California and everything was intense green, with bright yellow wild mustard and pink flowering trees. Silicon Valley looks pretty much like any downtown area and is the land of tiny parking spots. Apparently not many of its denizens drive double-cab-long-bed pickups. Except for Wednesday afternoon, it rained every day, pretty much all day.

I took 2 workshops: Free-form Knitting and The Knitted Rug. Free-Form Knitting was taught by Myra Wood. Here are a couple of pieces she showed us. The technique is pretty easy, but it takes practice to get a nice balanced result. My own sample (no - no picture) kept the person next to me in giggles. Particularly when I suggested adding a tassel to the bit that she said protruded in a less-than-family-friendly way.

The knitted rug workshop was taught by Rose Ann Hunter. She was amazing! She talked about and exhibited a wide variety of folk rugs, and we got to try our hands at creating samples of several. I particularly took to the washboard rugs and have started knitting strips for a small rug to go in Zach's favorite basket.

The Market at Stitches filled up the entire humongous convention hall with more color and fiber and chaos than can be described. And it was totally packed with noisy milling knitters. Total sensory overload. I didn't expect to buy much (since I am still offloading something every day) until I saw in the program that KCL Woods was there. And Ken is now making yarn bowls. And gorgeous spindles with exchangeable shafts. The bowl I purchased is made of mesquite "from 90-year-old Earl's woodpile" in Tucson (my home town) - how could I resist? The only fiber I purchased was a small amount of banana fiber, just because it is kinda cool.

The full collection of trip pictures can be seen here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Meet Sadie, the newest member of the family. Adopted today from the SPCA. Zach is fascinated. Clara is sulking.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Been busy with work, so here is an image from my archives. Virginia City, Nevada, July 5th, 2009.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Another Snakey Box


Some projects fail

A long time ago (but not so far away) I took a fancy to producing my own self-striping yarn. The principle is simple - you dye the yarn in REALLY long skeins so you end up with REALLY long color intervals. I had some slightly-prickly, natural gray, handspun suri alpaca that I thought would make a great pillow for propping my feet on. I wound it into one humongous skein using a warping board, and dyed one end brick red and the other steel blue, leaving gray in the middle. So far so good. Happily I knitted up a swatch. The stripes were not anywhere as wide as I had hoped (apparently you need to use REALLY REALLY long skeins) but the resulting narrow stripes would be attractive. To make a nice sturdy pillow fabric, I marked 20ss by 20 rows with thread, and threw the swatch in the wash with my jeans. The resulting fulled fabric was lovely and the colors didn't fade or run. All still good. I did some calculations for size to fit the pillow insert I already had, and launched into knitting. This is where the project stalled.

It was Boring. Really Boring. The project was shoved to the side over and over in favor of more interesting projects. Even when I did work on it, progress was slow. At times it would sit untouched in its basket for months. I gave up on the idea of ever making a second pillow cover (for which I had planned enough yarn) and finally muscled through to the finish. Production was painful, but at least I would have a really great pillow. At this point my only concern was that the trip through the wash might cause the fabric to shrink unequally with the swatch. Just in case, I threw the rectangle of fabric into the washer before sewing up the sides. As it went round and round in the washer, I dreamed happily of my very superior finished pillow. All the torturous hours of knitting such a small pillow cover would be so worth it!

Then I took the thing out of the wash. Despite the happy results of the swatch, the colors in the pillow cover had all run together into a bruise-colored mess. I cannot describe how awful it looked. (I couldn't even look at it long enough to take pictures.) I have no idea why the dyes in the swatch didn't run under the same conditions. Additionally, the edges had curled up and felted themselves into place in solid little rolls. A sane person would have given up at this point. It took a sharp pair of scissors and several hours of work to tease/tear apart these rolls. In hopes of salvaging the many hours of work, I threw the pillow cover into a vat of dark green dye. You can see from the picture above how far the result is from my initial intentions. I now have a somewhat ugly little pillow to show for all the angst.

At least Zach really likes it.