Thursday, June 28, 2007

Much better today

Thank you all for your concern. I don't know what was wrong with me yesterday but a fever and excruciating headache are the main symptoms of lots of nasty stuff. I wasn't entirely joking about West Nile, but I wasn't panicking because
A) my fever wasn't that high and
B) I wasn't confused or having more serious neurological symptoms.
My husband kept asking every hour if I was confused and how the stiff neck was doing. I was reading on the CDC website about West Nile and there's really no point in going to my doctor early on anyway, as there's nothing she would do but send me home to wait and see.

I still had a low fever early on today and I can still feel a slight pain in the top of my head with sudden movement, but I have something close to normal energy levels, ate a healthy and substantial dinner, did some laundry, and spent the evening spinning.

Tomorrow I drive back up to St. Paul to pick up Owen at camp. I have a fellow fiber-geek friend riding along with me and her son who's a computer geek like Owen. So, the boys will be ensconced in the way-back row of of the mini-van and my friend will ride up front and knit and we can chat. Her son has gone to camps run by the same outfit, but in another city, for four years and he loves it. So, we figure the boys will have lots to chat about, too.

I've begun spinning some of the Brown Sheep mill ends. This fiber really does benefit from pre-drafting to loosen it all up. If I owned a drum carder, I'd probably pass it through to randomize the colors a bit, loosen it all up a bit, and maybe remove some of the short bits that were created by occasional blunt cuts across the roving. To me, it's worth the work because the price is right, but I can imagine that some spinners would rather spend more for fiber that you can spin right out of the box.

No pictures tonight, either, but maybe over the weekend. Mostly I wanted to let you all know that whatever bug I was fighting is losing this round.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


On Saturday, The Little Emperor was spiking a fever of about 104 and we had to go to urgent care. The diagnosis was herpangina, an enteric virus more common in kids and in summertime. He made a very speedy recovery.

Last night, I started feeling a little unwell. This morning I was spiking a low fever and felt like I had a spike driving through my head. I haven't had a headache like that since one particularly awful hang-over in college about 1981. I've been lying in bed most of the day, dozing on and off. I think it might be West Nile, judging by the symptoms. I hope it goes away fast because I don't want to spend another day in that kind of misery.

I'm hoping to sleep now.

Monday, June 25, 2007

More Summer Pursuits

Owen went to camp yesterday. Well, not "camp" like sleeping in a tent or a cabin in the woods, but a summer program. His camp is in St Paul MN and the "campers" sleep in an air-conditioned dormitory and housekeeping brings them clean towels daily. He and his fellow campers will learn about computer programming for gaming.

This is a big rite of passage for a 12 year old who has never really been away from his parents, even to sleep over at a friend's, who has never really been babysat (under 6 times in his life). We're hoping it goes well.

This is the dorm room:

These are two of the staff members:

They seemed very nice.

I stayed over at my old college friend Nora's. I persuaded her to start a blog last night, and she did! Nora's a writer who sometimes knits. She wrote a book about knitting a sweater for one of her sons: kind of a memoir with a lot of history and other knitters' stories intertwined. And she's been shopping it to publishers and agents for over a year without any success. If you know an agent with an open mind, let me know. (I took a couple pictures of Nora, but they were awful. My camera was behaving a bit strangely and I caught her in the worst moments, freezing distorted expressions and so on. So, no picture this time.) She is my oldest friend. Well, you know, not that she's old, but I've maintained a friendship with her longer than with anyone else except my parents. She's been in my life even longer than my husband. Almost 28 years!!!! (Can we really be that old? It doesn't seem possible.)

I came home to find that my Sheep Shed Studio order had come! Six pounds of fiber!

This place sells mill ends from Brown Sheep Yarn Company at a great price. $7.50 a pound! But you don't get to specify exactly what you'll get. That's ok with me. You get to choose a color family and you can request a color dominance, but you might get something a little different.

I requested a black-dominant black mix,

and a brown-dominant brown mix.

While I would have preferred more black in the black mix, that's just fine with me. I can dye the white stuff. Maybe I can mix it up to a medium grey.

And they enclosed a little bonus pack of pure black. I can't wait to dig in.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summertime Pursuits

As we've moved into summer I find precious little time to pursue solitary knitting in my basement lair. Even when it seems like everyone is happily engaged with their own stuff, I know from experience that it's only a matter of minutes until the situation changes and a crisis erupts. Maybe that's why I find that summer is spinning time for me. I sit on the screen porch and spin. I'm aware of activity inside the house and out in the yard. I can stop and start as needed without trying to find my place in a chart or a pattern repeat.

Here's the final portrait of the yarn I made from the Ashland Bay English Top I bought a couple weeks ago.

One pound of fiber turned into five skeins of yarn. I could probably make my mom or another smaller woman a sweater from it. I'm planning to make a simple vest for me. It'll make a nice extra layer in those weeks when the cold weather is coming, but before we get into the full-fledged frigid months of winter.

Earlier today I was out in the yard looking for things to point the camera at, and this Red Admiral landed right in front of me.

I guess he really wanted to be in the blog today.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fair Isle Progress Update (and Flowers!)

The progress so far on the new Fair Isle. It started off wonderfully. But, I had to redo the first patterned row of the 15 row brown and red section a couple times to get it right. Once I got the pattern established, it was a piece of cake. Except that I also screwed up my color sequence a bit, but not enough to redo. Now that I've got it all worked out, it should go more quickly.

I have only a finite amount of one color which I bought around 1990 in Ithaca NY. That was in a large batch of discontinued yarn from an Italian company. The yarn shop owner had bought the clearance batch at a good price and I bought most of it from her. I also bought Starmore's Fair Isle Knitting book then, too, and that was the beginning of this insanity. So, the maroon yarn in question will be the deciding factor in whether this becomes a cardigan or a button-front vest. As I approach the armhole area, I'll assess what I have left and see which way to go with it.

For those who don't know all the Fair Isle jargon, a peerie is a small pattern that separates the larger ones. Not that it matters in this post, but Laura asked a few posts ago.

I think if I was allowed to just sit in my lair and knit fair isle patterns all day long, without having to think about meals, kids, laundry, etc., I would be the happiest knitter on the planet.

And now some flowers:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mulberry Yarn!

I had been planning to make such amazing progress on my new Fair Isle that you would all gasp with awe and admiration. But I had to redo the first row of the big border pattern a bunch of times and so that'll have to wait a day. And, I got side-tracked by other stuff, too.

Like, the mulberries. One particular tree that grows on the fence line we share with our favorite neighbors is quite heavy with fruit. The Little Emperor and I picked a bunch yesterday and everyone ate as much as they wanted. But still, there were lots more. (Maybe the guys didn't want to keep working at them after I pointed out the spider that was trying to escape in colander full of berries...) This morning I resolved to use the ones I had to try to dye some yarn. After all, just picking them turns my fingers quite purple. I picked a couple more cups and simmered them all in my old enamel dye pot. I wasn't sure what kind of mordant works with berries and didn't really think to look it up until after I was well under way. The tan yarn is from a thrift-shop sweater I've been frogging as I need that color for Fair Isle projects. Since I have more than I need for the current project, and I had some of that skeined up and freshly washed, I decided to see how the mulberry dye would work on it.

Although the juice looked very dark purple, like grape juice, the grey is what stuck to the yarn. That's okay; I like grey. This is a nice warm grey and I'm sure I'll find a nice Fair Isle design that it will suit perfectly.

edited to add the details.
First, I put the berries in to simmer with water. Meanwhile, I soaked the yarn in a vinegar and water solution. Then I strained the berry solids out of the dye solution and added the yarn to the dye. As that simmered for a while, I noticed that the color mostly ran right out of the yarn when I held some up out of the solution. Then I went online to see what would be a good mordant and if it was too late to add to the mix. I know that it's best to mordant the yarn before dyeing, but I was already in the middle of everything. One site I found indicated that this could work. I mixed some alum and cream of tartar in hot water and stirred that solution into the pot. It continued to simmer. Then I went back online and read that salt makes a good mordant for berry dyes, so I added 1/2 cup of that to the pot, too. It was all very unscientific! I didn't notice the natural sugars having any effects on the process. I know that I would probably get different results if I started with white yarn and properly mordanted it first.

Mead Scarf Pattern!

Even though it's like a sauna outside, I got a couple pictures of the Mead Scarf in its finished state!

I won't tell you how much I tinkered with this image to preserve my vanity!

This pattern made be downloaded free through Ravelry. You do not need to be a Ravelry member.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Day of Astounding Productivity!

My goodness, we've been busy. In our ongoing quest to bring our household back from the brink of squalor, we've been making inroads all over the place.

A few of weeks ago I ordered two enormous matching dressers for me and the Mister. Our furniture is an interesting assemblage of mostly thrift-shop specials with some flat pack bargains thrown in to round out the down-scale look. So, buying these was a bit of a splurge. They were delivered a week ago Friday, but getting ready to assemble took a bit of planning and work.

Today, I did some more cleaning in Owen's room and made room to move one of our old cheap dressers in there. He's been living without a dresser for a while and the drawers under his captain's bed aren't enough. Then Mr. SABLE assembled one of the two dressers and we did a little reshuffling of stuff to put it in place. It holds so much! No more avoiding putting laundry away because it's too hard to figure out how to make it fit.

This morning, Owen mowed the lawn. This is an amazing leap forward. He has finally conquered his phobia of the power mower. I can't tell you what joy this brings me.

This evening I blocked the Mead Scarf.

I had been mulling over what to use to pin it out on, and then realized that I had all these big, long, sturdy pieces of styrofoam from the dresser packing materials. Eureka! Instant free blocking surface! I'm clearly not a perfectionist about this, as you can see by my slightly wavy edges. I guess that's part of why I'm not really a huge lace knitter. The whole process is fraught with more finicky details than I usually enjoy. But I did like making this scarf.

Here's a couple images from the yard yesterday.

Now I'm going to have a nice sleep.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Fair Isle Evolution 2

Ah the wonders of Photoshop! I was able to take the section of my swatch that I like and duplicate my repeats, rather that have to do a lot more knitting. I'm pretty pleased with it

I reversed the dark and light on the 15 row bands. When I did that, some of the colors no longer worked the way I wanted them to. When I started replacing some colors, others had to go.

Believe it or not, the background color in the peerie patterns is medium grey. It is a wee bit on the cool side looking at it in the ball. But look how blue it looks here. The amazing power of color to change and fool the eye.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Yesterday we were expecting some exciting weather. Thankfully, Madison had the Weather Shields up, so the storms all went around us. But earlier in the day, before we knew that we weren't going to get hit, I was securing the items on the porch in case of strong winds, driving rains, and tornadoes. And I noticed a brown thing hanging on the edge of a large peanut butter jar in a corner. Last summer Mr SABLE found a caterpillar and gave it a nice place to make a cocoon. It stayed in there, out on the porch, all winter. And, lo and behold, here it is:

Now, don't go panicking! This moth has no interest in munching on wool. It's one of Mr SABLE's friends and means us no harm. I'm sure he'll be on his way this evening, off to find a mate and make more moths.

BTW, it's a polyphemus moth, a giant silk moth!

Edited to add another view:

In other news, last night I finished the knitting on The Mead Scarf.

Yeah, that's a pretty uninspired photo. I'll do a better job once I get it blocked. For those who missed the details, last fall Sarah sent me a lovely skein of hand-spun alpaca for a birthday present. Eventually I decided that a very simple lace scarf would be a great use for the yarn. The pattern is just simple zig zags of eyelets running the length of the scarf. Unblocked, it measures about 57 inches. I stopped because I was getting close to a break in the yarn (I think I broke it when winding; can't remember), and I didn't want to make a splice. So, there's a wee bit left on the cone. Maybe that'll become a fair isle accent on a hat or something. I'm hoping to block it out to about 6 feet long. I have a ball of nylon twine somewhere that I used for blocking a Branching Out scarf a while back. Just got to decide where to pin it out...

Last night, in preparation for the tornado we didn't have, I also did a bunch of cleaning and rearranging in my lair, to free up some seating for my family in the event that we needed to seek shelter. And stumbled upon Scott's Tweedy Sweater, a UFO of such long duration that at times I feel I should just give up on it. But I worked several rows last night and now I can see that I'm almost up to the armhole shaping on the front and the back is already done, so I think I'll just soldier on with it. I know I have a couple of pairs of socks hanging around, too, that are within a stone's throw of being finished. I ought to dig those out and do right by them.

Meanwhile, I've been tinkering with my fair isle colors and every time I change one thing, it leads to a ripple effect that necessitates further change. Good thing I don't mind swatching. And it's always a learning experience. I've said it before, but there really is no substitute for putting together the yarns in the knitting to see how they will interact. Training and experience make me a better predictor, but I get surprises every day.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mead Scarf Progress

Before we get to knitting, here's a macro picture of a spiderwort that I took in the rain the other day. Yeah, I'm nutty like that.

I wish you could all see it full size on a big monitor. The thready bits around the stamens are very interesting.

On to knitting...

The Mead Scarf is measuring over 50 inches long. I still have a bunch more yarn. I'm hoping to make it to around 60 inches. I really want it to be a long scarf when it's blocked, ideally more than 6 feet.

I enlisted Mr. SABLE's help to hold it up in the sunlight and the Little Emperor wanted in on the action. He's about 52 inches tall these days.

And every knitting blog needs an occasional gratuitous pet picture. This is Ossie, our boy cat, who was out catching a few late afternoon rays on the bags of path-building supplies.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fiber into Yarn

Last night I finished plying the first two bobbins of singles. I'm not patient enough to count yardage, but it weighs about 210 grams. This is a little less than half-way through the pound.

I'm hoping to get enough yarn to make a vest. I think I'd need to buy about 2 pounds to be sure of having enough yarn for a whole sweater.

I took some pictures of my wheel the other day just because it was there. Here's one:

Yarn Acquisition

I ended up ordering some Spindrift from Camilla Valley Farms in Canada. It seemed like the surest way to get the colors I wanted in a hurry. One of my local yarn shops does carry Spindrift, but I know they were trying to clear out the old stock in the spring and I don't think they'll be ordering new until closer to fall. Camilla Valley has good prices and very speedy shipping. I recommend them for anyone trying to assemble the colors for a complex Fair Isle project.

I'm going to tinker with my Fair Isle plans a bit and hope to get started on that soon.