There’s a larval real-time marvel to be found

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m sad to say this is not an update on the mittens – as I’m nearing the end of my Bachelor’s thesis, I needed something a little more brainless. So I cast on a blanket. That’s right, it’s July and I’ve started with this year’s Christmas presents, and OF COURSE a blanket in bulky-weight wool yarn is the perfect project for these warm summer days.

Anyway, the point being, I’m using Cascade Ecological Wool and Eco+ (which is the same thing, only dyed), and they come in these HUGE 250 g skeins. Good lord. As I’ve discovered when I split some 400 g sock yarn cones into thirds, 130 g of yarn is really all I can comfortably wind, after that, the ball gets too bulky for me to hold without putting some considerable strain on my hands.

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This discovery was only validated and expanded upon when I wound two of my five Eco skeins into balls, and I figured: there’s gotta be a better way of doing that.

As it turns out, there is. Jacqueline Fee’s yarn cocoon is something I’d tried before with disastrous results in cobweb-weight yarn, but it seems perfect for these big, thick skeins where the yarn sticks together a bit instead of just becoming a big tangled mess of slip-slidey thread. And winding them is really quite relaxing.

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Also, I love the look of them. They really do look like cocoons, don’t they? They are, admittedly, a bit bigger than the balls/ yarn cakes I wind – they end up being around the size of the original skein – but they don’t tend to roll around quite as much, which is always a relief.

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I’ll report back when I’ve knitted up more of them, i.e. how much they collapse when a bit more of the center is gone, and how well they hold up under the stress of being hauled around, but as of right now, I’m thoroughly charmed. Also, my hands hurt way less.

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The oceans and pangea – see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya

June 3, 2011 § 11 Comments

I haven’t written about the 4th Leipziger Wollefest at all, and it’s almost been a week since that particular event of the year. Truth to be told I’m still slightly overwhelmed – I haven’t even gotten around to unpacking and stashing my purchases yet, although that might also be attributed to a distinct lack of space.

I spent an awesome Saturday in the truly packed garden behind the Strickcafé. It was kind of insane – when we got there at 11am, the line to get in went all the way to the street. So many people. Even more yarn.

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Oh, and what yarn! I think apart from Wollmeise, all the major players on the German handdyer scene were there, and honestly, even the Wollmeise couldn’t have improved the yarn selection available. (Also, let’s face it: as breathtaking as her colors are, she isn’t exactly adventurous with her fiber selection. So, yeah.) (I don’t mean to snub her, really, but having Wollmeise available to me on a regular basis has sort of taken the edge off the hysteric fangirling.)

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I swear, the Dibadu stand was crowded all day. I have no idea how I managed to get this photo, but it had probably something to do with it being fairly late.

I was especially delighted to see the gals from DyeForYarn/DyeForWool, whom I’d discovered a couple of days before on Etsy, and one of which, as it turns out, wrote the pattern for the stole I’ve been planning for one of the yarns I bought in Berlin. Go check them out; they’re two separate stores, but they work together and they’re absolutely equally amazing. Both the yarns and the women. One of them was wearing a gorgeous blue shawl, and Saskia and I spent a good half hour debating which pattern it was. It was a good thing the Wollefest is one of those rare places where you can just go up to someone and ask about their clothes, and people are delighted instead of confused or freaked out. It also turns out that Saskia was entirely correct in her ‘Aeolian shawl with narrow edging’ analysis. I’d say that the student has surpassed the master, but I’m too petty for that. Also I’m still the better knitter. Neener-neener.

Anyway, my haul this year, overall a slight departure from my usual color scheme (i.e. no green this time):

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from top to bottom: dibadu BFL roving; DyeForYarn fingering-weight BFL; some dreamy orange alpaca/merino/silk lace yarn (from Kreativmitwolle) that was my first and most impulsive purchase of the day; blue/maroon/rust-colored merino lace yarn from DyeForYarn (again, I left a lot of money there); a gorgeous merino lace yarn from dibadu; four and a half cakes of Jamieson and Smith; and the breathtaking purchase of the day: a 70% cashmere/ 30% silk lace yarn from DyeForWool that I’ve been fondling to a point where I find myself creepy. It’s gorgeous, and smooshy, and most of all DISCONTINUED, which is the most magical quality a yarn can have. (They still have a single skein in a chocolatey brown in their shop. Act fast if you want it!)

What I like about the DfY/DfW crowd is that they give their yarns awesome names: they had an ‘Ex-Peacock’ that was named for the Dead Parrot Sketch (I asked); the merino lace is called Trauriger Harlekin (sad harlequin) and there’s a Death of a Harlequin colorway too; the cashmere’s called ‘fading lichen on a graveyard’ (I had to pull it out to verify. Excuse me while I go fondle my yarn. Again. Did I mention it’s discontinued?) and the BFL’s name is ‘Shadowstorm at dusk.’

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(in the background: Saskia’s Malabrigo shawl. It’s really soft. How I know? Well, let’s just say she does this thing where she comes up to you and very subtly announces ‘oh wow, this shawl I’m knitting is really, really soft TOUCH IT.’)

That one, by the way, was one of the two skeins Saskia and I wound to balls right there and then, chilling out next to the spinning wheels while Annelie was producing some wacky art yarn or other. People seemed to be confused by the fact that we were winding manually instead of using one of the winder/swift combos that were set up all over the place, but I like winding by hand. Although in retrospect it might have been advisable to wind at least some of my yarn with some mechanical support instead of insisting on winding three skeins of very, very thin lace yarn by hand. I kind of went on a lace rage there. Saskia also went crazy, albeit not quite as crazy as I did.

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But still fairly crazy. Wollum is never far away, no, he isn’t, my precioussssss…

Speaking of crazy. They had this awesome friendship spinning wheel there which I kind of want? Except let’s not kid ourselves, what would I ever do with it. Except brag about it to everyone I know, and some people I don’t, and land myself in a mental institution two months later. So, uh… maybe next year.

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It’s this ingenious contraption where one person treadles, but three people can spin at the same time. I don’t know how that would work out in reality – my passing acquaintance with a wheel has shown that regular stopping and seeing what the hell you’re doing is of utmost importance at least for a beginner – but apparently there are also wedding wheels, where the spinners sit next to each other, and that’s just too adorable for words.

But yes. I got to show off my Armada…

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… Annelie got to show off her mad spinning skillz and baby belly due to an evidently miscalculated due date…

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… and it turns out that as opposed to the Wollefest two years ago, where I had to cajole and threaten Saskia into going there to bring me more money, and she was bored out of her mind, this year she got to show off some lace knitting of her own and also do wacky yarn stuff with me.

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It turns out that if you don’t have any knitting friends, a little yarny bribery goes a long way in creating some brand new ones. In your own home! With items commonly found around the house! Go try it today.

Starting now I bat a thousand

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, it looks like I’m starting to get my mojo back.

I’m sure everybody’s had that phase where all their knitting motivation was being sucked down into a black hole, and where their knitting progress was taking similar dark and dingy roads into nowheresville.

It’s the time where you open your stash cupboards and discover that despite several kilos of yarn lurking behind the harmless wooden façade, you have a big pile of nothing to knit.

Then you look through your pattern books and Ravelry and discover that every pattern in the world is too something: too fussy, too boring, too big, too small, too frumpy, too modern, too intricate, too plain, too triangular, too this-doesn’t-go-with-any-yarn-I-have or worst, too I-have-a-yarn-that-would-go-with-that-but-I-really-don’t-want-to-waste-it-on-that-because-it’s-not-the-perfectest-pattern-I-have-ever-seen-in-my-life.

And so I cast on a sock or two and trudged through my super-secret project – which was technically fun, but to someone who’s usually so meticulous about keeping their Ravelry project page updated, it’s just plain depressing to do so much work without being able to share it. (Because, well, that’s sort of the definition of super-secret.)

But then I finished the SSP on Tuesday morning and went to the pub with Saskia on Tuesday night, and since I didn’t have any pub knitting (because ugggggh, socks), I cast on Multnomah with my ocean-colored handdyed sock yarn. Which was technically not the best idea, because knitting with dark yarn and dark needles in a dark pub produced garter stitch that was positively riddled with mistakes, but on the other hand, I feel like this yarn must have magic properties. No, really.

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Magic. I’m almost done with what has to be the most entertaining garter stitch portion of a shawl in the history of the universe – I’m so charmed by the colors emerging and mingling and I know I’m blowing my own horn to the point where everyone around me (including myself) is starting to turn deaf, but, but… it’s just gorgeous. I’m in love. I have no idea how I did it, except that I dumped a lot (and I mean a LOT) of color on that poor skein of sock yarn, and that the amount of time it spent in the microwave would’ve probably roasted a whole turkey. (Well, almost.) And I can barely wait to start the feather-and-fan section.

So here I am, chilling on my floor since the SSP is currently occupying the sunny spot on my bed, ogling my pretty handdyed, and considering reprising this morning’s Best Breakfast Ever.

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(SpongeBob Squarepants bowl? check. Delicious oatmeal? check. Enough fruit to cover the whole bowl of delicious oatmeal, plus some chocolate? oh, you bet!)

I feel the Earth move under my feet

May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

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Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it – the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go… That’s who I am.

These days I barely realize how fast time flies by, until another week has gone by and I’m going square dancing and barbecuing and doing yarny stuff over at Annelie’s and taking guided tours around my neighborhood and having business lunch with my friends and climbing up church towers and saving our little grill from the sudden downpour. My Ravelry project page certainly reflects that – I just updated it with a shawl I finished on April 4th, but other than that I just have a ton of half-finished projects flying around. I did finish the socks I started when I needed something to knit for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I back in, uh, November, and I’m almost done with a precious little baby set in red and yellow – it’s funny how Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns totally work if you actually follow them.

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Also, this week Annelie and I finally got around to dyeing some yarn, with easter egg dyes, Kool-Aid and onion skins. There was a whole rainbow of little skeins of wool that she’d inherited from her great-grandmother, and then five big skeins that we met up to untangle and wind into balls just yesterday.

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(from top to bottom: kool-aid, easter egg dye, onion skins first skein, onion skins second skein. yes, I am aware of the fact that these are only four skeins; Annelie had already started winding one)

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I love winding yarn into balls, or in my case flat yarn cakes that don’t roll around quite so absurdly. It’s a very social thing, absolute teamwork, with one holding the skein and the other one winding the ball, and while you’re connected to thousands of years of history, you have tons and tons of time on your hands to just talk. And with five 130 g skeins of fingering-weight yarn, that’s quite a lot of time. Good times. We split the onion skeins fraternally (or sororically) and are planning on a glove KAL; the blue-and-green skein is mine and mine alone, yes yes my precioussss, and Annelie promptly cast on another Baby Surprise Jacket with the Kool-Aid skein.

I cannot stress how heartbreakingly gorgeous the first onion yarn is. The second, paler one is still quite pretty, but the first one… It’s like spun gold. Which quite frankly I hadn’t expected from onions. Of all things, really.

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And so, life goes on and on. Down from the road where it began. (speaking of which, today is the first day of Sherlock shooting in Cardiff. I can’t wait for the second season!) There are two weeks left until the Wollefest, two months minus one day until I have to hand in my Bachelor’s thesis. And before I’ll know it, summer will be over and done with, and the leaves will turn to gold, and nothing gold can stay. I feel the earth move under my feet…

Jitterbug

April 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

“My father was a beekeeper before me, his father was a beekeeper before him; I wanna walk in their footsteps.” And their footsteps were like this: [running wildly from imaginary bees] “I’m covered in bees!” (Eddie Izzard)

Like all knitters, I’m fairly concerned about moths. And when I say fairly concerned, I mean absolutely hysterical if a moth just shows so much as the tips of its wings, regardless of whether it’s an actual wool-eating moth or just a butterfly that prefers to stay on the nocturnal side of things.

But apart from moths, I don’t have any particular beef with the generously-legged part of the world population, as long as they’re reasonably small, don’t try and suck my blood, and don’t flutter hysterically into my face. (Or are behind plate glass.) I have my windows open 24/7 as soon as the weather allows, so it’s only natural that between April and September, a fair share of small insects gets confused by my lamps and decides to pop by for a visit.

As far as insects go, my favorites are the stripey ones. Wasps just look really cool in their sleek, patterned body-armor. Bumblebees are fuzzy and adorable, and look ridiculous when their hind legs are so thickly covered in pollen they can barely lift off. And bees are also fuzzy, with the added bonus of making honey.

So when a bee flew into my room the other day, hung around under my desk for a bit and buzzed off again, I didn’t pay it much attention. And when it (or another bee with a very strong family resemblance) came back a couple of times, I still wasn’t worried. I was annoyed, yes, at some point where a bee headbutted me in the knee at 5.30 in the morning until I was very much awake (at 5.30. ngh.), but, y’know. What was a bee gonna do under my desk? Climb in through the back of my stash and build a hive? Absurd, right? Hah, hah, haaa…

My diabolical laughter suddenly rang hollow in my own ears. I opened the lowest drawer of the three, the one most accessible from the back, since the backing doesn’t go all the way to the bottom. I saw… nothing. Poked around a bit. Still nothing. Lifted up a bag of alpaca roving. Wondered whether alpaca roving was generally supposed to buzz, until a fairly enraged bee popped up and flounced indignantly out of the window, calling my mother names while doing so (I imagine).

Under the alpaca roving, there was a second skein of the yellow yarn I made the Swallowtail Stole out of, and nestled carefully among the eggyolk-yellow extrafine merino, I found this:

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I feel a bit conflicted, to be honest. I mean, obviously I can’t have a beehive in my room. But on the other hand, I’m destroying the work of what as far as I could tell was a single, lonely bee, slavering away for days and days, having found the perfect, cozy, dark spot with a narrow entrance and lots of space inside, and now trying to build a new future.

Still, I did the only sensible thing.

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HYSTERIC AMOUNTS OF TAPE.

Man, I could’ve shown you the cool stuff I ordered from Ravelry, or how I’m getting back in the lace groove, or the tons and tons of yarn I bought on our road trip to the Hamburger Wollfabrik. And what am I blogging about? Fuckin’ bees, man.

But hey, at least it wasn’t a moth.

From the mountain to the air

January 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

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To say my clothing style is a bit hodge-podge may well be the exaggeration of the year.

In other news: I have sore feet. After a good three hours of constant treadling the spinning wheel, I’d expected sore thighs or sore calves or, hell, sore fingers from having a notoriously overplied thread running through them. But no, it’s the tops of my ankles that are kind of sore. What a random place.

Apart from spinning, we also washed yarn, which I guess is a thing you can only do with wool people… Annelie had a bunch of beautifully structured by wonky-smelling skeins of polyester yearn, and we washed a couple of them in the hope that the smell would go. Me agitating the soapy water until my rolled-up sleeves were full of splashes, Annelie rinsing the soapy skeins and hanging them up to dry… it’s moments like this when I feel so connected to history, to long-dead people all over the world, sitting together to wash and card and spin wool, talking and being useful at the same time. Everywhere, all over the world, for hundreds and thousands of years, connected by the red thread of… yarn.

It’s a good thing I don’t have my own spinning wheel (yet), or I’d just sit in front of it today, moodily wishing I could go on but realizing that the fun would last about 10 minutes until I’d crawl back to wherever I started from, tail tucked.

So instead I wound the gorgeous yarn Annelie gave me into a ball, and started on Cookie A.’s Kai-Mei socks. Annelie, if you’re reading this, thank you again. One day soonish I’ll make you a pair of socks in a color you actually like.

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Money, fame and fortune never could compete

November 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

Playing with my Macbook, I discovered that uploading my photos from my camera and uploading them to Flickrs was easier than ever, so here’s a long-overdue picture post!

I shall start with today, proceed reverse-chronologically, and illustrate (quite literally) some random items along the way. Yay!

Anyway, this weekend is Thanksgiving weekend as well as the first Advent Sunday, so I decided to throw a Thanksgiving dinner. I might have overdone it slightly…

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… keep in mind that this is for four people! Although somehow, miraculously, we have a surprisingly low amount of leftovers. What was on the menu? Rosemary goose (mostly following these instructions), Burgundy Mushrooms, Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cornbread Stuffing, Creamed Corn, Pumpkin Pie, Hard Sauce, and I think that was it. It was beyond awesome, and totally worth the spending two days in the kitchen.

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After dinner, we took a walk along the canal to aid digestion. It’s been cold here the last couple of days, and it’s even snowed – it feels kind of early for snow, but then again, I keep forgetting it’s almost December. Oh, wait, I don’t forget that: I purposefully push it out of my mind. Oh god.

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Incidentally, this was the first time I wore my Vespergyle mitts outside! The right mitten hasn’t been steamed yet and it shows a little if you know what you’re looking for, but I’m absolutely enamored with these mittens: big enough to fit my hands, comfy, Argyle… lovely, just lovely.

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Anyway, the pumpkin pie with hard sauce was kind of the highlight of my evening. Lovely stuff. I really like this photo for some reason.

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In other, less gluttony-induced news, I’ve been spinning! That’s 50g of New Zealand Lamb, dyed by Sandy at Alles Handgemacht, bought at the Bunter November event at the Strickcafé. I bought a bunch of stuff, including two skeins of BFL yarn and some red laceweight, but the thing I love most is this gorgeous 150g skein of merino from Handgefaerbt.com:

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I kid you not, it’s the most beautiful yarn I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how it’ll look knit up, but it’s rich, and subtle, and earthy, and vivid, and soft, and brilliant, and just so, so gorgeous! In every stage of winding, too, which is something I see rarely:

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It’s one of these yarns I’m not sure I’ll ever knit up, because it’s so hard to live up to something that gorgeous.

So, yeah. In other words: nothing new in my corner of the Land of Knitting. I’m trudging along on my Christmas project and getting my instant gratification through cooking and baking. (Two days of cooking are instant gratification?! Somebody help me!)

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