Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Details from the Weekend

Last night I was still tired from the weekend, and there was so much I wanted to blog about. I decided to save some of it for today.

My birthday was Saturday, and I received a couple of unique gifts I wanted to share with everyone.

Some of you already know that I love to listen to old radio theater. 20-some years ago I had bought a record at the local used record shop. It was a collection of old radio plays from the "Skippy Hollywood Theatre" I loved that record, and have often said I wished I could now find it on CD. So, when Gerry presented me with this:

I was amazed, and had to know where he found it. Well, it turns out that he didn't purchase it. He dug my old record out of storage, and his friend David re-recorded it, cleaned up the sound, and re-created the cover art to fit on a CD cover! I can't even believe David did all that. It was such a wonderful surprise. And, since I was making a road trip on my own the next day I got to listen to it twice!

[If you follow the link to David's business make sure to check out his blog. There are some great product reviews on it]

For my other unique gift my friend Gary [a master of kitsch and nostalgia] presented me with this. A Joan Crawford cigarette case. I don't think I will ever look at his with out getting a good chuckle.

Now moving on to a section of my trip that I skipped over entirely last night.....
I visited yet another yarn/fiber shop I had been wanting to get to for quite some time. The Fiber Loft in Harvard, MA. It was a rather large shop with a street level store front that had all of your LYS stuff, including a wonderful selection of needles. They had 6" Brittany DPNs in a wide range of sizes -I love those! There was also a great yarn and book selection. Then upstairs there were three more rooms. There was the yarn close-out and spinning room, and there were two rooms dedicated to coned yarns that could be purchased by the cone, or wound off and purchased by the ounce. It really was a fiber artists wonderland. I actually found myself looking over their large selection of hobby looms. I didn't get one this time, though. I did walk away with a beautiful merino/silk blend roving.
The photo doesn't quite do it justice. The silk portions are really a creamy white, and the blue is a touch softer. It looks like a perfect summer sky, with little wisps of fluffy clouds running through it.

Okay, now on to some crafting I have actually gotten done recently.

Back in November I made a vegetarian cookbook for my SP11 Spoilee, Maureen. Maureen and I are both vegetarians, and I thought it would add a fun touch to her final package. I had always wanted to try some sort of home book binding, but her book was my first attempt.

For the recipes in the book I used many of my own, and quite a few of Gerry's (he a vegetarian, too), but I also asked several of my friends, and online friends for a recipe to add. Those who provided one were promised a copy of the book.

Well, I finally got (most of) them done. I had to reformat the pages to fit more recipes on them. The original book was one recipe to most pages, and had the recipe printed on a solid coloured paper that was then pieced into a decorative background. I just couldn't do that another dozen times! I was very pleased with the new formatting of approximately 2 recipes to a page, and double sided pages (I left the back of all pages in the original blank for notes/recipe alterations). They made for slim, but attractive books.
For the copies I used some decorative printed papers to make each cover unique. I really liked the idea, but if I were to ever do a project like this again I would not use these papers. They were a bit too glossy, and I think eventually they will all bubble.

It was fun to do, though, and as I got used to the Stab binding I was even able to experiment a bit, and get some fancier lacing done.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What a Weekend!

I returned last night from a weekend full of events. I apologize in advance, as usual I had my camera with me the whole time and didn't take a single photo! I think Because I hate to be photographed I am reluctant to ask others for photos.

My weekend started with The Elegant Ewe. They were celebrating 10 years in business, and had a 25% off store wide sale. Yes, everything in the store was 25% off. I decided I had to buy a ball winder and swift. I was hoping to buy a large swift, but they were all out of them. I almost chucked the idea all together. I have a few hanks of yarn (one in particular that is a tangled mess) that are just too big for the metal swifts that seem to be the most common. I decided to go for the small (but lovely) wooden swift anyway. I'm glad I did because it was plenty big for that 1/2 pound hank of lace weight that fell right off the metal swift.
You can see in the photo that it is all tangled and crazy. This isn't the full 1/2 pound. I had already wound off a ball when I snapped this photo.

Saturday I spent evening with my Brother. It was a nice time, and I actually got some knitting done. I had very little time to knit last week, and it seemed like for every row I knit I frogged two!

Sunday started out very early with the drive out to Northampton, MA. I Lived in Northampton when I was younger, and I love to go back and visit, but this was a very special visit! At 9:50 I pulled into the Webs parking lot. About 30 seconds later Joansie pulled up right beside me. (see her blog for photos of the event)

It was 10 minutes before store opening, and people were already lining up at the door. We did have a good hour to shop before the Yarn Harlot's book signing began. Joansie had come with a friend, Rebbecca, and we took turns standing in the book signing line while the others paid for our purchases. I also ran outside to call for lunch reservations during this time. We were afraid that every restaurant in town would be flooded with hypoglycemic knitters after Stephanie's talk.

Now Webs is certainly not the same size as your average LYS. Really it's an enormous wonderland of fibery goodness, and Sunday it was JAM PACKED with people, and I was VERY impressed at how well everything was handled by the staff. Staff members (actually I think it was mainly Cathy- the owner) went up and down the line writing names on post-it's so that Stephanie could skip the "and Who am I signing for?" conversation with each of the 1000+ people that showed up to see her, books were brought down the line for people deciding they needed extra copies, and bottled spring water was passed out all over the store. They had several wonderful door prizes, and donated 10% of the days sales, $4698.00, to a local charity.

Yes, I did make a small yarn purchase:

Webs was having their anniversary sale, and there were wonderful discounts all over the store. On top of that, in honour of Stephanie's visit they offered 25% off all sock yarns for the day.

I had realized that my sock stash was devastatingly void of green. I think I have rectified that! I will buy blues next time.

The Cascade 220 is for a project that has been on my mental queue for quite some time. I'm HOPING to get to it this summer. I had to buy the yarn for it while it was under $5 a hank!

After the signing we all headed over to the Calvin Theatre to listen to Stephanie's wonderful comedy. She really is a riot, and I highly recommend seeing her if you get the chance.

After that Joansie, Rebbecca, and I headed over to Paul and Elizabeth's, where we had a wonderful meal. I had tofu fried rice. It was a heaping plate of brown rice, assorted fresh veggies, and tofu. Joansie and Rebbecca both had the Portabello Mozzarella Wrap. Good stuff! I love that place, and really wish I could get there more often. It was a special treat- made even more special because Joansie and Rebbecca were there.

After that I headed into Boston, where I got to catch up with several friends I had not seen in months! When I got home on Tuesday I was wiped out, but it was well worth it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Contest Results

I want to thank everyone who helped me celebrate my blogiversary by entering my contest. It actually took place over a week that was unusually busy for me, and I am still trying to get to see the blogs of everyone that has commented. It was a fun experience, though, and I actually learned a few things. For instance, prior to this I had no idea there were blogs entirely about blog contests. I also learned that many knitters are sexist. Those of you who have referred to me as "she" know who you are.

A couple of things I wanted to share about the contest entries:

Person with most entries: Elaine (also had the most specified referrals)

Person who sent the most traffic: Rainberry (I noticed that 38 people followed a link from her blog, and none left a comment saying she sent them, but I gave her an extra entry for effort!)

The only person who correctly guessed all four fibers: Kristen

What were the fibers? From left to right they were:
Soy silk
Merino (I counted wool as a correct guess, since none of the others were wool)
Tussah silk (I counted silk as a correct guess)

And the winners are:

First Prize: Cat
Second Prize:BloglessinNJ
Third Prize: Rachel-O

Cat- You get first pick of the 3 Prizes:

A custom needle case, hand spun yarn, or hand-painted cotton yarn.

e-mail me with your choice.

Blogless and Rachel Please e-mail me with your addresses, and colour likes and dislikes. Blogless you will have your choice of the remaining 2 prizes, please include your first and second choice in your e-mail.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blogiversary Contest

So, I just realized that this Sunday will be the 1 year anniversary of my becoming a blogger. I started blogging here on April 27th 2007. I decided I would keep that date as my blogiversary, even though I have moved. Since it seems that a contest is customary for the anniversary of a knitting blog, here is mine:

This photo show 4 different types of roving from my stash. They are all 100% a single fiber (no blends). Guess what type of fiber each roving is.

To enter the contest leave a comment with your guesses listed left to right (they must be in the correct order to be considered correct guesses), by Monday April 28. Any guess will get you an entry in the drawing for a prize.

To get additional entries:
  • A correct guess on two or three of the fibers will get an additional entry
  • A correct guess on all four fibers gets you 4 additional entries
  • If you enter this contest and have ever commented on either of my blogs before you will get an additional entry
  • A link to this contest on your blog will get you an additional entry (you must let me know you have done this)
  • Any comment in which someone tells me you referred them to this contest will get you another entry.

So, the number of entries you can get is limitless.

The Prizes:
  1. a custom needle roll-up
  2. a 4oz hank of hand spun merino wool
  3. a hank of hand painted cotton yarn

I will announce winners on Tuesday, April 29th. The first place winner (the first name I draw out of a bag) will get to choose whichever prize he/she would like. The second place winner will get his/her choice of the two remaining prizes, and the third place winner will get the remaining prize.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'll Throw You a Bone...

The title of this post is really directed at Melanie, who says I am driving her crazy not posting pictures of my recent knitting.

Recently I shared a photo of one of my secret WIPs with Melanie; it was a flat piece knit from the center out (and that is all I will say about it at this point). She told me she had never knit anything in this fashion, and would like to try. So, I quickly typed up a basic pattern for a round dishcloth and sent it off to her.

Last night I was looking for a quick, last-minute addition to a gift I will be giving later today, and decided a washcloth with a nice bar of soap was the way to go. Since I was deeply involved with my latest non-knitting obsession (a woman I work with just loaned me 4 seasons worth of Stargate-SG1 DVDs) I didn't want to have to look at a pattern, so I decided to use the same design I had sent off to Melanie, with one exception, I changed the bind-off to look more like something I have been desperate to see lately... the sun!

So, here is the cloth:

I know the colours are not very sunny, but this was a cotton yarn I had been dying to see knit up, and I really like the colours.

Now for those of you who are accustomed to finding free patterns here, I will throw you a bone as well...

Here's the Pattern:

Painted Sun Washcloth


1 ball Peaches and Creme . I used colour #190, Painted Dessert
set of 4 DPNs, US7 (4.5mm)
G-6 (4.0mm) Crochet hook
stitch marker
tapestry needle


Cast On 6 sts, and divide evenly among 3 needles. I used Emily Ocker's Circular Cast-On, and there is a wonderful pictorial demonstration here.

rnd 1) Place marker at beginning of round, K around
rnd 2) [K1, YO] 6x
rnd 3) K around
rnd 4) [K2, YO] 6x
rnd 5) K around
rnd 6) [K3, YO] 6x
rnd 7) K around
rnd 8) [K4, YO] 6x
rnd 9) K around
rnd 10) [K5, YO]6x

continue in this manner where every odd numbered row is knit, and every even numbered row has 6 YO increases placed 1 stitch further apart than they were in the last increase row, until you have 24 sts on each needle for a total of 72 sts.

You are now ready for the garter stitch edging. If you, like Melanie have not knit a flat piece from the center out before this edging will be great practice. It is a great way to end a circular shawl, tablecloth, or blanket, as it allows the edges to stretch much more than just casting off the edge would.

You should now be at the first stitch of your round, however if you choose to change yarns and knit your border in another colour you may start this anywhere.

Using the knitted cast on (I like these directions) CO 4 sts

row 1) K3, K2tog- this knits the last of your new stitches and the first stitch from the edge of the center of your cloth into 1
row 2) K4
row 3) Sl 1, K1, YO, K1, K2tog -again, you have just decreased one stitch from the center cloth edge you will do this on each odd numbered row
row 4) K5
row 5) Sl1, K1, YO, K2, K2tog
row 6) K6
row 7) Sl1, K1, YO, K3, K2tog
row 8) K7
row 9) bind off the first 3 sts (this will leave the 4th stitch knit and on your right needle), K2, K2tog

Repeat rows 2-9 until all of the original center edge stitches have been decreased into the edging. You should end on row 9. Bind off your last 4 sts, and sew Bind off edge to cast on edge.

Before I end for today, I have one last thing to share. Remember the BFL roving I got from Witchypoo? Well, I have spun up one of the braids, the blue-purple one, and I just love it! I bought this because so many hand spinners seem to make a fuss about the BFL wool, and now I know why. This hank is about 180 yard of a DK-ish yarn- I actually tried to go a bit more thick/thin with this than I usually do- and I do have some singles left on the bobbin, and a bit more to spin up.

I think it looks wonderful in the photo, but not nearly as great as it does in reality.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Still Knitting in Secrecy

So, the gift knitting continues, and probably will for quite some time. So, still no pictures of the current knitting.

However, I did visit a new-to-me yarn shop this weekend. Mind's Eye Yarns, in Cambridge, MA is a shop I've been wanting to visit for quite some time. I have called the shop on a couple different occasions when I was having "fiber emergencies" and was always met with such amazing helpfulness and courtesy that I've felt awful having never even been in to see the store.

The very first time I called was the day I bought my spinning wheel. Still knowing next to nothing about spinning wheels, I thought the lack of a drive band was going to be a big problem, and given the hour on a Saturday I was in a near panic to find one. I had gone to Waltham, MA to pick up the wheel, and I went directly from there to Gerry's house (1.5 hours closer than mine) to look up Ashford dealers in the area. Mind's Eye was the closest one. I called and was told while they had the drive band in stock I should save myself the drive, and use cotton kitchen twine. I was in awe! Obviously this shop was not out to make a quick sale, just for the sake of doing so. I have great respect for a business that will offer good advice at the risk of losing a sale. I know that the purchase of a drive band would not have bought the shop owner's next trip to Europe, or even enough yarn for her next sweater, but I still appreciated the help, and ethics involved.

Since I had plans to meet a friend in Boston for Dinner on Saturday I decided it would be the day I finally made it in to see the store. Somehow I had had the impression that it would be a sprawling expanse of yarn, roving, and wheels, but when I arrived the reality of the store's being in the heart of the metropolitan Boston area sunk in. Of course you wouldn't find a LYS the size of Walmart in the city- space is just too expensive. I did however find a very nice shop. In the bottom floor of the owner's home the store had several windows providing plenty of natural sunlight (very important for colour selections) and was well organized with a very nice selection of yarn, and a rather impressive selection of spinning fibers.
Of course I buy fiber and yarn about 100x faster than I can use it, and I'm running out of space to store it, but I had to have some of this merino/tencel roving

Also, I thought I would share a little more recent spinning. This is about 2 oz of white wool scraps that I decided to use to play with some dyes. One ply I used Cushings acid dye in plum, and the other ply I used Wilton's cake dye in black. The wool I dyed with the Wilton's ended up having mainly shades of a dark green with spots of a deep purple. When each of these were just tiny blobs of wool I wasn't sure that I cared much for either of them, and therefore didn't take much note of exactly how much dye I used, but now that I see them spun up and plied, I want more! I'm fairly certain I will never match this yarn (a shame that I only have 100 yards) but I'm sure I will be playing more with the dyes in the future.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Gerry Came Through with the Photos

Warning: You must read the previous post " A Thank You, and Giving in to the Demand" for any of this to make sense. Also, this is a very picture heavy post. If you have dial-up you may want to go make a cup of tea while it loads.

Gerry did manage to locate and scan a bunch of photos from the X-files party, so I get to show you some of the things I spoke of, and a few I forgot about. Unfortunately there is no picture of the "Alien Autopsy Serving Dish" yet. Gerry thinks he has some somewhere, but I fear that we may not have taken any.
This is the Roswell UFO Crash Cake. It's looking kind of messy on the photo, but you can see the chocolate flying saucer that has crash landed into the cake. On the top left is one of the marzipan alien crash victims, and on the bottom left there is another, somewhat obscured by the wooden spoon.

The next picture is of a trifle that Gerry made. See Moulder and Scully wading through the pudding to recover the alien?
Just behind them you can barely get a glimpse at one of my themed serving dishes. This one is a UFO serving dish. However, it is already empty, and the bottom is on top of the lid (which was the part that was actually decorated.

This is me at one of the parties. I bought those silver pants while visiting friends in Chicago. We were planning on spending the evening at a discotheque and I didn't have appropriate clothing. The X-Files party was the 2nd time I wore them, and when I was in the basement changing into the costume I sat down to lace up those boots, and got caught on a nail. I ripped the backside of the pants wide open! I didn't stay in costume long.

These are the Alien soaps I made as party favours for one of the parties I had to miss. I figured with soaps I could drop them off a couple days in advance, and they would still be just as good! Each soap had an opaque back, and a clear glycerin front with an alien suspended in it.

And here are the Sculptures I made for the series conclusion:

The first photo shows, on the left, the sculpture entitled "Tooms" Tooms was a character that appeared in 2 episodes early on in the series. He could stretch and contort his body to travel through ventilation ducts, and plumbing. You see him starting to peak out of an air duct here.

In the middle is another, whose title I can not remember, but it depicts a tiny alien embryo in some sort of cryogenic cylinder (made out of a juice glass).

On the right is another alien with octopus-like tentacles. Nothing to do with the show- Just for fun.

The second picture is the Alien Autopsy.

Picture Number 3:

Left: Serpent Alien- again just for fun

Front center: "Fluke Man" was a genetic mutation caused by nuclear waste from the Chernobyl disaster. He lived in water and attacked men to lay his embryos with-in them, where they would develop, and eventually kill the host. I think this was season 1. The episode was entitled "The Host" It was the first episode of the show that I saw, and will always be my favorite.

Rear Center : Well, I'm having a hard time remembering episode names (most I have not seen in years). However, this was based on an episode where M&S found a secret lab set up in a warehouse where genetic experiments were taking place. There were Human-alien hybrids in tanks hooked up to all kinds of tubes and equipment. I think the episode may have been "The Erlenmeyer Flask"

Right, another view of Alien Autopsy.

In the last photo:

Rear Left: "Darkness Falls" another of my favorite episodes. In this episodes lumberjacks cut down an ancient tree and release some sort of insect that had been sealed with in the growth rings in hibernation. These insects were inactive in the light, but at night they would swarm and kill humans, then wrap them in a cocoon hung from a tree to save them for future snacking. [hey! I wonder if I could spin the silk from one of those cocoons!?]

Front Center: Hmmm, I think this was based on an episode called "Anasazi" I do remember that some sort of ancient alien mass burial site was discovered in the desert.

Rear Center: "Samantha" For those of you who never saw the show, Agent Moulder, who had revived the FBI's un-solved "X-Files" believed his sister had been abducted by aliens right before his eyes 30ish years prior to the show. Although Samantha is long gone she is truly an integral part of the show, finding her is Moulder's only true motivation in life. My depiction shows a flying saucer hovering over a girl in bed, illuminating her with a beam of green light.

Thank you Gerry for forwarding these pictures. Perhaps we should have an X-files reunion party this summer so I have an excuse to recreate the alien autopsy serving dish!

A Thank You, and Giving in to the Demand

I want to say a big Thank You to Joansie, for these wonderful gifts!

Back in December Joansie posted that she had joined a "pay it forward exchange", and I signed up for the exchange with her.

This week I got a package in the mail with a note saying it was the PIF gifts and an early birthday present.

The package included a wonderful grey ribbed scarf that she knit with Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, 6 note cards she made with her own photos, and bottle of eucalyptus Eucalan (I had actually been wanting to try this, but they don't carry that fragrance where I buy mine) and "Things I Learned from Knitting" By Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

I think the book, specifically was a birthday present, because Joansie and I will be meeting up in Northampton, MA later this month to see Stephanie at Webs, and I had told Joansie I planned to buy her latest book there at the signing. Now I will have the chance to read it in advance.

For Faye, Lisa, and Tammy who are awaiting my PIF packages, I am working on it, but they won't be ready for a while now... too many gifts OTN at the moment.

As for giving into the demand:

Yesterday Joansie shared a picture of her Easter Bunny cake that she makes annually, and explained that she started the tradition as a young mother who really wanted to impress her children. Although I have no children it reminded me of a scenario in my life, and I left this comment on her post:

I love your Bunny cake. When I see you at Webs remind me to tell you the story of the "alien" cake I made once, and the years of trying to out- do myself that followed. (it's way too long for a blog comment!)

Today I recieved an e-mail, and this was it's entire content:

Not Fair!!!! How can you leave a story (comment on Joansie's blog) like that unfinished! I demand you blog the story of the alien cake!!!!

As I had written my comment to Joansie I had thought of blogging the story, but decided against it, as I can not locate photos to share. I guess I'd better reconsider that decision. So, here it is:

My brother Gerry, and several of his friends were huge X-Files fans and some where around season 3 or 4 started having a party to get everyone together to watch each season Premiere and Finale as they aired.

For the first party I had promised to bake a cake, and as I was mixing the batter I decided I wanted to do something to tie the cake in with the theme of the evening. I ended up grabbing some green food colour and some Oreo cookies and made a green cake with dark brown veins running through it. I used a simple chocolate icing, so the cake looked quite normal before it was cut, but a bit shocking once you saw the inside. I called it the "Alien Cake" and thought it was a fun touch, but nothing more.

When it was time for the next party I promised to bring a dessert again. It was a busy week for me, and I decided to buy cookie dough, and bake cookies just before the party so they would be fresh (if not truly home made). The day before the party Gerry happened to mention that his friends had been so impressed by the alien cake, and couldn't wait to see what I made this time.

Suddenly the simple sugar cookies didn't seem good enough, and in a panic I rushed out to the local paty supply store and gathered up a bunch of junk that I hoped to fashion into something that gloriously represented the spirit of the show. Here's what I got: Two disposable serving spoons, two disposable serving sporks (a spoon with a fork like tip), chocolate chips, a heart shaped cookie cutter, an alien head candle, and a disposable shell shaped foil cake pan.

I went home and, once again pulled out the green food colouring. With that , the cookie dough, and the chocolate chips I was able to squish the heart shaped cookies into alien heads. While they baked I took the plastic utensils (limbs), foil pan (torso), Alien head candle, and some silver fabric and fahioned a hollow alien in a space suit. When the cookies were cooled they went into the foil pan from the back of the alien. The whole contraption was then flipped onto a parchment lined cutting board. A scalpel was laid aside the alien, and at the party we cut into the Alien's chest (the foil pan) and opened it up to reveal the cookies. I was amazed that I had successfully pulled off my "Alien Autopsy" serving dish!

Then there was the next party.....Two a year for several years. Each time I felt the need to out-do myself from the previous time. I can't even fully recall every dish I made for these parties, but I seriously racked my brain each time.

I know I made an alien head cake, and I cleary recall my favorite one:

The Roswell Crash Landing cake: Based on the popular story that a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in the 1950's, I started with the Grand Canyon Cake found in this humorous cookbook, it's a five layer cake, each layer a different colour, split down the center after assembling and frosting. The different coloured layers are supposed to represent the different layers of the earth's stratosphere that are visable in the Grand Canyon. After I split my cake down the center I inserted a UFO I had molded out of chocolate. There were also marzipan aliens lying injured at the scene.

For the series finale I was asked to make a series of sculptures based on the show, one sculpture for each season! I won't even get into desribing them, however, I have asked Gerry to try and locate some of the photos, since I can not find any of mine. So, perhaps I will be able to share photos at a later time. I have no idea where the actual sculptures are these days. I think most have been damaged beyond repair since then.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The BSJ Completed

Since the baby is due soon, I figured I had to get the dreaded finish work done on my BSJ. So, the arms have been closed up with a three needle bind-off, and the buttons are in place.

The last BSJ I made was with machine spun yarn, and needed no blocking. I think this one can use a bit, though. It's not a rumply as I thought is was going to be, but the button band does not naturally lie flat, so I think a bit of steam is in order.

The pewter buttons are hand made by a New Hampshire craftsman, and have the tree of life on them.

So, my first hand-spun garment is complete and ready for gifting. I'll almost be sad to see it go.

I do still have a few other projects OTN, but they are all gifts I can not share. So, I fear I may not have much to post about in the coming weeks.

I will however still be spinning, so may be that will produce some photo-worthy product!

I have still been working on my mohair/merino lace weight, but I'm getting a bit bored, and have occasionally switched to another fiber for a little variety. This weekend I decided to indulge myself with a little hand painted BFL from Witchypoo. There are also a some hand painted silk caps That I have already begun to fluff up. I can't wait to play with some of these!