Tuesday, August 28, 2007

You may have noticed that there has been a lack of posting about the Mystery Stole 3, lately. In fact, my stole came to a screeching halt after Clue 4, when the issue of symmetrical vs. non-symmetrical came into play. Turns out that the stole is highly non-symmetrical: the theme is "Swan Lake," and the second end of the stole is a "swan wing." There's a picture of the finished article here on Flickr. I really like the patterned end, and I really like the wing end, but I really don't like them together. To me, the transition between the two areas is just to abrupt, though it looks somewhat better when it's draped around a person.

So, what to do? I decided to make a symmetrical stole with just the patterned end, since I already had one done. On Saturday, I started knitting the second half of my stole. I knit Clue 1 on Saturday night, Clue 2 on Sunday night, and Clue 3 last night.

I figure Clue 4 will take two days since it's the long clue, and then a day to frog the first half back to the proper point and do the knitted-on central lace panel that will join the two halves together (or possibly just a graft; I'll have to make that decision when I get both halves done).

I may possibly have this finished before we leave Friday Harbor, ready to block when we get back to La Grande.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not too much to report, fiber-wise, but I have been doing a bit of spinning. This is the start of the pound of Ashland Bay "Northern Lights" colonial top.

It's spinning up much bluer than I thought it was going to, though maybe not as blue as this picture makes it seem. Based on the unspun fiber, I thought it was going to be black with colored highlights. Ashland Bay multicolored top is always fun to spin, because the colors interact in unexpected ways.

I'm spinning this quite thick, aiming for a sweater-weight 3-ply. I think the dark blue will look lovely on Emma. It's quite a switch to be spinning on my largest whorl, after all that laceweight. I have to keep telling myself, "LESS TWIST! MORE FIBER!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Still life: "Cat as Porkchop"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Panda Cory Show is still going full force. I have now released three babies into the big tank, to make room for all the babies still in the fry tank. The oldest baby now in the big tank is 13 weeks old, and is rapidly approaching the adults in size. The next oldest is 10 weeks, and the smallest is about 8-9 weeks. I still have ~20 fry in the fry tank, growing like crazy. By the time we get back to La Grande, there should be two or three more at release size. However, I may not have to put them in the big tank. Yesterday I found this at the Thrift Store:

Have I mentioned how much I love the thrift store here on the island? It's a 2.5 gallon glass tank, for only $3. New, they run about $13-15, and this one is is in near-perfect condition (one 1/2" scratch). The fry look so much happier with all that room.

This is the tank size I was actually looking for when I went to get a fry tank, but no place in La Grande had one. The smallest I could find was 10 gallons, and that was way bigger than I wanted to go. The nano-filter I had on the smaller tank works just fine on the new tank, and so does the heater, so now I'm all set.

I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do with all these panda cories as they grow up. The big tank is pretty much maxed out in terms of fish capacity. It's just so fun to watch the fry grow up.

Still not thinking about a bigger tank, no no no....

Monday, August 20, 2007

I finished knitting the new Chevron Shawl yesterday. This is was a fast knit, once the Fair excitement was over. I haven't blocked it yet, since I'm going to overdye it when we get back to La Grande. It will just have to stay in this rumpled state for two more weeks.

This ended up using 908 yards, 218 g (7.7 oz) of Brown Sheep Wildfoote yarn. This is a ~450 yd. difference from what I originally wrote in the pattern, which corresponds roughly to the size skeins I got off my jumbo Ashford bobbins for this weight yarn. I can only assume that one of the skein labels went missing while I was knitting and didn't get added into the final tally, or possibly I mistook a "9" for a "4" when I was transferring the numbers to the computer.

I'm going to call this a 950-yard pattern. Off to notify the purchasers and modify the pattern. I can't believe I made a mistake this big. Grrrr.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Poof. The Fair is over for another year. It's always such a letdown. The Sheep-to-Shawl event was yesterday, and of the five years I've been participating, I think this was the prettiest shawl yet. It was a huck lace pattern on four shafts, alpaca and Border Leicester X blend, and I can't believe I didn't get a close up of the finished product. The pattern came out of Huck Lace: The Best of Weaver's. (I linked to Amazon there, but support your locals if you can....) The spinners did a great job on the yarn this year, very even and fine.

As for the judged exhibition, I did pretty well again. I got a blue ribbon, Best of Class in "Handspinning" and the Mary Fox Award (special award for excellence in handspinning) for my silk laceweight skein. I also got a blue ribbon, Best of Class in "Crochet With Handspun" and the Doris Oliver Award (special award for best use of handspun in a finished project) for the lattice crochet scarf. The judge commented on the lovely colors, so you get some credit, too, Liz! The Urchin Shawl got a blue ribbon and the People's Choice Award TWICE, on Wednesday and Saturday.

So that was fun. The rest of the judging had it's ups and downs. In addition to the silk yarn, the scarf, and Urchin, I had a huck lace stole, four other skeins of handspun (red Romney, blue merino, blue merino/silk, bulky merino/silk) and a crocheted potholder. The yarn all got blue ribbons, but the huck stole and the potholder both got red. Huh?

I have been trying to think of a way to write about this without sounding whiny, because I don't feel whiny about it, I feel mad. The judge was unfair and inconsistent. I was there for the whole judging, and I don't think that's an unreasonable assessment. Other people commented on it as well. Yes, she took a point off the potholder because there was a stain, and a point off the stole because there was a yarn tail I missed trimming (and I felt quite stupid when I saw that I had missed those errors), and I can ACCEPT losing those points because it was my own stupidness. I have no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the fact that there is no way that those two errors should have kicked those items down from blue to red ribbons. She had no real criticisms of the pieces other than what I said above. She said things like "wonderful hand," "nice selvedges," "a very elegant piece," and "fit for the opera" about the stole. She remarked that the potholder was good and thick, and liked the effect of Tunisian crochet with the variegated yarn. Then she turned around and scored them for red ribbons. And I just can't figure out how she came up with the numbers, even taking off for the stain and the yarn tail.

I also have a problem with the fact that she judged someone's fulled knitted slippers to be blue ribbon quality, when they were smelly from being worn, with dirt ground into the soles. And the woven rug that was so dirty that it showered the judging table with sand when we picked it up and had wiggles in the selvedges of more than an inch, was also judged to be blue ribbon quality. Neither of those had any points taken off in the "Clean and Neat" category.

I realize that judging is an inherently subjective activity, but she had no call to take 4 points off Urchin because the dyeing was purposely uneven (to emulate the uneven purple mottled swirls on a real urchin shell), and that fact was stated on the accompanying description sheet and photograph. That, in addition to the other odd point or two she took off, put Urchin only one point away from getting a red ribbon as well, despite the otherwise good comments! At some point, the judge's personal preference has to give way to the intent of the creator and how well the objective was achieved.

I think what really stings and makes me feel a bit bruised is that she had two "Honorable Mention" awards to give out at the end for things that deserved recognition. She gave them both in knitting, one for a scarf and one for a sweater. Yes, both were nice, but both were knit from published patterns, at large gauge. I'm sorry (and here's where the whiny part really comes out, though I don't mean it to), but neither of those were remotely as impressive as Urchin. A self-designed, 84" diameter lace shawl, knit on US 2 needles, which took more than 200 hours to knit, and is very well done (because it IS) is simply not comparable to a 10" x 50" worsted weight scarf from a commercial pattern.

Whatever, Ms. Judge. You lost a lot of credibility, not just with me but with a lot of the other entrants as well. I was not the only one to have issues with inconsistent scoring and the way the entries were judged. It's too bad, because I know she does a lot of fiber arts classes (regionally and nationally) and probably knows her stuff. Maybe she just had an off day.

As I said to one of my friends the day after judging, "I know how much I like Urchin, I know the value of the work that went into it, and that's all that really matters." And getting two People's Choice Awards from fairgoers' votes went long way to restoring my confidence in my pattern.

Anyway. Putting that behind me now.

Emma's favorite part of the Fair was the pony ride. This was her first time on a horse, and she was SO excited.

This was the first year that Emma really got into "doing the Fair." She went on a couple rides, had sno-cones, ate fair food (her first corn dog.....blech....though she liked it), and generally had a great time.

We also had a good time looking at the animals again this year. There weren't any lambs or piglets this year, but the pygmy goat kids were painfully cute, as always. We had to go look at them every day.

We saw alpacas (she calls them "puffs"),

And spent a lot of time in the sheep barn. There seemed to be a lot of Suffolk X and Targee X sheep there this year,

and the Icelandics are always sweet, though this one was unshorn until Saturday, when she was part of the sheep-shearing demonstration, and she looked uncomfortably warm.

And really, who could resist a face like a Cotswold's?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Remember this? And also this?

Judging from the 3-year-old and 36-year-old hysterical giggles that filled my house this afternoon, they're still as good today as 30 years ago.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I have lots to report, because it's FAIR WEEK!!! But I think I'll report on the Fair in the next post, because I also have a finished project to record, and the Fair post is going to be long enough as it is.

I finished spinning the blue merino/silk. I really wanted to get this done before the Fair, both to enter it for judging and to clear off my bobbins for the Sheep-to-Shawl event on Saturday. Since I wanted to spin all the singles at once, then ply, I had three very late nights. Late like 3:00 a.m. (or later). But I got it all turned into singles late Saturday night/early Sunday morning.

So very beautiful, all wound up and ready to ply. I started plying Sunday morning (later Sunday morning, that is, after sleeping), and I figured it would take about nine hours to ply a bobbinfull, based on a previous large laceweight project. That project was done on my Ashford, which has smaller bobbins, so I figured that it would take a couple hours longer to fill the Schacht bobbin.

I plied and plied and plied. Then I plied some more. I worked on it most of the day Sunday, every free moment I had between Emma's activities, laundry, and general out-and-about. Then after Emma went to bed, I settled in and got serious. I didn't finish, but got too tired and went to bed at about 3:45am. I finished it up Monday afternoon. I think that bobbin took about 12 hours to ply. I skeined it Monday evening, which took a full hour. I was very tired of niddy-noddying, and am seriously plotting how to construct a skein winder.

When I was finally finished winding that off, it was 7:45pm. I looked at the remaining singles on the bobbin and said to myself "Oh, that's just the leftovers. It won't take long to ply that up." Ah, the deception of the singles. It took 7 hours to ply the "leftovers."

However, there was a moment of triumph at 3:00am. Nobody was awake to share it with me, but I took a picture so that YOU can triumph with me. This is the end of the two bobbins of singles.

The exciting part? Those are the honest ends of the singles, as they came off the bobbins! Two bobbins containing eleventy jillion miles of singles each, and they came out within FOUR INCHES of each other! I was impressed. No need to ply from both ends of the last bobbin!

I skeined the second batch and washed them both before I went to bed, so they could get a head start on drying. Fair entries were due by noon Tuesday, and it was now 3:45 am Tuesday.

Luckily, Tuesday was clear and sunny, so the skeins mostly dried outside on the railing of the deck. They still hadn't completely dried by 11:00, so....... I finished the one for the Fair off in the oven. I baked my yarn. That's perhaps cutting the timing a bit close. It worked, though. Fifteen minutes at 200 degrees, turning occasionally.

Larger skein is 5.1 oz, 1825 yards
Smaller skein is 2.7 oz, 832 yards

The specs (total for both skeins):
7.8 oz
2657 yards
35 wraps per inch
5450 yards per pound
spun worsted
singles spun using the 18:1 whorl
plied using the 21:1 whorl

Now, Jaggerspun Zephyr (white yarn on the left) is 5040 yards per pound, so mine is slightly finer, but the feel is comparable.

I can't wait to do something with this. It's fine, soft, consistent throughout the skeins, and I think it would make a gorgeous woven shawl. Something twill-y, to show off the sheen and drape.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I have some dribs and drabs of fibery work to show today, just to prove that I'm keeping busy. I'm still spinning on the pretty blue merino/silk, but a slightly-more-filled bobbin of tiny singles isn't very interesting, so I'll hold off on more pictures of that project until I have two beautiful full bobbins to show.

Instead, here's a bookmark that I made on Wednesday night. It's the fan pattern I've made before, and this one is mine, all mine. Every one of these that I made before has been sold, and I wanted one for myself. Plus, I left my other bookmark at home in Oregon.

I've also been knitting on two shawls. The first one is made with the blue yarn I spun in May, from the roving I won from Panda Bonzai. I tried a couple variations before I settled on this very plain stockinette triangle.

I tried a tip up triangle first, but didn't like that because the stripes came out horizontal and looked too static, then I tried a rectangular scarf/stole in a simple lace pattern, but that was completely wrong because of both the horizontal stripes and the lace/stripe interaction.

I finally went with what I had originally planned in the first place: a neck-down triangle. My original instinct was the right one. I started with beads on the stockinette, and while they looked nice on the more solid blue section at the center neck, looked too elegant for the marbled, variegated yarn. So I laddered down to each bead, removed them all, and laddered back up. (I must admit to being inordinately fond of laddering down and up stockinette with a crochet hook.) I like the way this is coming out, with the V's that are forming from the variegated yarn. It looks like blue agate.

I've been somewhat stalled on this for a couple days because I want to put an interesting but simple border pattern on, but don't know which one. I'd like it to have a shaped edge, like scallops or zigzags, and be knit in the same direction as the rest of the shawl so I can just keep knitting until I run out of yarn. I was thinking maybe the pattern I used for this afghan would work, but need to try it out, and work out the point detail. I also need to weigh the remaining yarn so I don't start the border too soon.

The second shawl I have going is a Chevron Shawl from my own pattern. I was very concerned when one of the people who bought the pattern said that there was a discrepancy in how much yarn I said the shawl takes, and how much she was using. There was quite a large difference. And of course, I'm in a completely different state from both the original shawl I knit and the leftover yarn- I couldn't check the yardage I had left over or weigh the shawl.

I went to the yarn store here on the island yesterday to get some yarn to knit another one.

I am now quite sure that the yardage I listed in the pattern is wrong. This is very embarrassing, and I don't know how it could have happened. The only thing I can think of is that the label from one of the skeins of yarn went missing before I totaled everything up at the end. Perhaps I misplaced it, perhaps a certain then-two-year-old child absconded with it, perhaps the wind blew it away. I'll be revising the pattern and contacting the people who purchased it. At least there weren't that many.

I thought I was being so careful when I wrote the pattern.

~~~hiding in shame~~~

Anyway. This Chevron Shawl is being knit with Brown Sheep Wildfoote yarn. It's actually sock yarn (75% washable wool, 25% nylon), but is knitting into a nice, fairly soft fabric with US 5 (3.75mm) needles.

This is not the yarn I had in mind when I went into the store, but it was one of the few there that was the right thickness (~15 wpi) and a solid color. And it was the ONLY one of those that didn't cost $16 per skein. I'd rather it was 100% wool, but oh well. I think I'll be overdyeing it when it's done. The gray is OK, but a bit boring for a decorative shawl. If it was natural sheep gray, maybe, but not a flat dyed gray. Emma said it needs to be purple, and I think purple over the gray will work nicely.

Going into yarn stores has been an interesting experience over the past few years. There just isn't anything there that I want to buy, except spinning fiber or hard goods. Even when I went to Weaving Works last month, I completely bypassed the yarn and went straight to browse the fiber, book, and equipment sections. This is a strange feeling, but I'd really rather knit with my own handspun. I am enjoying working with the Zephyr for MS3, but in general, I like my yarn better than commercial yarn. That's a good feeling.

Friday, August 03, 2007

This afternoon, Emma asked me if I would give her some yarn and teach her how to knit. Be still my heart. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

What concentration! I cast on 20 stitches and knit the first row slowly to show her the steps. Then I handed it off to her. She proceeded to knit the entire row, with a minimal amount of help! Learning on slippery Addi Turbos is perhaps not the best way, but she did great.

She said it was "fun" and "neat" and then asked if we could knit a sock. What have I created???!!!

She only knit the one row before moving on to the next distraction, but look at that grin of accomplishment!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I finally, finally finished up the crocheted lattice scarf. I have had this thing mostly done since the beginning of July, all it needed was the final row of single crochet and blocking! One measly row, and it took me almost a month to get around to it. Anyway, here it is.

This is from the skein of yarn I spun from the handdyed roving given to me by Liz . The scarf is 2 oz, measures 50" x 6.5" and used about 445 yards. I have 4.5 yards of yarn left over, since I stopped before I ran out in order to maintain the pattern.

It blocked nicely, and you can really see the lattice pattern. It feels nice and soft against the skin, and I would happily wear this. It turned out shorter than I initially thought it would, but it's still long enough to toss the tails to the back and block the chill at the neck of a jacket. I'm not a fan of long scarves that get in the way, anyway.

AND, I'll have you know, those last two pictures were taken by Emma! Not bad for a three year old!