Wednesday, May 14, 2008

a sweet moment

Here is a knitting moment that I'd like to capture: taking refuge from the heat of the afternoon, reclining on the sofa, kept company by my napping kitty cat.

Other small thoughts run through my head now that I look at this picture.

My cat is most often portrayed on this blog as eating my fiber, tangling my untangleable mohair, chomping my needles, and generally being a troublemaker. Along these lines, you may notice the puncture wound on my left hand in this picture, which is her gift to me from a recent 'playtime.'

But I think I've been unfair. Ninety percent of the time she's an incredibly sweet and affectionate girl, and I'm glad that I could show that in this picture. Especially since she's had such a tough week (the mockingbirds have been terrorizing her, and I keep seeing the poor girl running headlong across the yard with a bird buzzing at her tail).

The other notable thing about this picture is that I'm actually knitting with straight needles! OMG! This amazes me. The last time I knit with such needles was in spring 2000, a full eight years ago. That's when I discovered circulars, and I haven't touched the straight ones since. But I will say that they have a nice nostalgia to them, and it makes for smooth knitting when you don't have to slide stitches over a join.

Friday, May 09, 2008

One-shoulder tunic

My fresh-off-the-needles tank top makes me feel like I'm wearing a dramatic Grecian costume, as if I were in a Martha Graham dance.*

And I love it! It's knit from a handspun, rosemary-dyed silk yarn from Avril in Japan, with a cottony texture that suggests tussah or muga rather bombyx silk.

The construction is based on the One-Shoulder Tunic in Teva Durham's Loop-d-Loop. Her pattern used ribbon tape on a size 13 needle; I was using a much lighter yarn on size 5 needles, so I had to change the pattern considerably to adjust to my gauge.

In addition, I added a few inches of crochet to the bottom to keep it from curling, and a few rows of crochet to widen the strap and stabilize the top edge (I might even go back and add a few more rows in the future). I could've added waist shaping, but because it already had some negative ease I didn't think it was necessary.

Martha Graham was my high-brow cultural reference for this project. I have a low-brow reference as well. Do you remember the song that never ends? Back when I was a kid, singing that song was a sure-fire way to be annoying. Similarly, it made for an annoying theme as I knitted this top: "This is the knit that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends. I guess I started knitting it not knowing what it was, and I'll continue knitting it forever just because..."

It took me forever to make this, because I was working with a yarn that was an unknown (and stretched a bit) and because the strap fitting was a bit tricky. I had to do the strap and top inch three times, at 2 hours each. I had to do the bottom crochet three times, at 2 hours each. It became a joke at my weekly knitting night that I was still endlessly working on it. But all's well that ends well!

*I love modern dance and took Graham classes for years, so this was the first thing I thought of when I put on this tunic.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Maryland Sheep & Wool Roundup

Ah, Maryland Sheep and Wool. Marvelous animals, gorgeous yarns, and kindred fiber-minded spirits.

The highlight for me was meeting Nanney Kennedy of Seacolors yarns . She's a dynamo, who raises her own sheep and solar dyes her yarns, with seawater as a mordant (get a wonderful glimpse into her world with this little video). I was so excited to meet her because I'd been reading about her farm and dyeing in Shear Spirit, a new book that profiles life on ten US fiber farms.

It's a beautiful book, and I want to talk about it for a moment because it was kind of a theme for who I talked to at the wool festival. I got to meet and praise the photographer, Gale Zucker, who captured the farmers and animals in such a magical way. I didn't get to meet the author, Joan Tapper, but I would've sought her out if I'd had more time; her writing is rich and natural, and she has a wonderful way of drawing out the stories of these farms.

I've been savoring the book over the last couple of weeks, reading a few pages with my morning coffee and fantasizing about living such an authentic, rural, creative life. Makes me want to pack up, move back to Vermont, and find myself some alpacas and angora goats! Seriously! Look at their Shear Spirit blog and see if you don't start fantasizing too.

Anyways, after reading about Nanney in the book, I was incredibly excited to happen upon her at the wool fest. We had a great conversation about green knitting. I had to run off to the Ravelry meetup and, unfortunately, ran out of time before I could come back and buy some of her amazing yarn. I'll be back in New England for a good part of the summer, though, and I hope to make a pilgrimage to Maine to find her and her yarn there.

The other dyer that I'd read about in Shear Spirit and met at the festival was Jody McKenzie of Botanical Shades. She is a natural dyer who partnered with Tregelly's Fiber Farm in Massachusetts, although she's now moved to Maine. I bought some gorgeous naturally-dyed mohair locks from her, which were my sole purchase of the festival.

The only downside to the day is that I didn't leave nearly enough time to see it all. I'd completely underestimated the scale of the festival and its subsequent traffic, lines, and slow-moving crowds. The main casualty of this was the Ravelry Meetup. I showed up right on time to see Jess and Casey come in, where they were treated like rock stars (cameras, applause!).

(if you look hard, you can see them entering towards the left)

Since it was crowded and hard to circulate right then, I decided that I'd come back a bit later. But by the time I got back, hardly anyone was there and they were out of buttons. Drat! Next time I'll leave more time and strategize more carefully. I'm already planning for next year!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Everywhere I go, I seem to seek out fiber animals. I've been in DC for a few days, and even here I've managed to find some sheep. This was at Mount Vernon, which was George Washington's beautiful estate. Here's my sister just before she pet the sheep:

It was a good opportunity to give her a lecture (and you can guess how much she enjoyed it -- but she was the only one around to lecture!) about lanolin and fiber processing and why sheeps' wool is not the greenest fiber around. Ah, obsessions.

Here's me, getting a little lanolin on my hands:

There were two types of sheep. One of them had a curious, curly coat. Can anyone tell me what kind of sheep this is? I'd love to know.

As we'll be heading out to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday, there will undoubtedly be more pictures of fiber animals coming soon. I'll be at the Ravelry meetup at 11:30 on Saturday - hope to see you there if you're coming, too.

And a last little note -- I've been getting more commenters than usual (thank you!) with the launch of Green Knitter. But more than half of the commenters are impossible to respond to, since their Blogger profiles are private or they don't include an email in their profile. If you haven't gotten a response, would you check your settings? Takk!