Monday, April 27, 2009

spinning wheel

Look at this beauty: a 1984 Ashford Scholar, in perfect, ship-shape condition.

Finding her was a lovely bit of serendipity. I'd embarked on the process of buying a wheel in a methodical but exhausting way, obsessively researching different makes and models and planning to test-drive wheels at stores all around the valley. It was overwhelming.

And then a woman in my knitting group pointed me towards an ad in the Arizona Desert Weavers and Spinners Guild newsletter. The clouds parted. The mind-numbing minutiae of the search disappeared in a poof of smoke. And in no time at all, I had myself a lovely spinning wheel.

I had such a splendid visit with the woman who sold me this wheel. She was a very accomplished weaver, spinner, and knitter, and it was really a pleasure to see her work and talk to her about her crafting life. This was her very first wheel, and it was clear that it was much beloved and well cared for.

When she'd originally bought the wheel, twenty-five years ago, she had the foresight to put an engraved label on the side with her name and the year. Now I'll add my name and year. I love having this sense of history in an artifact, and I like to think about the names and dates that will be added to it throughout its life.

It's taking a bit of adjustment to move from a drop spindle to a spinning wheel, but I've been practicing over the weekend, and I think I'm getting the hang of it. You can expect to see plenty of spinning on this blog in the future!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day and a contest

I hope that wherever you are on this planet, you have time today for a moment of natural beauty: fresh air, oceans, mountains, gardens, forests, spring blossoms, green leaves, sky, stone

I think of this day as a time for connection and reflection, a day for thinking about possibilities rather than berating ourselves for not being green enough. As for the connection between Earth Day and my knitting ... I have two thoughts to share.

First, Earth Day marks the anniversary of my Green Knitter website, which I began a year ago exactly. If you haven't checked it out yet, today might be a good day for it! I just updated the yarn chart, with additional improvements on the way. I'd love to hear what you think about it.

Second, I wanted to share with you the next pattern that I'm working on. These pouches are knit in eco-friendly wool yarns and embroidered with symbols of peace and nature.

My idea was to have small bags to carry just the necessities -- and to represent our intentions -- as we go about our days. I use mine for my morning walks with Isis. The small pouch holds my ipod, phone and house keys. The larger pouch can fit a camera, too. They have a clever seamless construction, if I do say so myself.

I hope to have the pattern finished over the weekend. If you'd like to win a copy of the pattern before they go on sale, just leave me a comment!! I'll draw several winners on April 30. You can just say hello, or, if you're feeling the Earth Day spirit, I'd love to hear how you see the connection between knitting and greenness in your life ....

Monday, April 20, 2009

thinking pink

I've been wanting to knit something with my plant-dyed Ever Green Yarns. I kicked off the process by dyeing myself a special skein of the Organic Merino Fingering in prickly pear juice, which I'd extracted from wildcrafted prickly pear and frozen last autumn. After a week of soaking in the juice, the yarn emerged an incredibly saturated magenta.

And what to knit with a single 50g skein of yarn? A Storm Cloud Shawlette, of course!

Mostly to be worn tied around my neck as free-form cowl, but also can be pinned around the shoulders. This one doesn't have a full ruffle; instead, I only did half the increases on that last increase row, so that I could get in a little more length without the frill.

I knit this on my trip back to Cambridge last week (that's where I dyed those eggs) and I intended to photograph it there, too.

I have to say, though, that I think it's better off photographed in Arizona. The intense, downright riotous pink of the shawl is a perfect fit for the flowers that have been bursting into bloom: bougainvillea, oleander, roses.

The prickly-pear yarn fits right in! And take note: these pictures are straight out of the camera. We live in technicolor here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

easter eggs

I arrived at my friend's house on Sunday night bearing gifts of beets and marigolds and dessicated bugs. We were egg dyeing, of course! And I wanted to experiment with natural dyes.

It took a very long soak indeed for the eggs to take up the color, but they came out well in the end. The light purple is from cochineal, the deep blues are from red cabbage, the light yellow is from marigold flowers, and the splotchy tan in the back is from beets.

They're so beautiful and painterly in this clear morning light.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

the beast cycle

Yes, I made a mouse toy for my cat out of the fur of my dog.

What more is there to explain?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


What does it feel like to have wings and to feel the air beneath you as substantial as the earth?
-Verlyn Klinkenborg

How I wish I'd really grown wings! But, alas, all I did was knit myself an Aeolian shawl.

Aeolian. Aeolian meaning "wind-borne." I appropriately cast on for this shawl as our airplane took off from Bhutan, winging its way across the Himlayas. I took the romance of the name to heart, speeding through the first lace section and imagining myself knitting with the wind at my back.

But silly me, I forgot that the wind can switch on you, and I fought a headwind for the rest of the project. My wind-borne wings became an infuriating albatross. I started to have a hard time keeping track of the pattern. I misread the charts. I miscounted stitches. I made the nupps too tight. I spent countless hours tinking back and fixing mistakes. I swore my way through interminable rows and thought it would never end.

But then, in the blink of an eye, it was blocked and beautiful and bringing a smile to my face. Lace is magic like that.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of blocking your lace, I thought I'd illustrate the process. Here is the lace before the bind off, when it's all awkwardly bunched up on the needle. This is why the knitting part of the process can be so ungratifying -- it's impossible to see what you're actually making!

After the bind off is complete, you can get a sense of shawl's size and shape, but it still looks sad and misshapen.

Finally, after being plunged into cool water and pinned out until it's as taut as a drum, the shawl stretches its way into lacy beauty. (The curved wingtips are still there, by the way. They just grew so much that they wouldn't fit on the picnic table.)

Here's a close-up of one of the "nupp" sections before blocking:

And after blocking, with the eyelets all opened up:

And now for the technical details: I followed the pattern reasonably true, although I switched to larger needles (size 6), added an extra repeat of the agave pattern, and left out the beads.

The yarn that I used is a fingering weight alpaca with no name. I bought a huge cone of this yarn in Peru about five years ago. This shawl, as voluminous as it is, hardly made a dent in the yarn.

What a happy relief to be finished with this shawl! Next up: something with instant gratification