Monday, October 26, 2009

Lower Devils East

Yesterday was a phenomenal autumn day in Arizona. We left Phoenix in the morning, driving east past the old mining town of Superior and into the hills on rugged dirt roads. It was opening weekend for an amazing new climbing area on the east side of Lower Devil's Canyon.

We climbed a series of beautiful 5.9s and 5.10s, all on the cool, shady north sides of the rock towers. Coming out on the top, you have these amazing views of Lower Devil's Canyon.

The day flew by, and when we reached the top of the last climb, I suddenly realized that the sun was so low on the horizon that most of the canyon was already in shadow. I cried out to Mountain Man, "But I haven't taken my knitting pictures yet!!!"

In record time, we rappelled to the bottom, I bound off the button band I'd been working on, and we literally ran uphill to catch the last golden-rose rays of sun.

This is the latest progress on my cardigan, now re-knit without the colorwork leaves. I've finished the yoke, body, and front buttonband. Still left to do are the sleeves, the other buttonband, and the embroidered leaves. I'm hoping to have enough yarn to get elbow-length sleeves, although I must say that I'm kind of taken with it as a vest!

I loved how the colors of the Seacolors yarn blended in harmoniously with the green/gray/yellows of the jojoba bushes and the warm browns of the canyon rocks. It was the perfect place to be with this project.

On another note, I had one more fiber-related adventure to share with you -- a visit to the Southwest Fiber Festival -- but I'm afraid I forgot my camera. It was a sweet little festival, with spirited music, splendid animals, and lovely yarns and fibers. I hadn't planned to buy anything, but somehow my bag managed to fill itself with a skein of chocolate alpaca yarn, a ball of dark churro roving, and a batt of Corriedale/Targhee/Merino fiber ....

Friday, October 16, 2009

leafy cardigan decisions

It's Friday, end of the day, and I'm taking a few minutes to contemplate my weekend knitting. I've been working on a new project that, I'm afraid, needs some major re-working.

It started last weekend with a monstrously long swatch, trying everything from garter, stockinette, seed stitch, one- and two-color ribbing, three kinds of cables, colorwork ....

Of all of these, my favorite was the bit of leafy colorwork. I love how the variation in the green/ochre skein comes through.

I'd decided to try making an asymmetrical cardigan, with a square neck and a line of those leaves running vertically by the button band. It's top down so that I can stop anytime the yarn runs out. And I can decide as I go whether I want to spend yarn on sleeves or turn it into a longer vest.

The problem? After designing a whole garment around that bit of colorwork, I don't like how it's coming out! I don't like the textural change, and I'm afraid that my tension isn't so even. Now I'm considering whether to rip it out, knit it in brown, and just embroider the leaves on afterwards (like in my Contemplation Pouches).

Anyways, here's Isis wishing you a happy weekend!

She got so excited when I went out into the backyard to take photos that she threw herself on the ground, rolled on her back, and whined for a belly rub.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cloud Scarf

I've been paying more attention to clouds, sparked by an interview I heard with someone from the Cloud Appreciation Society. I especially love all the wispy high altitude clouds.

Last weekend, kind of on a lark, I decided to try to knit myself a scarf that captured some of their lightness and linearity. I had the perfect yarn in my stash: one ball of white and silvery Kidsilk Night, originally bought for my wedding shawl until I changed my dress choice.

I got out my needles and yarn and started to swatch:

The idea was to knit it lengthwise with floaty ruffles of lace, achieved by knitting a bit of stockinette, changing to a couple inches of lace, then picking up stitches just below the lace, and knitting another layer. Kind of a cool construction, I thought. I decided to use a simple biased lace, with two layers leaning in one direction and one layer leaning in the opposite direction.

It looked all fabulous and floaty on the needles, with the layers curling up prettily. Then I blocked it. And now it's absurdly long, with three flat layers that stick together. *Sigh* I could've done something so much better with this precious little ball of yarn.

It's still somewhat wearable, as a little accessory to wrap again and again 'round my neck.

And I guess it's still kind of floaty when you get up a good breeze ....

But it's not the wispy, etheral cloud that I'd envisioned. I guess there are times when blocking does not do a fabric any favors!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Taos Wool Festival

This Saturday, I woke up to a brilliant autumnal morning. Vivid blue skies. Strong, clear sunlight. I was staying with an artist friend in Taos, and after a cup of coffee brewed with lavender from her garden, we went for a walk with her trio of Shih Tzus.

The golden shrubs that you see on the side of the road are Chamisa, which is in the rabbitbrush family, and which we used in our natural dye workshop for a robust yellow. They were at the height of their bloom, as were the lovely purple asters. It made me think of how much I used to love this time in Vermont, when it was goldenrod that would light up the roadsides alongside asters.

The next stop in my morning itinerary was a visit with Frana at the Phi Beta Paca alpaca farm to see the newest cria, who was just a few days old, and as delicate and fine a creature as you could imagine. Her legs were still a little wobbly, but she had the loveliest, creamy curls and blue eyes.

Here's the baby alpaca hiding underneath her mama. She's still trying to figure out nursing a little bit.

And then it was on to the Wool Festival!! I made it in time for the midday meetup in the Ravelry tent. It was awesome. I had a yummy cupcake baked by deltafine. I got to chat with the warm and gracious Stefanie Japel and Ravelry's own Mary-Heather. I listened to Knitswithdogz singing along to Indigo Girls songs, and watched PinkPorcupine spin, and learned all about TARDIS-Tara's Dr. Who scarves, and met RedQueen of the Here's to Ewe podcast.

I was a little too shy to take pictures of people at the Ravelry tent, but here's what the festival looks like in general:

It's in Kit Carson park, with these perky white tents set up around the perimeter. Off to one side they have shearing demonstrations and a few different kinds of fiber animals to see and pet. This one (churro?) sheep was especially sociable

And who could resist a pair of baby angora goats? Very snuggly and friendly, and they even seemed to like being petted, since they'd come over if you put your hand in the enclosure.

I spent several hours there on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, slowly meandering through the vendors' tents, coming back to the Ravelry tent to hang out for a while, and then heading out for another lap around the festival. And here's what I brought home:

From my natural dyeing class with La Lana, I brought home six skeins of a wool/tussah silk blend (we also dyed straight wool, but I don't have much need for that here in Arizona) and some samples of dyed fibers.

Apparently, it was the rusty, autumnal colors that were speaking to me. I bought 3 skeins of handspun kota-dyed yarn from La Lana, a few ounces of solar-dyed mohair locks from Kai Ranch, and a skein of mohair/wool yarn.

And I also gravitated towards natural colors as well: super soft Cormo yarn in white and gray from Elsa Cormo and laceweight colorgrown organic cotton from Skaska.

All in all, it was a very full weekend! I met so many wonderful people from Ravelry (sorry I couldn't mention you all!), so maybe next year I won't have to go on my own :)

Friday, October 02, 2009

natural dyeing workshop

I'm sitting in a little cafe in Taos, mind reeling after an incredible, intensive, two-day natural dyeing workshop. The class was taught in the La Lana Wools dye studio by Luisa Gelenter and Maryalice Garrigan. These women are amazing alchemists, and I feel so damn lucky to have had these days soaking up their knowledge and spirit.

The Dye Studio

Simmering pot of snakeweed dye

Spoons and sample cards, hung on the wall

Indigo greens and blues

This workshop focused on local and native dye plants -- chamisa, snakeweed, mullein, indian paintbrush, kota, marigold, peach leaves, walnut -- although we did sneak in a little indigo for overdyeing. For me, as a transplant to the Southwest, learning about these dye plants is part of what gives me a sense of place.

And it was tremendously eye-opening for me to get a sense of what a production dye studio looks like and how resource intensive it really is! So, although this class re-ignited my passion for diving into natural dyeing again, it also made me feel like I should just keep it on a personal hobby level. It's interesting for me to watch how those feelings are shifting.

I can't say enough good things about how much I learned and how much joy I took out of this workshop. But do you know what the best thing was about it? Having two days with such a fantastic and inspiring group of women, from different ages and places, but all drawn together by a love of fiber and color.