Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sierra Nevada Serenity

I've been fleeing the Sun Valley for cooler, mountainous places. The first trip was a quick jaunt to the eastern Sierra. A friend and I hiked up the Meysan Lakes trail and found a sweet campsite to base ourselves out of for a few days of camping and climbing. The pinnacle of our trip: a long, intense, and glorious day of climbing up this ridge to Lone Pine Peak.

We got up there just before sunset and were treated to spectacular views of the mountain shadows, reaching from Mount Whitney down to the valley floor.

The weather was cool and lovely. Meysan Lake was still mostly frozen, even in mid July, and there were stubborn patches of snow tucked into shadowed areas along the trails. Isis was absolutely in heaven, digging and rolling in the snow. (And isn't she adorable in her new little backpack?)

I was in heaven, too. Physically exhausted from the long drive, the climbing, the beating sun, and the altitude. But spellbound by the beauty and serenity of the Sierra

with its soft, subtle sunsets and its deep, lovely sunrises.

So spellbound, in fact, that I didn't knit a single stitch!

Monday, July 25, 2011

out of focus

I flew back to Phoenix, oh, it's some weeks ago. It was a surreal move somehow. This year has flown by so fast, it was hard to keep it in focus.

Out of focus airplane window shots are my favorite, by the way

I made good progress on a new shawl during the flights. It was late, and I was too brain dead to do anything else. The rhythmic back-and-forth, back-and-forth can be so soothing.

I got back to Phoenix just after that crazy dust storm of a few weeks ago. The whole city was left hot and gritty and strange. Suitably surreal given my mindset, I suppose. And it made for some beautiful western sunsets to welcome me home ...

If you peer closely, you can just make out Isis against the silhouette of Piestewa Peak.

So much to catch up on. But summer brains move slowly ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

bit of handspun

A last wee bit of spinning to share with you from when I was still in Cambridge ...

A kind and generous friend (my brother's mother-in-law, who is also a spinner and knitter) gave me this gorgeous fleece for my birthday. It's earthy, aromatic, full of lanolin, with beautiful crimp and color variation.

As I was moving out, I would spin a bit to calm my nerves when I needed a break. I took handfuls of the fleece and combed it out with a flicker brush, keeping the fibers aligned. I then pre-drafted those handfuls of fluffy fiber.

And a-spinning I would go! I spun up one spindles-worth, then Andean plied it. This was spinning "in the grease" since I hadn't washed it yet. The fibers were sticky, but to be honest I think it made for a slower and very pleasurable (i.e. non-spindle-dropping) spinning experience.

Afterwards, I gave my yarn a bath. I heated up a pot of water, let it cool from boiling a ways, and then plunged my skein in to soak. No soap. No agitation. I was amazed at how much lanolin came off into water. So much so that that yarn lost its earthy lanolin aroma even! I think next time I might give it less of a soak.

In the end, I had a beautiful wee skein, probably about 50 yards. Lovely little reminder of those last days in my rustic Cambridge apartment.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Green Alpaca Wrap Sweater

Wow. What a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. I moved out of my apartment in Cambridge. Headed up to Vermont for the Fourth. Moved back to Arizona in the midst of a monstrous duststorm. Fled to the Sierra for a few days of restorative backpacking. There's much to reflect and catch up on .... first, a cool dose from that Vermont weekend ....

So serene and beautiful. Wish I were still there, swimming in the silky lake water and basking in the greenness.

Speaking of greenness, I finished that alpaca wrap sweater while I was there. There was no pattern (I just made it up as I went along). But you can discern the construction when it's flat like this: top-down seamless raglan with subtle waist and shoulder shaping.

The shoulder shaping is something I made up to make the top-down raglan look more tailored. After dividing the yoke into the shoulder and body sections, I start slight decreases at the shoulder crest. It's very similar to how I decrease for the waist: I add in a {ssk, k5, k2tog} at the center of the shoulder every 6 rows. It gives a little convex curve to the shoulder and upper arm and makes for a slimmer arm overall.

After knitting, I edged the entire sweater in various crochet stitches -- single crochet around the neck and front edges to keep it from rolling, double crochet at the sleeve hems, and a bold triple crochet at the bottom.

The wrap was engineered into the sweater, enabled by a small slit in one side for a waist tie to come through.

The tie just comes around the back and ties on the other side. That was my sister's clever idea, so that the front of the sweater keeps its clean look.

I'm very happy with how it came out in the end. It's eminently wearable (although, sadly, I didn't get any good pictures of me actually wearing it). And it's just my color. Matches the moss of the forest floor splendidly!

It's been a long journey with this sweater, both geographically (started in Joshua Tree, knit on trips to Arizona and Tahquitz and DC, finished in Vermont) and knittingly (my "improvisational design" had all kinds of issues and needed to be unraveled halfway at one point).

Ah, nice to be done with that. Nice to have an accomplishment. And now on to the next adventures....

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cattail Yarn

I cut an armful of Vermont cattails at the end of last summer, and they've been a centerpiece of my living room all year.

It's time to clear them out, though, as they've started to decay into wild, airy handfuls of fuzz.

In case you're wondering, yes it's possible.

But, no, you don't want to!