Friday, May 27, 2005

La Bella e la Bestia

Beauty …

It is true knitting has been scarce lately, but I have some progress to show for the pretty silk ribbon yarn.

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It is difficult to show sweater-in-progress when they are made in one piece, since they are all bunched up on the needles and holders. This one goes side to side, and I am a bit over 60% done.

Bello questo nastro, vero? Let’s call this ribbon Bella. Bella has an annoying habit: endless twisting and coiling on herself.

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I need to keep the working ball in a small Ziploc type bag, with only a little section open, and tug it out little by little and every few stitches, let it dangle to uncoil. Not conducive to quick knitting.

and the Beast …

A very beastly beast, a raw Jacob fleece, landed on my doorstep yesterday. Warning for Melanie: hold your nose!

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One piece of this is actually the cat, rolling on her back, ecstatic at the new sensory experience.
And here is a close-up, to see all the colors.

I have no idea how to deal with this beast.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The secret life of a half-baked spinner

For months people have asked me: how is the spinning going? And I would not know how to respond, the progress was so slow, if any, the learning curve so steep, the terminology obscure, and at every step it looked like I was missing the right tool: carders, combs, diz, lazy Kates, what-have-you.

I mean, compared to knitting, the whole business seemed so much more complicated, time consuming, abstruse. Of course, it took me many years to reach my level of competence and confidence in knitting, but somehow, I was expecting to master spinning in a couple of weeks. And when that did not happen, well, I just turned back to knitting.

But of course, the wheel was there, and tales of spinning and photos of fabulous handspun yarns were all over. And I made more spinning friends who started sharing their wisdom and held my hand, lent me tools and arrived with bags of fiber for me to try.

Michelle, who never does things in half, arrived two weeks ago with a bag of raw Shetland fleece and a bag of unnamed washed fleece, with the intention of showing how to wash and comb fleece. But we got distracted by the posse of children roaming the house, so nothing got done.

The Shetland fleece, however, did not give up on me, and last week made me set aside everything else, wash it in the sink, dry it and to comb it. I wish I had documented this part, but was too excited. After a few false starts, combing was blissful; once i gave up on the idea of actually wanting to be done with it, so I could spin, it turned into one of the most relaxing activities ever: totally pure, seemingly endless process.

Eventually all the combing yielded these soft fluffy rovings (is this the right term?)

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Which filled this bobbin

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The single was wound onto my faithful swift

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Then relaxed in hot water, and made into this little skein (fluffy waste fiber on left hand side).

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Approx 250 yards of lace-weight Shetland yarn. I can’t explain how happy this makes me, and how proud I am of the whole thing. It’s not the first yarn I spun, but it’s the first from raw fleece. And I just love it. Every single little fiber of it. Here’s a close-up. I want to knit it into something very special.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A big shout to....

The Bookish Girl for hosting a fabulous party at her home last weekend.
It was great to meet many new people and some old friends. Actually, they all felt like old friends, thanks to the knitting blogs’ phenomenon!

I just love this: entering, with my usual 1 ½ hour delay, a room full of people of which I have met maybe a third in real life, and only three of them more than once, and being greeted like the prodigal son. Just LOVE it.
As for tasting yarn, I was too busy tasting the food and playing with the cat (before everyone else got to him!). And then I got myself entangled in the skein of lace yarn I brought, finally succeeding in making it into a ball it with the help of Futureman, and proceeded spending the rest of my precious little time knitting about 5 rows. After that, it was time for me to leave for another adventure in Greater Boston traffic.

I was so scattered that I forgot the camera, but even if I had it, I’d have certainly forgotten to use it. For photos and much better accounts of the ‘Taste of Yarn’ party, go see Wendy, Elisa, Melanie, Maryse, Colleen, Kellee and Kris.

Thanks Wendy! When is the next one?... just kidding!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Where did the knitting go?

First, allow me to thank you all for the encouragement last weekend, when I was bogged down in papers. I am sorry for spoiling Julia’s party, but she, and you, were very gracious and really helped me along.

Now, I fully intended to use the current two-week break between spring and summer sessions by cramming in as much knitting time as possible. However, work is relentless. And weeks of neglected laundry, ironing and other housework had to be addressed, albeit minimally.

And then there is spinning. Inspired by the recent workshop I went to, and a guild meeting, and some new fiber to play with (thanks Michelle!), I found myself leaving my knitting projects aside in favor of spinning.

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This is some slippery Merino I am spinning to make a shawl for my mother, who is recovering from surgery. The color is perfect for her: she is a true Leo-ness, with a birthday at the end of July. Hopefully that will give me enough time to spin and knit a Kiri.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Thank you Melanie, for tagging me! Sorry it took me a few days to get going.

1. Total number of books in your house:
By a quick estimate, there are probably over a thousand books in our house. Most of it fiction, then children book, then knitting and photography, and various other bits and pieces. And there are probably a couple more boxes of books somewhere.We cull a few every once in a while, but I find it difficult to part with books. And my husband is worse than me. I also have a lot of books still at my mother’s house in Italy.

2. The last book you bought was:
My last shipment from Amazon was all reference books:
Folk Socks: The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear by Nancy Bush
Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs: Small Doses for Small Animals by Donald Hamilton,
Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

But the books I really read, i.e. fiction, are generally donated to me by my husband. The last two were a Mother’s Day gift: The Benefactor, by Susan Sontag and Reading Lolita in Teheran, by Azar Nafisi. I have not touched them yet. There is a big pile of new books on my bedside table right now…

3. What was the last book you read before reading this:
I am reading The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag, and I am on the last few pages.
Probably the last book I read completely before this was Regarding the pain of others also by Susan Sontag.

And now I feel an explanation is needed: I took and English Composition class this spring and unwisely chose to do my final research paper on On Photography by guess who? Yes, Susan Sontag. I complained at length to anybody who would listen about the book, and probably said at some point that it made me curious to see what her fiction was like. Which is why my husband got me a number of her books. As for “Regarding the pain of others”, that was still research.

4. Write down 5 books that you often read or that mean a lot to you:
This is an impossible question to answer.
I do not often reread, but the following 5 titles I loved unconditionally. And if you ask me next week, it will be different:

The Bone People by Keri Hulme
Life is elsewhere by Milan Kundera
Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
The Time Traveler’s wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Eat me by Linda Jaivin
The good fairies of New York by Martin Millar
The 27th Kingdom by Alice Thomas Ellis

Hey, how did 7 titles sneak up there?

And now I am annoyed: we lent ‘The good fairies of New York’ to who knows who, and now, by checking the details on Amazon, I’ve discovered it’s like a rare and expensive book! I am very liberal about lending books, but I am beginning to realize that many people are very careless about returning them. I’ve lost a few in the last few years. And that bugs me!

I still want to be able lend books; I think it’s one of the great pleasures of reading to pass on a book that you have enjoyed. And I have always thought that people that were jealous of their books were just too stingy and uptight. Do I really have to rethink about this? Why can’t people just be a bit more considerate?

Time to go and track back my Rowan No. 8, that has been on loan for next to two years (to a nun though; you’d think you could trust them, right?)

5. Who do you tag? Maryse

Saturday, May 07, 2005

End of Term frenzy

This is what I am doing today, while some are celebrating birthdays, others are going to family reunions, and others still are lounging around. Not to mention of course, the scores of knitters in Maryland.

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Not bitter, but certainly not exhilarated either.

My final paper for my English class was due last Thursday, but the grace period extends until this Tuesday. It’s a research paper on this book, and it’s driving me demented.

Anyway, I did work hard all day and I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Halleluja!

Knitting? Nope, not around here. Maybe next week.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


That’s how I felt at the workshop I attended Saturday by Boston Area Spinners and Dyer, BASD.
The workshop was conducted by Kathryn Alexander, on how to use energized singles in your knitting. It was fantastic! I loved it!

I was probably the least experienced spinner in the group, and was really worried that the workshop would be way above my head. But she was so nice and encouraging; she explained everything and helped everybody. She even asked to try my wheel, because she had never seen one like it (an Emma exclusive, you know) and said lots of nice things about it.

Kathryn is as wild and entertaining as her knitting and spinning, very interesting and enthusiastic. I loved all the thought and research and experimentation she has put in her spinning and knitting, and how she shared it all. I loved the idea of making a ‘surface’ with knitting, by using the energy trapped in the unbalanced singles. And while the principles are simple, they need a thoughtful spinner/knitter to be used effectively. They also need a spinner that can spin much more evenly than me at the moment, but now I feel energized to practice more and achieve an acceptable degree of evenness.

So here are the samples we did:
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On top is the sample she made us spin to see if we could spin evenly enough to make a balanced single (mine was not quite there yet, but a larger whorl helped a lot); then we had to spin one single S and one Z and combine them in various patterns, to make different surfaces. Here being a beginner spinner helped, because I had no trouble reversing direction of spinning, since I have no ingrained habits as to how I spin. And being a fairly experienced knitter also helped, because I could easily understand what direction to wrap the singles to use their energy in the right way.

Can you believe these surfaces are all just stocking stitch? And the grey/white one is a 4*4 rib?
I particularly like the herring-bone one; would it not make a great border for a hat or cuff for a mitten or sock?

So, I was sorry to have missed all the excitement at the Harlot and post-Harlot parties, but my Saturday was great!

Oh, and Kathryn has a wonderful sense of humor!

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"You know, Margaret, a lot of people who can knit don't."

This was on the packages with the sample fiber and handbook.