Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Part I – NYS Sheep and Wool Festival – RHINEBECK!!!

Can you say ‘overwhelming’? I’m serious; I don’t think I saw half of what was available and I know I saw a lot of stuff. We walked around for about 4 or 5 hours on Saturday (it sure felt like more the next day) and I think I ended up in the same places a few times. In fact, I know I ended up in the same place at least three times. Remember this bit from the last time I posted?

“And as I fondled the fleece – I’m a little weird here as I like the feeling of greasy fleece and I don’t mind the smell, either – she asked me if I’d like a chunk for ‘hand lotion’. I, of course, said sure and she came around and tore off a huge hunk of fleece, much more than I would have taken if she had told me to just pull off some, and gave it to me.

Mike thinks I’m nuts, but I fondled that hunk of fleece all the way back to the car and my hands just felt so soft and nice….but, I REFUSE TO LEARN TO SPIN! I keep saying that and Mike keeps telling me I sound intrigued, and maybe I am, a little…I just don’t need to be learning to spin my own yarn when there is such nice stuff out there for me to buy and there is such nice stuff in my own stash that is just waiting to be knit up into something. I know, excuses will get me nowhere, but I just don’t have the brain space for another new, expensive hobby.”

Do you especially remember the bit about refusing to learn to spin? I have completely blown it. I have been to four different wool festivals this year. There was one vendor at all of them and I always seem to find them; it’s like they call me. That vendor is Golding and they make the most gorgeous drop spindles (and other things, I’m sure, but all I saw were the drop spindles) and stands for the spindles. Their booth always seems to draw me like a magnet, because I never miss stopping there no matter what festival I am at. Well, you guessed it; Golding ( was at Rhinebeck, too, and they had so many lovely hand-carved drop spindles displayed that I just couldn’t resist. The first time we stopped, I stood admiring their pieces for ages, wondering how on earth you worked with them to make yarn. There was a woman there (she may have been one of the owners) who asked if I was interested, and since I had never actually seen anyone use a drop spindle I asked if she’d show me how they worked.

She did.

It looked easy.

It looked relaxing.

It even looked fun.

I caught Mike looking at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears (thank you, Ralphie) and I thought about what I would do with a drop spindle and (very) reluctantly walked away.

Then we went to another booth nearby and I bought 1,000 yards of a lovely medium-weight (I can never get dk and ww and stuff right, except I do know right away what lace-weight and bulky are…) rusty red wool that was so nice and soft and just looked like it would make a great vest or hat and scarf or shawl or something…. you know? And I had to have it, so I bought it and it was the whole dye lot, so I better have enough for whatever I decide to do with it. We left Building A then, and went into the midst of the sheep and the cashmere goats and all of the lovely places to buy wooly and wooly-related goodies and I bought a few little things here and there and ate some lunch and some ice cream and sat and watched people for a bit. We headed over to the buildings near the sheep barns – I was mostly lost, but I think I checked out most of the stuff for sale – and I tried on a felted hat. I loved it, but Mike made such faces that I knew I’d end up hating it because he’d just make a joke every time I wore it. It was a bright green felted bucket-style hat with a brim and had a black and white sheep felted onto it and I thought it was adorable. While I was looking at it, Mike pointed out that I don’t own one article of green winter-wear and I thought about that while I tried it on and then put it back. The style was good, but the color wasn’t right. I hate to admit it, but he was right. I’m going to look for a pattern and make my own, I think, though I only wear hats when it’s really, really cold out. ‘Hat hair’ has never looked good on me…or on anyone else, I suppose.

Then, as we wandered around looking at all kinds of things, I saw someone that I hadn’t seen in ages and we stopped to chat. While we were talking, a woman in a red beret came over and bugged me into being interviewed for her podcast. So, I showed her what I had purchased so far and answered some questions and generally felt like I was making an idiot of myself. But, I will keep checking her site to see if I show up, no matter what I looked like. I mean, if you’re going to be on the Internet, you might as well be yourself and not stress over it, right? The site is and it looks like it’s a recent addition to the online knitting community, with entries from October 2007 being the earliest. There is some good info and you can register to receive updates or subscribe to the RSS feed (Is that right? Even though I have a blog, I still don’t know what the RSS feed thingy is…) or just check the place out without becoming a member at all. Anyway, if you see an interview with a ‘voluptuous’ woman with glasses and dark hair and a tomato-soup-colored orange top with a drawstring neckline, that’s probably me. Don’t judge me too harshly; I’m really kind of shy in person, though you wouldn’t know it from reading my blog. Once I know you, I’ll tell you (almost) anything and I don’t usually cut corners, either. My friends know I ‘tell it like it is’ and they’re used to it. I think I just don’t have that something in my head that says ‘don’t just blurt that out – they might get upset!’. I’m sure I’ve offended people, but I really don’t mean to. I just don’t know when to keep my mouth shut is all…See, I can’t even stop talking when I’m writing!

So, back to the part about ‘I REFUSE TO LEARN TO SPIN!’. The second time I went back to Building A (you’ll remember that Building A is where the Golding booth was? I thought you might...), I again checked out the Golding booth, noting that the woman who showed me how the drop spindle worked seemed to notice that I had been there before, but had decided to let me figure out what I was going to do. I, again very reluctantly, walked away, and found a beautiful nine-piece felted Nativity set, which I ordered and expect to receive any day now. It was just too pretty to resist and I especially had to have it because of the Magi in the set. It came with the Three Kings, or the Magi, or the Three Wise Men, as some people call them, and a camel and I am kind of crazy, because if the Three Kings are part of it, I have to have it. I do have my reasons, nutty as they may seem to some folks. For instance, for years now, I have only sent out Christmas cards with a picture of the Three Kings on the front to my friends and family. When I was little, my Mom always took the first Christmas card she received that had a picture of the Three Kings on it and tacked it up over the inside of the front door and left it there all year until the next Christmas. I thought everyone did that and finally got old enough to notice that it seemed like hardly anyone did it. I asked Mom once why she did that and she told me that if I put the first Three Kings card I got over my front door like that, the Three Kings would make sure I had a good year. So I thought I would help my friends by sending them a card and telling them my Mom’s reasoning. I never wondered where it came from; I just knew that I would always put the first Three Kings card up in my house, no matter what others did, and I still do.

I always tell people about Mom’s tradition the first time I send them a card, and some interesting tales have come out of that. Once, someone told me she put her card up over the door and within a week or two, her husband got a promotion at work. Another time, a woman went away on vacation and met her future husband, so maybe there is something to it, after all. I do have some friends who call me to ask when I’m sending out my cards, because they want to watch for the Three Kings so they can put it right up. And my family and some of my friends now try to be the first to send me a Three Kings card; they don’t know I usually put them all up and leave them all year, just in case. I did try to find out where, if anywhere, this ‘legend’ came from. I even wrote to the Old Farmer’s Almanac and asked them if they knew anything about the Three Kings that might lead someone to put the cards up and they sent me this:

"Thanks for your question.We found this mention about the three wise men and good luck. C.M.B. are the initials of the three Wise Men named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. It is a custom in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Sweden for three boys to visit homes on the Epiphany. The initials C.M.B. are written over the doors of the homes and three crosses are drawn, also. This will bring good fortune in the new year to the people who live there."

Infer what you will; I put my cards up, though occasionally I wonder how my mother, who is Irish, ended up somehow using her own version of a Polish, Czechoslovakian, and Swedish custom. I have to say it’s getting more and more difficult to find Christmas cards with the Three Kings on them; I often check many displays in many different stores before I find something to send to folks. I suppose I’ll have to print my own when I can’t find them anywhere. [I did find a gorgeous card at Barnes & Noble on Friday night while I was on my way to check out my purchase. They really are the nicest cards I've seen in ages; I hope everyone likes them.

Now, back to ‘I REFUSE TO LEARN TO SPIN!’…The THIRD time I went back to Building A, (again, you’ll remember that Building A is where the Golding booth was? I was sure you'd remember this time...), I went right to the Golding booth and looked at all the beautiful drop spindles with so much longing that I must have sighed out loud. The same woman noticed me yet again and I think this time she just knew I was going to buy something, and she thought she’d better give me some advice before I went ahead and spent a fat chunk of change on something I might never learn to work with. First she advised me that I should start with a slightly heavier spindle than the one I was fondling, explaining that it would be easier for me to learn on a slightly heavy spindle. She showed me a very reasonably priced 1.9-ounce brass, cherry, and walnut spindle that felt like it belonged in my hand. It was so warm feeling and I just felt like it was supposed to be mine. Since I had asked her to show me how they worked before, she knew I didn’t know the first thing about using it, so she recommended a ‘Learn to Spin’ kit, which came with a smaller, less expensive spindle, some fiber and a book, “Spin It”, to learn from. We worked out the package with the lovely spindle I was holding instead of the one that came with the set, and I left the booth, blissfully and ignorantly happy, with my pockets lighter by no small amount of money. I could not wait to get home and try it out. Ignorance is bliss.

Part II – Where I find out what I really don’t know how to do

You guessed it; I got home and started reading the book. I’m told that “Spin It” by Lee Raven is actually a very good starting point, but I had a lot of trouble figuring it out. First of all, I think you have to know more than the definitions of the terms to figure out how to do something. You can explain ‘twist’ to me all night, but until I can feel it with my fingers, I’m going to have trouble with the concept. I tried and tried to figure it out and I got such chunks of spoiled fiber that I wanted to cry. Then I had an ‘AHA!’ moment. I opened up my e-mail program and checked for recent mail from my LYS and there it was; a ‘Learn to Spin with a Drop Spindle' class at the Spinning Room (! Then I had to wait for TWO WHOLE DAYS to get hold of them because they were closed on Monday and Tuesday. I drove up to the shop on Wednesday after work and went in to find out if there was room in the class and was very happy to be told that the teacher wouldn’t mind one more student. Now I had to wait until the following Tuesday for the class and I just didn’t know if I could do it. I started looking for on-line tutorials, preferably with video of some kind. That’s how I learned to knit, after all. Thank God for or I would never have figured knitting out at all. Anyway, do you think I could find anything that really told me what I needed to do to get started? Nope. I did try, but I really didn’t have the success I was looking for. Some things just have to be felt to be learned, I think.

Tuesday finally came along and after leaving work, Mike and I grabbed a bite to eat and went over to the Spinning Room for my first class. I was so excited; I felt like a little kid. There were four other women in the class and we were all eager to begin. The teacher, Darla, was so patient and explained things so well and let us look and touch and took us through everything slowly, making sure we all ‘got it’. It was great! In no time, I was actually spinning! I was spinning with pencil roving, so it was coming out ‘perfect’, but I was spinning! Then we got fiber to work with – bundles of roving – and learned to draft the fiber and how to start the thread and wind it onto the spindle. It was so cool! Mike still thinks I’m nuts, but I did my homework, which was to spin for 20 minutes (or more) every day. I had one more class this past Tuesday and I couldn’t wait to go. That night we learned to set the twist and how to ply the yarn and the spindle full of what I thought was horrible stuff turned into actual yarn! Why didn’t I know before that spinning would be so calming? I don’t think about anything but the fiber and the twist and how it all goes onto the spindle. I may not get more involved with this part of working with fiber than spinning with a drop spindle, but it’s a very portable thing and I don’t have to leave it home and I can do it pretty much anywhere I go. It makes me happy; need I say more?

Part III – Update on Mom’s sweater for Christmas

Last time I talked about a pattern I found on called “Sonnet”. I knit it up based on the swatch I had made for “Drive Me Nuts” (see archives for more details, if you dare), and measured twice and laid it all out perfectly on the bed to measure again while I checked the dimensions on the diagram. It all measured up right, so what could be wrong with it? I sewed on the sleeves and sewed up the sleeve seams and I sewed on the perfect buttons I found for it. And just to be safe, I tried it on because if it fits me, it’ll fit Mom.

It won’t fit Mom…

Somehow, though the measurements are correct, and it looks right, it’s become an off-the-shoulder sweater, with the top of the collar just about at nipple-level. I don’t think it would keep Mom warm. So now what? I brought the sweater over to the Spinning Room last Tuesday to see if they could offer any advice. By the way, I have one small problem; I’m out of the yarn I used, except for a small ball I was using to seam it up, so there isn’t any additional knitting I can do with that yarn. Can you see me tearing my hair out by the roots about now? Anyway, I pulled out Mom’s sweater and the lovely women at the shop saw the problem right away. We talked some and I told them that I had a thought that I might pick up the stitches around the neckline with a contrasting color and knit inward, decreasing to a better neckline, and adding a decorative edge. I could then use that same color to add a slight border to the cuffs and the bottom of the sweater to tie it all in together. They thought that might work, but the wool I used for the sweater is 25% Superwash/75% Wool, hand-dyed, and hard to match because I got it at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival in May. Of course; I don’t do anything that comes easy, apparently. I finally settled on some 100% wool in a dark raspberry that will contrast nicely with the heathery raspberry tones of the original wool and might actually work. I had the nerve to start it last weekend while I was watching a hockey game, since I was going to be sitting on my tush all night anyway. I did have some minor issues and ended up ripping back and re-starting twice, but I think I’m on the right track now.

And I figure when the sweater makes me nuts, I can always stop and get out my drop spindle and spin some more…I did that last night and it smoothed me right out. Who knew?

Part IV – Current Projects

Ok, what’s still on my needles?

1. Those damn toe-up socks; I don’t think they’ll ever be done, even though I did pick them up for a little while today for a change from all the other projects.

2. ‘Branching Out’ scarf from (closer to six feet now, so getting there…)

3. ‘Gryffindor House Scarf’ from “Charmed Knits” – so booooooooring; maybe she’ll forget she asked me to make it?

4. Lacy Prairie Shawl from ‘Folk Shawls’ by Cheryl Oberle in a lovely and soft cream-colored alpaca – this one’s about 1/3 done now, so I might actually finish it before winter is over.

5. I did make a pair of felted clogs for Mom, well, the knitting part, anyway. I still have to felt them. And I made a new sole for Mike’s felted clogs; he wears them so much, he wore right through one of them! This time I’m putting the leather soles on both pairs. These are on my radar to felt tomorrow. It’s a holiday, so I’ll be home and I figure I can get them felted and start the drying out so they might actually be ready for Mom by Christmas.

6. I also started another ‘sweater-less yoke’ (I don’t know what else to call it) for a friend who saw the one I was wearing the other day and admired it. In cubicles, there are blowers in the ceiling that you can’t control that blow cold air down on your back, and this little knitted thingy – I don’t know what to call it – is just a knitted in the round from the bottom up, decreased for the neck, ‘sweater-less yoke’ for lack of a better term. It just covers my shoulders and my upper back and keeps the drafts off of me.

I don't think that's all, but it's all I can think of for now. Looking at that list, I really have to get something finished.

Part V – Me again

Work is better; I decided to be the ‘adult’ in the group and I went in one day and just acted like all the crap that had gone down already just didn’t happen. It worked, for some reason. We are still on somewhat precarious footing, as I’m kind of unsure of what will set her off, but I’m getting through it. Now when she tries to change something, I explain why the procedure is there in the first place to make sure she understands what’s going on before she goes off changing things she doesn’t understand. It seems to be working, but keep your fingers crossed for me.

I still have my ‘down’ days, but I’m dealing with them better, I think. The doc has upped one of my meds and is sending me for a bunch of bloodwork tomorrow. With the gastric bypass, they shortened my small intestine by 210 cm, so I don't absorb nutrients like regular folks. They watch to see what I'm deficient in and how the meds are working. Right now, I'm anemic (iron-deficient), deficient on zinc, vitamins A, B-12, D, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and I can't think what else. I do know I take about a zillion pills every morning and evening, and I'm still having deficiency issues. So keep your fingers crossed that I don't acquire any new pills after tomorrow because by the time I take them all, I don't care if I eat because I'm already full.

Money is tight and I did think for a while that I wasn’t going to be able to go to Rhinebeck, or at least that I wasn’t going to be able to buy anything, but that worked itself out. On the Thursday before the festival, I stopped to get gas for the car and picked up a few scratch-off lottery tickets. Imagine my surprise when one of them was a winner – $1,000!!!! I was able to get a few things taken care of that I had been worried about and also didn’t have to worry about what I wanted to buy at the festival! I really think that’s one of the reasons I bought the Golding spindle. I wasn’t afraid to spend the money because it was ‘found’ money and not earmarked for a bill or something.

Chloe is not knitting, but I’m ok with that. Mom was making herself nuts with needles, so I bought her a Knifty Knitter set and she’s having a ball. I printed her off some patterns from the Internet, and she’s just going to town. I gave her a bunch of yarn that I had so she could make some scarves and things and she really seems to like it. I think it’s easier for her and she's having fun with it, so what the hell?

You’ve been kind enough to read my ramblings, but I think it’s time to quit for a bit. Remember, until next time, wear natural fibers; hug your cat!