Creative Weekend

A nice thing happened last week.  I finished a shawl and put it in my Etsy shop.  It was raw silk, so quite warm and had great drape.  Within 25 minutes someone purchased it.  I was quite surprised and happy, of course.  Here’s the shawl.

That was a great start to a very nice weekend.

I am well through another Wingspan shawl.  Here’s a picture.

This is another Noro yarn called Silver Thaw.   I love the way this yarn is knitting up, didn’t think much of it before I wound the skein into a ball, like so many Noro yarns, it’s impossible to imagine what it really looks like in the skein.  This yarn does have shorter repeats than what I consider typical for Noro.  This shawl might be a keeper, it’s really lovely and will be easy to wear with all those colors.

We went to a play at the Mud Creek Players on Saturday evening.  The play was The Trip To Bountiful, which I wasn’t sure about, but I really enjoyed it and the audience seemed to love it.  I knew they were all in when they all gasped at the right place (it was a heartbreaking moment in the story).  The actress playing the lead role was phenomenal, and the other female lead was great too (I really did not like her character, and the actress is actually quite a nice person – that’s acting!). There are still two more performances, if you are in Indy and looking for something different for next weekend click here to find out about tickets.  They are very affordable and the play is wonderful.  Live theatre is such a unique experience, you will be talking about it for days.  I was also crazy about the sets in this play, they were quite minimalist, but just perfect.  I am always astounded by the creativity displayed by set designers in our local live theaters.

Yesterday I spend quite a lot of time messing around in the kitchen.  First I decided that all the fresh figs I bought Friday were not being eaten fast enough.  I’ve never seen fresh figs in a grocery store in Indiana before, so I bought quite a lot (6 pints) and they were just beginning to get over ripe.  I did a bit of research and then bit the bullet and made fig preserves.

Thanks to Bayou Woman for her recipe.  Here they are before cooking.

After the sugar has melted

Cooked for a while

And – the finished product

I probably cooked these a few minutes too long, they came out more like candied figs than real fig preserves, but I believe I’ll be able to choke them down anyway.

Then, I made a big pot of ratatouille, which is so perfect for this time of year.  All the needed ingredients (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers) are perfectly ripe and inexpensive.  I also used garlic, shallots, salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of herbes de provence.

I cooked it in my pressure cooker pot for a while (uncovered), then transferred to my slow cooker to continue cooking while I went to work in the reTails adoption store.

I adopted out a dog and two cats during my shift – yay – then came home to finished ratatouille, all I had to do was cut up some peaches, slice some grainy bread and sit down to eat.  Heaven!

I will concede that my daughter Cecily makes much better ratatouille than I do (from her authentic recipe acquired from her host mom in France this past summer), but hers requires messing around stirring it every  15 minutes for 3 hours and I am not often motivated to do that!  I may try a modified version of her recipe next time.

We endured a bit of drama at dusk when one of the biggest boy cats decided to take an evening stroll on top of the deck canopy.  It has some skylights now.

Niblet fell about 8 feet, landing very awkwardly on a chair right across his midsection.  I was afraid he had seriously hurt himself.  He took off running, but came in for breakfast and seems none the worse for wear today.  Cats never cease to amaze me with their athleticism and sturdiness!

My to do list for today includes ordering a new cover.

Completed Projects

I updated my Etsy shop yesterday with several finished items.  One million thanks to Cheryl, my business partner, who has become a fantastic photographer.  Her pictures just sing!

Here is a cowl I knit on Labor Day.  I really love the fall colors!  It’s a Noro 100% wool yarn.

And, a shawl I knit last winter.  The colors on this one are fabulous, too.  I call this the Vineyard Shawl.  This one was lots of fun to knit, I really enjoyed watching the color changes.  This is knit in Kureyon, one of my favorite Noro wools.

Something else I knit is this pretty shawlette, called A Perfect Day at the Beach.  I kept dreaming of the beach as I knit it, the colors made me think of one of those great beach days with blue skies, a little breeze and lots of cool water.

Here’s the Plum Tree Scarf, knit in a terrific Noro yarn that is silk, cotton and wool.  Fabulous nature inspired colors and wonderful texture are this yarn’s trademarks.

Cheryl finished some great things recently too.  I don’t know how she finds time to knit so many items!  She is the most productive knitter I know.

Here’s a cowl she just made.  This is the Royal Burgundy cowl, the yarn is so smooshy and warm, it’s 64% wool, 24% silk, 12% angora, and 100% wonderful!

And, she recently completed this completely gorgeous Leaf Scarf in another 100% wool Noro yarn.

She made another Leaf Scarf too, in a different colorway.  This one is wool and silk.  It’s also beautiful.

Here’s a vividly colored Ruffled Scarf she knit from Noro yarn.   This yarn is silk, cotton and wool.

There are a few more new items too.  I’ll feature them next time.

I’ve been spinning, here’s a picture of my latest single in progress.

I’ll have a finished yarn from this soon.  The vibrant colors are a joy to spin, and the roving (blue faced leicester) is lots of fun to work with too.

Hope to get some spinning (or rather plying) time in today.  A couple of kitties have a doctor visit this morning so stealth preparations must begin soon for the transport operation.  Really looking forward to that (not).

A Visit to the Woolkeepers

Saturday I went with some friends to the Woolkeepers 9th Annual Hook In.  They hold this rug hooking festival/shopping event in a beautiful old church camp now used as a conference center.  It’s been beautifully maintained (possibly restored) and it was a gorgeous venue.  The weather was marvelous, cool and sunny – a real change of pace from our torturous summer.

Most of the booths concentrated on primitive style rug supplies and muted colors, but there were a lot of great things to see for people like me who love bright colors.

I really loved this flower.  It reminds me of a big, flat, rather abstract sunflower.

I’d like to try making knitted roses (camellias?).

There were a lot of very complex rugs in the rug show.  This is my favorite “fun” rug.   I love the whiskers!

And my favorite “artistic” rug (I am making up these categories).

I absolutely adore the way the artist shows the locks of the sheep using swirly color.

My favorite felted item was this great little handbag.  Beautiful, bright colors – I’d carry this (if I didn’t need a small suitcase to lug around all my junk).

There were two spinners, and one was only about 20 years old.  She was spinning art yarn, it was engrossing to watch her.  I learned a lot from standing there observing for just 10 minutes!  Here’s a peek at her bobbin.

It was great to see a young artist like that!  Overcome those stereotypes of fiber artists as middle aged ladies with long gray hair – that idea of spinners, dyers, knitters and crocheters really burns me!

Vendors had some Christmas things out, and I liked these ornaments.  I did not buy a kit as I do not have the patience or skills to make it.

I loved this sign.  Seriously considered buying it, but thought my family might think I meant it (I do).

I enjoyed wandering around the area where some artists were hooking rugs, the skill and design sense on display was inspiring!

Wondering what I bought?  Nothing!  I looked through a table of vintage linens hoping to find a nice apron, or maybe a tablecloth to use as a background for shooting photos of finished yarns or knitted items.  No luck – nothing was quite right.  I did see a darling nightstand scarf that had a little black and white doggy holding a sign that said “Welcome Guest”, but as I have no guest room, that seemed a bit unnecessary.

The linens table threw me back in time to the days when I spent hours during summer vacation embroidering dresser scarves, pillow cases and dishtowels.  When I was growing up in the 60s and early 70s embroidery was taught to a lot of us girls by our mothers and grandmothers, as were knitting and crochet.  I was decent at embroidery and actually enjoyed doing it, but I refused to get into knitting or crochet.  I finally learned to knit when I was 49 and am still only a very mediocre crocheter.

My former mother in law tried to teach me to knit in the mid-80s, but she was a thrower and that just did not work for me, I just could not develop the coordination needed.  My mother finally convinced me to try again, but – she is a continental knitter and that I found I could manage.  It makes me a bit sad that I didn’t learn until I was almost 50 (all those years wasted!), but there’s nothing to be done about it…

On  our way home we stopped for lunch in the Mass Ave shopping/restaurant district.  We noticed something funny in the upstairs window of the place we ate.  Can you see it?

There is a lamp made of a leg in one of the windows.  Not for me – no body part furnishings in my house, please.  But it is funny and gets plenty of attention, I’m sure.

And no visit to the Mass Ave area of Indy would be complete without a visit to

I bought nothing here also, as I made a bit of a pig at myself at lunch.  The Chatham Tap has a massive black bean burger and I stuffed myself eating the whole thing and almost all the home made potato chips too.  It was very, very nice!  The burger was moist and flavorful, and not overly salty, which I find restaurant food often is.

I did get the old mystery spinning wheel Saturday, but no back story yet.   Waiting for a call from the owner/finder.  Hope the phone rings soon!

A Winner! And A Slight Problem

In my last post I told you about a big yarn giveaway (3 balls a month for a year) at The Making Spot (go enter!).  Well, as hard as it is to believe – I am a winner in a give away from Traditions Fiber Arts in Linden, TX.   I won a really lovely, soft, shiny 4 oz. bamboo roving in a delicate Honeydew colorway.  Thanks so much to Judy W. who had to try so hard to contact me to let me know I had won.  I adore the roving and will spin  it very soon!

Here’s a close up picture of a recently finished item.  Can you see the bit of grass still in the yarn?  That’s Noro for you.  I really enjoy seeing pieces of the field where the sheep spent all her time before shearing!  I think a lot of Noro fans agree with me.

It’s the Dolores Park Cowl knit in Noro Hitsuji.  I really love this yarn.  It’s a joy to knit with, the color changes keep things interesting and, since it’s bulky, I knit this cowl in one day.  Actually, I haven’t yet met a Noro yarn I haven’t loved.  I have my faves (Kureyon, I’m talking to you), but they are all so amazing and unique.  Did you know that Kureyon means “crayon” in Japanese.  Well named!

I mentioned a slight problem.  Last night I went to a convention watching party, and as we watched the speeches, ate heaps of fabulous guacamole, and drank ginger ale,  I knit like a fiend on this shawl.

To my horror I can see I do not have enough yarn.  These are words every knitter dreads (and it’s happened to all of us).  If you have an extra ball of Mini Mochi, colorway 101, dyelot 149, that you would be willing to sell or trade please let me know!  I called two local knitting shops with no luck, and there is no one on Ravelry who lists some of this yarn as for sale.  I could hardly sleep last night worrying about this (well, maybe it was all that ginger ale).

Off to try to eke out one more triangle from that tiny ball.   I will still be 2 triangles short of the “real” pattern.  I have a bad feeling about this…

A Death In The Family

My father in law died this morning after a short battle with prostate cancer.  Cancer sucks.  Men, get your PSA test when your doctor tells you to do so.

My husband’s family is in England, he is there with them now.  He went last week at the urging of his sisters to “come now”.  So glad he listened!  He’ll spend a few extra days there, things are a bit in flux at the moment, so not sure exactly what will happen.

My father in law, Roy, was a wonderful man.  Gentle, quiet, funny in an understated and sometimes snarky way.  Easy to talk to, a great listener and always a gentleman.  He loved my kids and me too.  I am a lucky girl to have had him so long.

We saw each other in person every couple years and thanks to Skype, were able to speak and see each other fairly frequently.  One of the positive thing about long visits to each other’s homes is the intensive contact you get when you have to stay for 10 days+ to  “make it worth going”.    I spent 3 weeks on their side of the pond  a couple of times and had many shorter trips too.  And of course, they visited here numerous times through the 24 years we had together.

The first time we met he was remarkably welcoming and accepting of me.  I was a loud American who was 5 years older than his son.  Craig’s relationship with me meant he would leave the UK and move to the US.  It shows a lot of grace and innate kindness that he and Craig’s mum were so kind and loving to me from the moment we met.  I was very nervous about it!

Through the years he and I had a lot of congenial talks as we strolled through beautiful gardens at stately homes, wandered around museums, or explored parks.  I’ll miss those excursions, they won’t be quite the same without his presence.

Today will be a strange day.  I’ll go about my usual business, (except for the  dental appointment which I’ve just canceled – don’t think I can take that today), feeding my two feral cat colonies, getting a haircut (which I need desperately), fixing dinner for the kids, and of course, knitting.  But Roy and the rest of the crew will be in my thoughts all day.

My kids have been stellar – oldest daughter, only 17, said “you should go to England Mom, us kids will stay home – I got this”.  So proud of her today.

This grief feels like an turbulent ocean, with waves smashing into me.  I catch my breath and feel calmer, then it breaks over me again.  Gonna be a long day.

For my fiber-y friends, here is my latest spinning eye candy.  Here is the early part of the bobbin.

And here is the outside

Reminds me of grapes.  Will ply it with something else, not sure what color yet.  Maybe I’ll dye something purply pink.  But not today.

Spinning Fever

For quite a while I’ve been wanting to take the plunge into spinning.  I bought a spindle and played with that for a couple of months and really enjoyed it.  Here is a picture of a pretty yarn while it was in progress that I spun on my hand spindle.   It’s finished (and sold) now.

So, I realized I really like spinning and creating yarn, but that I could never be very fast with a spindle.  In June I began looking for a wheel.  It’s quite overwhelming – there are lots of wheels around.  Did I want something traditional?  Modern?  From a big name manufacturer?  Or a new, independent maker?  Lots of decisions.

I rented a wheel for a month from my local fiber dealer, The Trading Post for Fiber Arts, and played with it.  It was a Majacraft Suzie, which is a beautiful wheel, but at $1055 list price, a bit too rich for my blood, especially for my first wheel.  Here’s a picture of a Suzie.

It’s very modern and untraditional looking!  I’m not sure that everyone would recognize this as a spinning wheel!

On vacation in Michigan I visited The Lady Peddler, where I bought an already assembled Ashford Traveller.  It wasn’t at all what I thought I’d end up with, and I’m not sure it’s my permanent long term wheel, but things are improving quickly!

It’s very traditional looking (not my thing really), and the bobbins are really much too small for my liking, but I’m getting better at using it and it will do for now.

Here’s a picture of the Traveller.  I think everyone would recognize this as a spinning wheel!

What I do like about it is that it uses kite string for the band on the wheel (easy and inexpensive to replace) and it’s very portable.  I take it out to my deck all the time – I love to work outside if the weather is at all reasonable.  Today I will take my wheel to show my wonderful business partner (and friend) Cheryl, and our great friend Carryn – we will be having a little knitting party.

The cool thing about spinning wheels is that they seem to hold their value really well.  I should be able to sell it for what I paid (or close to that) when I’m ready to move on, and someone else will get a nice wheel that is well broken in and spins beautifully.

Having lots of fun!  Here is a picture of some yarn I just finished.  It’s 100% wool, 2 ply, a gorgeous colorway I call Candy Necklace.

Book Review – Respect the Spindle

I have been bitten hard by the handspinning bug, so today I am reviewing the book Respect The Spindle by Amy Franquemont.

This is a great book for a beginner.  If you read it with a spindle and a bit of roving available, you’ll be able to try out her techniques and be spinning in no time.

There are many beautiful pictures of spindles, yarns, roving and knitted items.  It’s eye candy for an aspiring spinner!  There are also lots of photos showing the author demonstrating techniques, which is a nice way of seeing exactly what she is talking about, making this book useful for those who are more visual learners.

There is a great section on the science of  hand spindles, which is very interesting, and she points out that spinners “intuitively understand and work with mechanical engineering, advanced calculus, and rotational and fluid dynamics every time you pick up a spindle”.  Math and science can be fun!  Who knew?

The square format of the book makes it a bit different than most of my other books, which I like simply because it makes it easy for me to find in the huge stacks of books all over the house.

My only complaint is about the fact that she states she was raised in the U.S. and the Andes, I am extremely curious about how that happened.  Nothing to do with  spinning, I’m just nosy I guess.  I would have enjoyed learning a bit about that.

Here is a sample of my first yarn (started before I read this book).

It’s clearly yarn, but pretty rugged and primitive. Not what I was hoping for.

Here is a sample of my second, unfinished yarn.

Much, much better!

I think part of the improvement is just from practice, but I know that I am much better at controlling the thickness of the yarn, joining new sections, and winding the yarn on the spindle (the wound yarn is called the cop) after reading Respect The Spindle.

This is well worth purchasing for the beginning hand spinner.  I’m really glad I bought it.

Now, to go buy some more spindles!