Monday, March 31, 2008

Second Sock Syndrome

...or this is how I overcame Second Sock Syndrome. Have two sets of matching needles: start the second sock right after finishing most of the cuff of sock #1. This helps me tremendously since I often have too many other projects going at the same time, and it is easy to lose (or rather, fail to take along) the instructions if doing a new-to-me sock (like the time I finished a picayune rib at Christmastime and I was in Minnesota, not Michigan. The book with the Vickel braid, which was the next detail, was at home.)

These are coming along pretty quickly, given that I started them on Easter Sunday. Both cuffs are now done, and the rest is mindless rib 'til I get to the heel, and this pattern is firmly ensconced in my mind. It has become a take-a-long, or something to knit whilst watching tv.


Since the weekend has passed I have made significant progress on the 'It's spring Alice!' warp, and begun sampling. I have put 9 yards of warp on the loom with plans to be able to use at least 1 yard for sampling. Yesterday I tried several of the wefts that I had planned, cut it off, wet-finished my piece and looked, evaluated, and looked some more. I asked DH for his critique. I phoned Mary U and asked for hers. We looked at the sample piece in different lights, close-up and at a distance, hanging and flat. I think in the end we all agreed on the same one for the proposed jacket (I badly need something that says 'Spring' and yet is still warm enough when Spring is slow to come).

However, Mary and I also thought that the bit with a black cotton warp was also interesting and potentially stunning as a fabric. I had only used the black to even up the warp bundles that were tied on, and to help me see if there were any threading mistakes. Ah, happenstance! The black weft has the potential to become a shawl with a different sett, and we thought that it would kick it up a notch to have a beautiful, heavier weft accent throughout.

So! as soon as I have put the linen warp on Little Alice (the Macomber) I will try more samples. I'm going to use a very nice black wool that was in the stash (from your stash, Alice, and I will try a dark green wool, too.) Before I do that, though, there are a couple of areas that need to have the warp threads mixed up a bit more, and now is the time to fix that. This fabric measures 24 inches wide after shrinkage, and there would be only one way to lay pattern pieces out, so I don't need any stray stripe-y looking areas lurking there. Here is the full sample piece...with a photo of the Chanel jacket that was the inspiration.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Too Pretty To Complain

Hammamelis vernalis (Spring Witchhazel)

Late yesterday brought us a change from a cold Spring rain to a mix of rain and snow, and to many lovely scenes this morning. It is, indeed, too pretty to complain, and I know it will soon warm and melt away, and once again the Snowdrops will be revealed.

28 March

If you see this young woman today, wish her a Happy Birthday! More than likely, she will not be at this corner. When she and her dear husband had traveled to Virginia last summer, and I discovered on a map where she was, I told her she was too close to this point to not visit it—then she could say she had been there! Julie and I (of course, all my siblings and double cousins!) are direct-line descendents of Col. John Catlett, who came to Virginia in the 1650's. A few years ago Patrick, a long-time friend who is now working in Virginia, sent me a photo of this intersection and suggested that I come to visit before it is all gone...developed...lost.

Happy Birthday, Julie! and now you can see that the "top secret project" for the past month has been posted under 25 March.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jumping for Joy!

Yippeeee! Alice! I can finally start the colorful, happy sox that I promised myself, oh, about a month ago, to create for my cousin. I finished up the top secret project early Sunday morning, so Sunday afternoon I was able to cast on the R. S. Fair Isle sox. They got the royal treatment with a two color braid at the top, and the top 5 inches or so of the cuff will be a Fair Isle pattern from the sleeves of an Annabelle Fox sweater I knitted a few years ago. It was such fun that I tried it on a pair of sox that eventually Courtney received for her birthday one year.

It is hard to put down because I love to see the colors coming together. Here is the pattern and how I set up the yarns:

Monday, I was a little under-the-weather, but I could sit and knit, so I made a bit of progress. The silky knit is the base, background color, and below the cuff of his trousers, all should look conservative and staid. (Though I am thinking about putting hearts on the soles...should I?)

...and, oh. Whose knitting chair is this anyway?

Birthday Sox!

Whew, Alice! I finished just before my drop dead date! Sunday morning at 4:30 I was wont for sleep, and I knew if I got up and knitted for a bit that before long I would have to go back to bed. I did it! Finished up sock no. 2, so that they were ready for washing and blocking on Easter Sunday (Julie will be pleased that they have the Lord's Prayer knitted into many, many of the stitches).

These started more than a year ago when Julie sent to me a couple of black fleeces from the shearing floor where they helped with shearing in Nebraska. I went through the bags and...well, much of it became compost. I sent her a lovely thank-you note and a sample of the Shetland I had been, too, was filled with vegetable matter, but, darn! a much nicer worth spinning! Not long after, a package showed up again at the doorstep and lo! this is what it held (photographed after washing)!
This beautiful fleece came from friends of hers, Cory's Lincoln Longwools in Montana, and honestly, it was so beautiful, glossy, and loopy, that it made me think it was an angora fleece (mohair)! The finally-(and yes, finely) spun yarn acts in much the same way as mohair. There is no stretch, it has a halo, and the strong, long fiber length will definitely hold up well as sox. After much rumination, I decided that sox were one of the best uses for it. That, or a nice pair of outer mittens, a hat that has a soft yarn lining band at the forehead, or woven into a scrumptious coat fabric. There is MORE! I used only approx. 300 yards on sz. US#2 needles.

The Fourniers' book, In Sheep's Clothing, a Handspinner's Guide to Wool says about Lincoln wool: "Commercial uses are upholstery and wig making. Its luster and relatively soft handle for a strong wool make it very desirable for blending with mohair to create a yarn with less than 100 percent mohair but with the same or similar characteristics."

The pattern is Vining Lace from the Socks-Socks-Socks book from XRX Books. A lace knitter I am not. This yarn begged to be lace, however, in that I had spun it so fine I would have had to create a pair of sox on sz.#0 needles, and I knew they wouldn't be completed until 2009 were that the case. Ah, lace! says I.

I am happy to be moving on to the happy, colorful sox planned for my dear cousin! Usually by the time I finish knitting a pair of socks that have a lacey pattern, I am finally familiar enough that I think I could do another pair. That is not happening for some time now. ;)

Stewart popped them in the post for me yesterday. Now we shall see if they arrive in South Dakota by the 28th day of March!

Hope you are hanging in there!
Your Chick

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Hi Alice!

About a week ago I was able to pick up my weaving/hanging after the Power Center Show where the AAFG selects several works to hang in the lobby of the Power Center for the month of February every year. I don't know that this is 'art', but I sure had fun playing and weaving! I had been itching to do something with Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) ever since I came back from our visit to Sweden in 2004, when we had the opportunity to visit Säterglantan. I watched intently as a woman who was in the weaving class sat stripping the leaves from the straw that she was planning to weave with. In the school's shop there were mats constructed with birch branches. What an inspiring visit!

Back to Michigan. Here is a detail showing the snails that were collected along the shore at Lake Ann. All scrubbed and with a small hole drilled into the spiral in order to attach it in the fringe.

What I found most interesting was that the stems of the Big Bluestem are not hollow at all, and therefore, I think they would hold up really well as a mat at the door. We shall see as I find more time to experiment more with this beautiful, Tall Prairie grass.

For now, though, I am focused on getting the "It's Spring Alice!" warp on the loom...I hope to be weaving yardage by this weekend. And after that, I need to dress the little Macomber with linen for Jason Collingwood's workshop the first weekend of April.

For now, I hope you are getting out as the days warm to get a bit of sunshine. Be well! Nancy

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Harbingers Returning

Dear Alice,

Yesterday at lunchtime I was outside bidding my two sons goodbye on their drive to NYC when, once again, I heard that odd call. This time I looked up quickly and saw seven of these beauties, the Sandhill Cranes, in flight headed west! What a sight! The tulips on the south side of the house are up, and today I was able to lift the gardeners' quilt to check on the lettuce planted last Fall. It is still there, protected from the deer, and ready to have a head start (especially considering that on the north side of the quilt there is still a fair amount of snow-turned-to-ice.) The Robins can be heard singing their hearts out early in the morning, too. Lovely.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Quick Temperature Gauge

Dear Alice,

It has been much too cold for March mornings, methinks, and to avoid going out to check the thermometer on the patio, a quick look out the window will tell if we need to bundle up. The Rhododendron's leaves will be curled tight, drooping, and very, very dark if it is in the 20's or lower.

I am waiting for mornings when our friend Rhodie looks more like this (taken when the temperature actually reached the low 40's yesterday!)

So, there you have it! I think you have a Rhododendron in your garden—do you not?

More Signs

Dear Alice,

At lunchtime today when I walked out to the mailbox, I heard a Sandhill Crane overhead! That has got to be a good sign that Spring is really going to come this year. They gather by the thousands at Phyllis Haehnle Preserve near Jackson every autumn as they wend their way southward. I missed seeing him/her/them since I didn't look up fast enough. I only thought "what is that weird bird call...Oh! yes!" and then it/they were gone. The Haehnle website has an interest fact page all about the cranes.

It has already been a week since I last posted. I have felt pulled in too many directions, and really haven't accomplished anything (much). However, I did finish spinning and plying the Moody Blues yarn that is for my cousin's colorful sox. Isn't it the best?
Contrast that (yes, a little color lesson on complementaries!) with the Clivia that has been blooming it's heart out! I have several plants that I split from the mother three years ago, so we get a blast of this beauty when we walk through the sunroom, and another snippet of color when we are in the dining room. The one in the dining room is starting to send up another stalk of blossoms (and is promised to my friend Ginny for her new sunroom when she has recovered a little more).

Much to do...I am still working on the Top Secret project, I have things to finish up before Sunday when the Fiberarts Guild has a jurying session for the upcoming Fiber Feast in April. Saturday is the Dexter Pioneer Arts Fair, and I promised to help by demonstrating at Mary U's booth (if I can get there before the end of the day, since I am also scheduled to do my civic duty that day as well, as a Board of Review member).

I hope you are doing well. Thinking of you daily,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

There is Hope

Hi Alice,
There is hope that Spring will truly come. This is enough to pick one's spirits up significantly! Hamamelis vernalis...cut from the back garden on Sunday afternoon, late. By dinnertime with all the children, the little buds had expanded significantly. Today, sitting in the south-facing window it was especially fragrant. I love how the fragile, little strap-like petals can put out such a delightful perfume, and many folks will never ever see them. Delightful!

I visited with Charles at Forma this afternoon and bought another cone of 'Seabreeze' rayon. So! must rush off to finish the last 75 threads.

Thinking of you,

Monday, March 3, 2008

Poll Results

Dear Alice,
It appears that everyone is tired of the monochromatic days at the end of winter and happy, colorful sox are badly all of us! There was only one vote for regular, plain socks. (Have you ever wondered about me using "sox" and socks" interchangeably? I once saw "sox" written and thought "Bah! That's silly! Everyone knows that socks is spelled s-o-c-k-s and some retailer has bungled the spelling!" I was wrong. 'Tis actually in the dictionary, s-o-x, that is.)

So! Happy, Colorful socks it is!

Mary U voted with roving. She brought the most beautiful mixed blue wool roving on Saturday to spin up a yarn for the sox. It has been fun to spin because it is such a beautiful, beautiful blend! Liz (from whom Mary got it) called it 'Moody Blues'; it would be great with denim!

Typing is slow. I am minus one finger for this today, and it will be better soon.

On the weaving front, I have 75 more threads to measure out, but cannot go forward until I get more yarn from Forma. The seafoam rayon ran out...which I rather expected since I used it so many times in the thread order. The first 300 threads:

We had a tremendous melt today, but never fear, there was more snow falling as I drove home tonight from a meeting. ...and another winter storm warning for tomorrow night!

I have only about 8400 more stitches on the top secret knitting project to finish and I will be done early!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

1 March

In like a lion

Ah, March, March, March...
She flirts with April, then,
rushes back into February's
tumultuous arms, until
the celestial, maternal sage
can convince her fickle heart

—Charles William Lowell