As some of you are aware, my son Beta got married in August. I had 15 months' notice of the wedding, so there was ample time to knit a fabulous shawl for the bride, Kay. Kay chose the pattern, Evenstar by Susan Pandorf. As the wedding was to take place in either Maryland (the bride's homestate) or North Carolina (where my son and now the newlyweds live) in August, it needed to not be too heavy or warm.
I cast on in July 2013 using a cobweb merino/cashmere/silk blend. Intermittently, I would bring out the project and work on it, knowing I had two weeks' of vacation in January in which I planned to do most of the knitting. At the end of week 1 of vacation, I had approximately 50% of the shawl completed, and discovered this:
I was distraught. I stared at it for perhaps 30 minutes searching to see whether I would be able to fix it. I decided to sleep on it overnight. The next morning, I examined it again, and decided no fix would be perfect enough to suit me for the wedding. And so, I frogged the shawl. And cast on again. At the end of week 2 of vacation knitting, I was almost to the exact same point in the knitting. Cobweb yarn is frustrating for me to knit - it simply doesn't have enough weight to it to hang down well, making digging into those tiny little stitches easier. So, I began using a large skein of contrasting yarn as a tensioning device inside the project (being a circular shawl, it made a "bucket" inside the needle).
About this time, I went to a LYS, Heavenly Socks Yarns, Belfast, Maine to find yarn for a shawlette I designed for the bridesmaid and one I designed for the mother of the bride. The wonderful Helen showed me a shawl given to her by a very prolific and excellent lace knitter that was knit from a bamboo laceweight yarn, Xie (Southwest Trading Co.). She had be try the shawl on to feel and see the wonderful drape of the bamboo in lace. I'm looking down on my arm, admiring the lace and felt I recognized the shawl pattern. I asked what it was, only to discover that the shawl was the very same one I was knitting for the wedding! And I like it far better in the bamboo than in the cobweb weight yarn I was using.
To make a long story short, I had Helen order the yarn for me, and went home to put the project on a lifeline for indefinite, if not permament, storage. And so, I cast on the shawl for the third time. In June, I took another week of vacation and stayed at a wonderful inn Inn on the Harbor for a week. The windjammers could be seen from the picture window in my room, there was a great deck right on the water for knitting, endless pots of tea, and great restaurants within walking distance. My vehicle never moved all week!
And in the inn, I knit. And knit. And knit. And then I started beading the border. And the wedding shawl was finally born for Kay & Dan's wedding. The shawl was draped around both of them at one point in the ceremony, then just around Kay.
They were married August 16 on my son's aunt's horse farm, complete with horse drawn wedding carriage, traditional Philippino food and pineapple fiber wedding dress and barongs on the wedding party. The food was prepared by the bride's family and a farm boar who escaped his pen during the wedding ceremony to trot around the guest and be herded back to his pen using a Gator (think ATV utility vehicle) and a GSD...
A couple of years ago, one of my fiber buddies, Kristen Judkins (owner of Gilead Fiber Farm)
held a dyeing workshop for her friends. It was at her farm, and was a sort of trial teaching dyeing workshop.
At that workshop, we used acid dyes (think Jacquard dyes or Cushing dyes), natural dye plants on Kristen's farm of jewe weed, tansy, Queen Anne's lace - you get the picture, mushroom dyes courtesy of Lisa (Knitnzu) and had a indigo vat going. I originally had thought I would not be intersted in the natural dye plants, as yellows, oranges and browns are REALLY not good colors for me. Then I discovered indigo overdyeing on those yellows and got lovely greens I fell in love with.
I came home from that workshop and went hunting dye plants in my friends' yards. I made dye stock and saved it in canning jars. I bought a dye pot, soaking tubs, and a few dedicated tools for dyeing (to keep the dyes from contaminating our food).
This year, we did another dye weekend in Vermont at Gilead. We used acid dyes and indigo again. We were fewer in number, and left out the steamed Saran wrapped packages of handpaints. We played more with color mixing I think this time, and each of us was more prolific. We had the use of a turkey fryer rig to heat a large dye kettle, as well as my Coleman two burner camping stove. In the intervening time, I think each of us has gathered a pot or two, a crockpot or two, and some icing spatulas and/or silicone covered tongs for handling the hot wool from the pots. I think we are starting to get the idea of measuring the dye more closely to the weight of the wool, and getting creative to use up the tails of dyepots - saves on dyes, and minimizes environemental contamination with the dyes. I found some lobster trap locking rings (fish eyes)
that are fabulous for holding a hank of wool. We've all collected wooden clothes drying racks and camping umbrella drying racks for hanging the wool to dry. And at a lobsterman's shop, we found flexible pails that work great for soaking wool and rinsing it.
I came home from the weekend this year, and decided to work on being able to identify and collect dye plants to do some experiments. I asked Lisa (Knitnzu) to educate me (she has a botany degree) and so we ventured out yesterday....
We found dock, staghorn sumac, burdock, tansy, horses' tail, chickory, and others. Lisa & I are boiling down the vegetation and making dye stock for future use... the mordants for natural dyestuffs create gorgeous colors, but are environmentally quite toxic. One must take care to exhaust the mordant and not discard it. These minerals include tin, alum, iron, copper, chrome....
So, having tech savvy kids, and a computer science major son, I am pretty well set for tech knowledge. My computer science son is my personal IT guy - whatever issue I have (Mac or PC, personal computer or work), he is my go-to-guy. I am a MAC fan. I am on at least my third generation of iPhone (although all four of my kids are now Droid fans).
Last year, I bought the Knit Companion app (iPhone and iPad compatable). While I am a fan of making copies of my patterns, keeping my notes and repeats in the margins, it was attractive to me to be able to enlarge charts and print, use row highlighters, row counters, repeat counters, etc in a format that is not prone to being lost, chewed by darling GSD puppies, or damaged from tea drippings.
And as of tonight, I can also attest to the awesome customer support from Knit Companion. I hadn't used it since last year's Sock Madness. When I went to enter in the PDF for the first round of this year's Sock Madness, the app kept crashing. My contact with KC's support people met with prompt response and rapid resolution to the issue (which ended up being deleting the app & re-installing it).
And, there is a Knit Companion Ravelry group, as well as many free tutorials for using the program. There are even webinars for learning how to use it easily and proficiently.
Knitting in the technosavvy world is awesome!
So, last year I was introduced to Sock Madness. Sock Madness is an annual event, held on Ravelry. The madness starts in March, and runs through late May/early June every year. It is a seven round competition.
All the patterns are mysteries, and usually increase in complexity as the competition progresses. Before the start of the competition, a list of yarn suggestions/requirements and notioins for the patterns is released. Last year, notions included 14 buttons for one sock pattern, and 2 4" zippers for another pair of socks. Before each round, the pattern specs are released to the group (handpaint vs solid, single yarn vs multiple colors, etc) and within 48 hrs of the spec release, the mystery pattern will be released.
For the first round, there are no teams. A competitor must finish the pair of mystery socks within 14 days of the pattern release in order to continue on to the next round. Thereafter, all competitors are assigned to a team. Each round after the first, the fastest knitters to complete the pattern continue on, with fewer and fewer making it to the next round. For the final round, the faster knitter from each team is competing representing their team for the win. The teams are assigned based on level of knitting experience and relative speed of the knitter. This way, the slower and less experienced knitters are competing against each other and the blazing fast experienced knitters are competing against each other.
Last year, there were around 300 competitors. This year, over 500 signed up, from all over the world. In round one, if a competitor fails to complete the socks in the allotted two weeks, but finishes one sock (or through the heel turn if knitting TAAT), while they can't continue in the competition, they do get all the patterns for the rest of the rounds.
Last year, I made it to the fourth round I think. I got behind and disqualified on that round, as I was travelling to Ireland for a CME conference and got bumped. I learned lots of new techniques, including how to make a zipper a knittable object, and a new type of heel.
The first pattern for this year's competition was released yesterday morning. Since I know I have time, I'm not sweating these. I cast on first on double points, then frogged that and went to TAAT on two circs. I like doing my socks TAAT if at all possible, because whatever I do to one sock that way (including minor changes in gauge), happens to both socks at the same point, so they feel the same while wearing them.
In the Ravelry Sock Madness group, there is a thread for the Treehouse, where members waiting for the next round go to relax and "play" with each other (virtual playground), there is a story line in another thread that is contributed by many. There are cheerleaders and prizes and good friendships, along with knitting learning. The designers really outdo themselves to come up with something new, unique, challenging and playing field leveling for this competition, and the moderators, Julie and Zemy, are amazingly awesome!
Let the madness begin, and I hope to get one round farther than last year!
After a long hiatus from blogging, I have come to the realization that I miss the connection, details and inspiration I got from my fellow bloggers. While FB and Ravelry fill a social need, the details and excitement/inspiration I got from bloggers about yarn, patterns, projects and fiber tools was better from blogging than from social media. I thought about it over the weekend and decided to renew my blogsite and my efforts in that regard. My friends and I even noticed it at SPA that even vendors in fiber festival venues seem to lack the viral blog induced stimulation and variety we used to see.
That said, I bring you my wedding shawl saga.
My second born son, Beta (aka Dan) is getting married in mid-August to Kay. Kay taught herself to tat via YouTube and actually made herself (and completed) a bracelet from tatting. She also taught herself to crochet via YouTube and finished a crochet sampler afghan in under six weeks (yes, she FINISHED it). I taught her to knit in under 24 hrs (cast on, 3 increases, 3 decreases, stockinette, ribbing, reverse stockinette, garter and bind off). In short, she is a wonderful awesome fiber overachiever.
I asked her to select a shawl she would like me to knit on Ravelry. She selected Evenstar shawl. I cast on in late June, did the first chart and set it aside. I had two weeks of vacation in January and it was my hope to get it done at least to the border during that time. I went great guns for a week, until I noticed this:
Panic attack ensued, and I set aside the shawl for a night of rest. The following morning, I stared at it for two hours trying to see if I could fix it. Kay is so wonderful and this is a wedding shawl that will be photographed and shown off, so I feel it must be at least close to perfect. I decided I could not fix it undetectably, and so I frogged the entire shawl and started over. A week of cobweb lace knitting lost.
I restarted, and in the second week of vacation, I managed to get beyond where I discovered the mistake. Cobweb defies gravity. The stitches from the previous row pop up interfering with one’s attack of the stitch on the needle. I started inserting a ball of soft wool-silk blend inside my work to sort of tug those tiny little bastards down so I could dig into them more easily and reliably. Slow going, and with 560 stitches/row, it takes me about 30 minutes to do a round.
Today, I went to Heavenly Socks Yarns to buy more Size 0 Karbonz for Sock Madness. While there, Helen, the shop owner and I were talking (as usual) and I mentioned this shawl and that I wanted a warm weather fiber for knitting a shawlette for myself. She brought out a shawl in a plastic bag behind the counter and made me take my coat off. She put the shawl on me - a lace circular shawl knit from laceweight bamboo, complete with beaded border. Same details as the Evenstar shawl Kay selected.
The shawl had a lovely drape and feel. Superb stitch definition. I asked Helen what the pattern was, and she says simply “Evenstar.” Jaw dropped. That is Kay’s shawl. Only I love it greatly in the bamboo, and with the weight and drape of the bamboo not only does it look far better, but it would be a joy to knit instead of a slug. That dawned on me while driving home.
So, I have dropped Helen an E-mail to order the bamboo yarn for me to restart the Evenstar shawl for Kay. I discussed it with Kay, and sent her photos. She and Dan both love the new yarn better as well (though she protested me re-starting again). I am psyched!
If anyone had told me 24 hours ago I would be looking forward to happily re-starting this shawl for the third time, I would have thought them crazy. I firmly believe many things happen for a reason. The fiber spirits or my spirit guides knew better than I that my original choice of cobweb yarn was wrong for this project. Thus the dropped stitch that I felt was irretrievable. Thus the slug progress and not getting my rhythm back on the knitting, and not feeling joy in it. Now I am looking forward to the new beginning!
While there are many links and shares on Facebook that I won't remember hours later, much less days later, there was one posted before I left for Nepal that demonstrated a Russian join for yarn. It seems to make a nearly invisible and very strong join of the yarn, so I felt it was worthwhile to remember and pass along. On YouTube, there are many videos demonstrating this join, so I selected one to share here.
I hope you enjoy!
While at Fiber College of Maine this fall, one of my teachers demonstrated Portuguese knitting. In this style of knitting, as opposed to Continental or American styles, one wears a hook pinned to the left shoulder, or drapes the yarn around one's neck, right to left. The yarn is tensioned over the right middle finger, and the left thumb is used to flick the yarn over the needle to create the new stitch.
I tried this technique because of my broken left wrist, thinking it would take motion and pressure off my wrist. I do believe it did that, but more importantly in the long run, I feel my knit and purl stitches are far more even and don't "row out" using this method. I'm working on some BSJ for new baby gifts and Christmas gifts, and am enjoying doing garter as all purls instead of all knits with the Portuguese style of knitting.
Andrea Wong, who is shown in the video knitting, sells the Portuguese knitting pins on her website. I hope you have fun with this as I did!
Upcoming, I am making a trip to Nepal in October. The trip is shamanic minded people, with the intent to study with a multi-generational Nepalese shaman, Bhola N. Banstola, observe and participate in indigenous Nepalese shamanic work and see Nepal from a non-tourist point-of-view.
I am making a group E-mail list so that I can send updates about our journey to many people with a single writing. If you are interested in being included on that list, please contact me. dianna(dot)L(dot)branson(at)gmail(dot)com or Loretta Purl on FB.
The flights will take 24 hours each way, and the trip is 13 total days. I've gotten a water filtration/treatment bottle, silk sleep sack, power adaptors, travel towel, travel clothesline (braided so one sticks the item between the braid strands instead of using clothes pins), two pair of travel pants that look decent, have zippered pockets and most importantly, should dry overnight. Travel blanket already owned. Quick dry other things on the take list (heavy things that take drying time are staying home). I need a stuff sack for the cords and charging cords yet, but I can always use zip lock bags for those as well. I did upgrade my camera to a "bridge" camera - the Nikon P510 - that has an amazing zoom lens (to 1000mm equivalent but uses digital zoom rather than optical zoom). I am hoping to get some picture time in this week to familiarize myself with the camera and teach myself to do some good stuff with it.
I will see if I can download pictures onto my iPad and use that to post on the blog. If not, I will do a series when I return home.
With my broken left wrist, knitting, spinning and weaving are extremely limited for me right now. A few minutes of spinning or knitting (haven't tried weaving) causes soreness and aching for hours. Between that and the discussion with the hand orthopedist about the high probability that due to the nature of my fracture, I will have long term "significant" arthritis issues in that wrist, I am truly trying to behave and not stress it during the healing process.
I have ordered a Shetland knitting belt and the long double pointed needles it requires in hopes that the left sided support from the belt might make knitting in my recovery easier and less painful. While the belt is due to arrive this week, it isn't here yet. Schoolhouse Press used to carry them, and for probably over 25 years, I've wanted to buy one. Now that I can justify the purchase, of course Schoolhouse Press no longer carries them. I did find them through Jamieson & Smith's website.
While at Fiber College of Maine, one of my instructors, Mary Lou Eagan, demonstrated how to knit in the Portuguese fashion. Using this technique, the yarn is either looped through a hook on the left shoulder, or aroun the neck from right to left. The stitches are approached in the usual fashion, but brought up to the front, where the left thum flips the yarn around the needle and one slips the new stich back through and off the left needle. Andrea Wong has a website that sells the hooks and she has been on TV demonstrating this technique. A YouTube video of Portuguese knitting shows the technique.
I've been trying it out tonight. It truly does seem to inflict less stress on the left wrist. My tension is tighter with this style of knitting than my usual loose-ish knitting in a hybrid Continental style of my own unvention.
The photos of the knitting pins are from Andrea Wong's website.
And so, my knitting education and my intermittent intensive reading of historial and ethnic knitting techniques and tools continues.... It's always nice to be able to completely justify the purchase of some historical fiber equipment!
While camping at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground during Fiber College of Maine, Laila, Sara & I decided to take a short road trip down the road to visit Swans Island Blankets. The blankets are made from regional sheep, spun at Green Mountain Spinnery, then dyed with natural dyes and woven here in Maine.
They have scarves, stoles, baby blankets, throws, summer & winter weight blankets in many colors - stripes and checks. The dye building was made with special care to not contaminate the environment as well. The big rings the yarn hangs to dry from are the rings in lobster trap openings for $0.20 instead of $12 for the custom made ones originally used.
The venue for Fiber College of Maine is Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. Laila, Sara & I strolled around today to check things out. There is a studio with an artist in residence, dyers' garden, Beehive bunkhouse, Fairy & Toad house and fiber goats. Lawn sculpture icludes a large triangle loom, a tapestry loom and a woven reed or twig basket. The camp store sells dyed locks of fiber by the ounce. There are crocheted party dresses hanging in the garden.
Astrig, the campground owner & Fiber College organizer, indicated that she has learned to spin drafting with her left hand, hoding fiber betweem her index & third fingers. Later today, I am going to give it a try. And I'm goint to try to learn how to crochet with a clearly impaired hand,,,, wush me luck!
Right now there are two Great wheels in the studio loft, one of which will be auctioned off during Fiber College. There will be a Rio Grande wheel for the Great Wheel spinning class as well. The natural dyeing instructor, Jackie Ottino Graf, is reportedly phenominal. There is a class in reading Japanese knitting patterns, bookbinding (Purple Bean Bindery), woodcarving, Navajo spindling, etc. Lots going on with Phenomenal instructors.
The first night set an unusual (we hope) tone as I tripped over a guy wire to the tent fly & broke my arm. No spinning, knitting or weaving for the foreseable future for me. We tied these glosticks to the guywires to mark them for others..
Laila met a >300 lb white rabbit last night who was wearing a pink tutu skirt...and our neighbors have a lamppost decorated with Christmas things. He is this year's "artist in residence" here at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground & does macrame & chainmail. She does mostly care & feeding of antique quilts. The artist is residence gets camping space & use of the studio here at the campground.
Astrig, the campground owner & organizer for Fiber College of Maine dropped by last night with beautiful red posies after she heard I broke my arm. She assured me it is still worthwhile attending my classes due to A) the nature of my classes and B) the nature of the teachers. It's all good!
Last year, I tent camped in Acadia National Park with two fiber buddies, Laila and NH Sara. I "met" Sara through blogging, and physically met up at Fiber Revival in 2009. At Fiber Revival, Sara told me about the Vermont Knitting Retreat. Sara & I attended that in 2010 where we met Laila. Laila moved to the USA from Sweden at the age of 14. Sara knits & weaves. Laila knits and weaves and now dyes (our dye weekend was at her daughter's place in Vermont).
The three of us met up again in 2011 at the Vermont Knitting Retreat. Both of those retreats ended with a tour of Gilead Fiber Farm owned by Laila's daughter, Kristen. We then added SPA to our meetups, sharing a room and enjoying each other's company. Then we started adding in weekend get-togethers for events such as NH Sheep & Wool and Green Mountain Fiber Festival in White River Junction, VT or simply gathering at Laila's house for a weekend of being fiber junkies and friends.
Last August we got together and tent camped for a week, using the now-becoming-infamous three room Sam's Club find tent I own. While I'm not certain that Laila and Sara were really hyped about the idea of spending a week in a tent camping, they were good sports & it all turned out well. We have a fiber-shanty-away-from-home to use for events like the VT dye weekend, and our now annual week of tent camping.
Last year was the first time I attended Fiber College of Maine despite the fact I live only 25 miles away from the campground where it is held. I took two classes from Mary Jane Mucklestone in Fair Isle and Andean colorwork, a class from Josette McWilliams of Enchanted Knoll Farm and a wood carving class where I made myself a wood spirit staff.
Enter this year's plans for our now annual camping trip, and we decided to dovetail our week of camping with Fiber College and pitch the tent at the facility hosting Fiber College, Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. We have a screen room, camp kitchen, LED Coleman quad light, 2 queen sized air mattresses (and the cigarette lighter pump to fill them), two burner camp stove and the tent. While I don't have a rain fly for the screen room, we move indoors to the "living room" of the tent during rainy times and the screen room otherwise.
I'm taking classes in A) Navajo spinning B) Introduction to Japanese patterns C) spinning on a Great Wheel and D) photography for knitters. I believe Sara is making a dragon. Laila is along for the ride (saving pennies for a trip to Australian this winter, with plans to meet David of Southern Cross Fibre. We have Krysta (Banrion on Rav) and "the other Sara" from Maine (knitmainea on Rav) joining us the last weekend, and even Lisa (knitnzu on Rav) for a day.
I'll be moving Gamma (my daughter Kille's youngest brother - the other two are "Alpha" and "Beta") and his girlfriend into their apartment Saturday morning (using the pickup I now own and the new-to-me horse trailer), then they will follow me to camp to help me set it up. Hopefully when Laila and Sara get there, it'll all be up and ready, and there will be an adult beverage and hors d'ouevres waiting...Just saying that horse trailers (power washed out) are fabulous pieces of equipment to have when moving college students in and out of places..
I'll be posting the adventures of the nomadic fiber trio as the week progresses..
Ever since returning from the Gilead Dye weekend at Gilead Fiber Farm (Etsy shop here) in Vermont last month, I seek dye plant materials every time I venture outdoors. On my own road, I've discovered burdock (roots can be used for dyeing), stinging nettles, goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace and staghorn sumac (leaves and berries). I even have a dead apple tree on my land I am considering using for a dye bath.
My friend, Sissy, has a number of acres of land, abutting to land of both her brothers and her mom. I went there (with permission of course) and gathered Queen Anne's lace, tansy, jewel week, rose hips and goldenrod to make dye baths from. Sissy has been weeding out her jewel weed, but will now save it for me & dyeing. I am hoping to even do an experiment with the more abundant materials comparing freshly gathered vs frozen vs dried materials and the results. Kristen of Gilead Fiber Farm mentioned that one can cook down the plants in a dye bath as usual, but store the hot dye bath after straining out the plant matter, in canning jars in a dark closet away from light. Then when one is ready to dye or has the fiber ready, the dye bath can be used at that time for dyeing. She has had success storing the dye materials in that form. Some dyebaths she has had success with even after two years of such storage.
So, I splurged and bought myself a huge stainless steel pot for cooking dye materials, a big metal strainer, a large funnel (in the auto department at Wal-Mart), and canning jars in various sizes to use for dyeing. I was too over-eager to wait for a large stainless steel dye suitable pot to show up at Goodwill or Salvation Army (although I did go looking, but got too impatient). I am hoping to get these materials cooked, frozen or dried before I leave for my second annual camping/fiber week with fiber buddies Laila and NH Sara next week. Last year, we stayed in Acadia in my three room tent (a Sam's Club special a number of years ago - suitable only for car camping but perfect for this purpose) in early August. This year, we are dovetailing into Fiber College of Maine in Searsport, ME at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. Still in the three room tent, which also made its appearance at the dye weekend in Vermont, we have the original three of us fiber nuts plus Laila's dog, Lily (a Yorkie) plus on the Fiber College weekend, we will have Krysta and the other Sara (Maine) joining us. I have a camp kitchen (to keep all the cooking stuff off the picnic table), a screen room (but no rain protection other than the roof there), and the tent. We have queen sized air mattresses (& a cigarette lighter adaptor pump), camp chairs, nesting cookware, an LED quad light from Coleman, and an outdoor extension cord (who can camp without cell phone chargers, laptops and a Kuerig?).... come by and chat or have a cuppa if you are there - we have an ocean view campsite and you can't miss the big red Tundra parked there!
Last year, Laila was warping her rigid heddle loom using her sideview mirror as a warping peg. Sara knit on socks we never thought would get done, but did. Laila worked on her socks that were knit one inside the other (but she hasn't finished them, he he he), and I worked on my Color-On-Color scarf that has been in progress for far too many years. I am finished now with the scarf but for a ton of iCord embellishments, so perhaps this year will see that project finally finished. If it does get completed, I am rewarding myself with a black winter jacket of some sort to show off the scarf!