Sunday, March 8, 2009

Are You Getting Phat?

This is probably one of the few times in life where the preferred answer to that question is a resounding "yes!" I'm not talking about putting on a few pounds (that's a whole other conversation). I'm talking about the amazing new Phat Fiber sample boxes.

I'm a little reluctant to share this secret, since there are a limited number of these boxes available each month (it's a bit like finding a store that sells cashmere at $2 a skein --- how many other people do you really want to know about that?). But, in the interest of helping a fiber-related business to grow, and just because I can't keep a bargain to myself... here you go.

Phat Fiber is a fabulous idea. It's actually hard to believe no one has thought of it before now. Jessie works with a variety of indie fiber artists to assemble a bunch of very generous samples each month and creates individual boxes on either a yarn or fiber theme. Each box is chock full of fiber samples (only in the fiber box, obviously), samples of handspun and/or hand dyed yarn, a bit of candy, a stitch marker or two, perhaps a fancy button or a shawl pin, a pattern or two, or maybe a complete back issue of a knitting magazine. All of this for just $33, including shipping!

In my February box, I had at least 6 or 7 samples of fiber (I forgot to count because I started spinning too fast!). They were all at least a quarter ounce (some more), and spun up to a skein of 20 - 30 yards. I also had a number of sample skeins of various yarns (some handspun), an indie knitting magazine, some fudge, a stick pin, a couple of stitch markers, a kit for making felted beads, a chocolate-coated spoon for my coffee, and a pattern for pasties (how did I survive until now without those!). It also comes with lots of discounts for the vendors who participated.

Once I spun everything up, I was unsure of what to do with all the mini-skeins I'd created. Finally I hit on the idea of making a ten-stitch blanket. It actually varies from 10 to 20 stitches, depending on the thickness of the yarn I'm using at the time. It does take a little adjustment of needles and numbers of stitches to accommodate the various weights of yarn, but nothing too challenging. And, since the colors in the February box were mostly Valentine-themed, it's easy to create pretty transitions from one to the other.

All of this would be much more interesting with some pictures, I know. Unfortunately, my camera is still with the police. I'm hopeful that we'll hear something this week. Slowly but surely, things are getting back to normal around here, although it's till a bit weird at times to think of a stranger going through all our personal things. Many thanks to all who posted and emailed your support. It really helped.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

You're Gonna Need a Good Imagination for a While

No pictures here for a while. You see, my home was broken into last week. They caught the guy (in my bathroom) and, we think, retrieved most of our stuff (although you know if you've ever been robbed that it's almost impossible to know what's missing until that day in the future when you look for something that isn't there). The unfortunate thing is that many of our things are now evidence (as in "locked up at police headquarters"). That includes my camera.

Since this will probably end up as a plea bargain rather than a trial (after all, it's hard to say you weren't here when they caught you in the act), we may get our things sooner rather than later. And, the police tell me that the DA will ask the defense attorney if they can return the physical items and retain pictures as evidence. I think they usually say yes. So, we're hoping we'll see our things in a few weeks rather than 6 months.... but who knows.

In the meantime, I shall try to sharpen my descriptive powers to make things a bit more fun. Who knows, I may be drawing stick figures before we're done! Stick with me, and hopefully we'll have pictures again soon.

(by the way -- I know you're out there... and you're not alone... I have the analytics, and I know that there are folks in Texas and Massachusetts and England and lots of other locales who are reading regularly, even if you're not commenting.... so please continue to hang around and I promise some great pix of FOs when the camera comes home!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lousy, Crappy, Miserable, Very Bad Day

This has been a really crappy day. Without getting into too many details here, let me just say that I hope not to spend another day like this any time soon. And as bad as it is to have bad things happen to you, it's worse when you have to see your children affected by those events as well. I suppose it could always be worse (they'll probably put that on my tombstone!) but it was fairly lousy as it went. I'm going to bed in hopes that tomorrow will be an improvement.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Praise of VM

Yes, you read that correctly. This post is about the fact that I like a little VM in my fiber.

For the non-spinners among you, VM is short for "vegetable matter" -- little bits of hay that get lodged in the coat of the sheep or goat or llama or yak or whatever fiber-bearing creature provided your spinning fiber. If you spin only commercially prepared top or roving, you may never have noticed any VM.... certainly not more than the occasional twig of hay. However, if your fiber is prepared by hand (as in by a person, rather than a machine)you are likely to find a few of these little sprigs. They usually drop out as you attenuate the fibers to spin, or they can be easily flicked out with a finger.

Poorly prepared fiber that contains a lot of VM is no fun for anyone. But an occasional piece, or a guard hair or two (if you're spinning a downy fiber) is actually kind of comforting to me. It reminds me that the fiber I'm spinning is part of a living creature somewhere.

I love the beautiful, fluffy, hand-dyed braids and clouds, too, of course. But they're sort of like buying meat in the grocery store -- all packaged in the Styrofoam trays. It's easy to forget that you have a cow to thank for that burger.

What brought this on? I've been spinning this gorgeous pygora that Pam sent me. I had forgotten how nice it is to spin something that still has a little bit of lock structure, where you have to tease the fibers apart, and to see those occasional bits of the barnyard. So, my thanks to the little goats that provided this fiber, and to the talented folks who dyed and prepared it. I hope I do you both proud with my spinning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are You Italian?

A slight deviation from the fiber path today, in order to pass along a wonderful link.

Despite the fact that I look like I just got off the boat from County Cork, Ireland, I am actually Italian. Ok, half Italian, but more Italian than anything else. My mom grew up in an Italian family in Jersey City, NJ, and that was definitely the culture I grew up with.

If that's your culture, too (or if you're just interested in a sweet little film), take a look at this movie.

My favorite memory in the movie is the discussion of "macaroni and gravy" for dinner. (that's "pasta and sauce" to the rest of you). Since I didn't grow up in an Italian neighborhood in Jersey City like my mom, most of my Western Massachusetts school friends were very puzzled when I discussed what we had eaten the evening before. (I'm pretty sure that they thought we were having elbow macaroni and brown gravy!) Add to this the fact that my dad was from Alabama, and that other nights we might have had ham steak with pickled peaches and black-eyed peas, and you can see why my school years were at times a bit of a challenge!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How's Your Imagination?

No pictures today. I'm at Panera Bread killing some time while Emma takes art lessons, so this will have to be a "no frills" post.

Lots of knitting going on. Let's see.... I finished these socks (very cute... Molly loves them). Then, after Emma told me that watch caps were for old folks, I made a cute little beanie for her in the school colors with the leftovers from the coaches' hats. I may get a picture at some point... if she holds still that long.

Come to think of it, Emma has done quite well in the knitted FO department lately. I had started some gloves from the new One Skein book, but I had already lost interest when it came time to separate for the fingers. Fortunately, my daughter pointed out that I could just bind off with a couple of rows of ribbing, and she'd be thrilled to have the fingerless gloves. Problem solved.

I'm also hard at work on a Traveling Scarf circle for my Red Sox group on Ravelry. Kind of a fun concept -- each person knits 10" on a scarf, then mails it to the next person in the circle. They knit and pass along, and eventually you get back the scarf you started. We're using Red Sox colors, of course, and (if all goes according to plan) everyone will have their completed scarf back in time for Opening Day. Fun way to spend the off season!

Finally, I've been spinning. I spun some more on the wheel on some gorgeous "autumn colors" roving I got from Amy ages ago. Still not finished, but it's been a bit of a filler project. And I've been using the new spindle that Pam had made for me to spin up the pygora that she sent in our SP12 swap. What a really gorgeous fiber that is! I'm not sure what I'll use it for when I'm done... have to see how the yardage works out.

So there you go. No pictures, but hopefully lots of pretty mental pictures of all I'm working on. What's on your needles?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Babies and Big Kids

As promised, I have a few pics of the other items I made for my nephew-to-be's baby shower. This first one is purposely a little bit big, since I figured Max might wear it next summer on his trips to the beach.

I wanted to make it in a nice, soft cotton blend, so I ended up using Knitpicks Shine for the first time. What a gorgeous yarn! I'm not usually a fan of knitting with cotton, but this yarn has the most beautiful and soft drape to it... I loved it. (Yes, I did go back an reset the sleeves... awful, I know)

The next item started out as a stashbuster. I had a cute pattern from IW Knits called Old World Booties that I thought would be fun to try out, and what I thought was just enough yarn from some other project. As it turns out, not quite enough. I found myself about 4 yards short at the end. But, thanks to the magic of Ravelry, I was able to find Knitfemme, who had the same yarn in her stash, and she was kind enough to send me enough of it to finish. Thanks, Melissa!

Finally, the "throwaway" at the end, which turned out to be her favorite! Again, I had a bit of scrap yarn left over after finishing something (I don't even remember what at the moment) and I decided Max could use a stylin' little skull beanie. It probably took me all of an hour to finish, but it ended up being a big hit at the shower (you can't get the scale from the picture, but that's the size of a teeny little newborn head... too cute). Can't wait til he gets here to wear it in person!!

Speaking of offspring, my youngest daughter decided to take up an interesting sport this winter. Wrestling. Yes, real wrestling... rolling around and grappling hot and sweaty for six minutes. It is apparently a co-ed sport these days. Yes, yes, I've heard all the jokes, "It was a co-ed sport in my day,too, but it took place in the back of a car!" I will admit that her dad and I had some misgivings at the thought of our 12-year-old daughter in that position. However, just a couple of practices convinced me that the wrestling mat may be one of the few places in the world where young men aren't thinking of sex.

It's very rough, which my little tomboy enjoys. And, I have to say, it's probably a little unfair to the guys. They can't win -- if they pummel her and win, it's no big deal - so you beat a girl, who cares? If, on the other hand, they lose to a girl .... well, you can see where it's kind of tough on them. Fortunately, they had great coaches, and they welcomed girls as well as boys to the team. (well, "club", actually, they can't join the JV team until 7th grade, so for this year, they formed a wrestling club for 3rd to 6th graders).

Here's a shot (waiting her turn to wrestle) that I think should be saved for future boyfriends, don't you?

And here's a look at the whole team. The coaches and varsity/JV players who helped out are in the back. It was a great time, and she learned the basics of the sport. So, who knows, maybe next year she'll be looking to go out for the JV team. We'll see.

The last night of their season was last week, and I wanted to do something nice for the coaches. They're dads of a couple of the varsity players who offered to do this on a volunteer basis. Since they're both bald, I thought it would be kind of nice to make them watchcaps in the school colors My eldest told me that would be ok, since they were kind of "old," but that anyone younger would really want a beanie and not "that weird brim." (For the childless among you, dear readers, if you ever get to thinking that you are just feeling too good about yourself, having children is a sure way to remedy that problem. Oh, not for the first few years... they like you then. But soon enough, they'll be saying things like, "You're not actually going to wear that, are you?" Very grounding)

Nothing special about the hats, except that I decided to use them as a practice project for my continental knitting. I've always been able to knit in either style (throwing or picking) but continental purling has been a challenge. And ribbing.... well, that was beyond bothering! But, the lovely Rita gave me a quick tutorial one night at our local knitting group, and I decided that this was the perfect time to practice. So, I knit two ribbed watchcaps almost entirely continental style. (I did switch off when my hands got tired, but that's the point of having different styles to fall back on.) It was actually a great way to learn, and I now feel totally confident that I could do any knitting in either style. Wicked!

So there you go. Up to the minute. I'm off to my mom's house for my sister Tracy's birthday party. My preggie sis, Terri, should be there, too. The only depressing thought is that even though Tracy is a year older, I'm still older than she is. And even though Terri is huge and pregnant, I may still be bigger than she is. Sigh. Can't even enjoy a good gloat.
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