Friday, October 31, 2008

Not-So-Secret-Anymore Pal

Yes, it's true... my SP12 swap pal has been revealed, and it's none other than Pam, the Yarn Goddess herself! I told you last time about what a blast Pam has made this swap for me, and I think I might have said something about the gifts not even being important at this point. Considering the spectacular basket of gifts I received this week, I may have to revise that statement! Get a load of this!!

Let me take you on a tour of the beautiful and carefully thought-out goodies that my pal sent along. First, Pam's from San Francisco, so she sent me a T-shirt and some little keepsakes from her beautiful city.

Next, there was spinning fiber in gorgeous batts, many of them custom dyed for me! It's pretty neat having a spoiler who as all the fiber connections that Pam does -- go over to Yarny Goodness some time and shop around... I dare you to leave without buying something!
Can I give you a tour of the fibers? On the left is a batt called "Autumn Harvest" from Uniquely yours. The blue and white fluff in the center is an angora/merino mix from Bungalow Farm Angora. The blue/violet mix in the decorated bag is a colorway called Perennial Garden from Harmony Homestead (in Rhode Island... so this little package went all the way from New England, to California and back!). It's 100% pygora, and it is the softest thing you've ever felt. I spun up a tiny bit to try it out, and I'm in love! Moving on, the Key-Lime alpaca is from the Fiber Co-op, and that amazing batt on the right is an alpaca/cashmere/silk blend from Split Rock Ranch called Bronzed Burgundy. It is beyond gorgeous! (it's the kind of batt you want to crawl into and snuggle up for a nap.... ok, maybe that's just me!).

There are also some beautiful spinning tools in there. In the foreground is an orifice hook and a WPI tool, both handmade by some of Pam's vendors. The feel of them is amazing... smooth turned wood... it feels as though they were made to fit just perfectly in my hands.

Speaking of which, do you see what's peaking out of the bronze fiber? It's a Golding spindle, made just for me!!! Pam read on my blog that I collect sheep, and she worked with Tom Golding to design this beautiful spindle around black and white bone ring. I have never had a spindle so beautiful in my life... and it spins like a dream!

I know what you're saying... wow, she certainly got spoiled. But I'm not nearly finished yet. Along with the batts, there was yarn!

And not just any yarn. From left to right, there's a skein of Handmaiden Casbah - a merino/cashmere sock blend, peeking out from behind Elvis (my daughter has named the Alcatraz bear) is some Fleece Artist Sea Wool, which I had been dying to try, and on the far right is Fleece Artist Cashlana, a wool/cashmere blend. The wildest thing is that I was poking around the Handmaiden site a few weeks ago, thinking about trying some Casbah. There are dozens of colors, and I hemmed and hawed over them until I had it narrowed down to my own favorite. Before I could actually buy it, I got distracted by the kids, and I never got back to it. Would you believe that this is exactly the color way I had picked out?! So, on top of everything else, my pal is apparently a wee bit psychic!

I know this is hard to believe, but there was even more in the basket. Take a look at this!
Four beautiful braids for even more spinning, and a new friend! I have named the little furry one Chloe. She was actually handmade for me by Pam, and that made it so special.... I've never actually had someone knit for me, and I was so touched... especially because I know that socks are Pam's thing to knit, not little furry critters... Chloe is so adorable!

Oh, yes, the braids. Again, from left to right: Fleece Artist BFL sliver, Peppermint Chocolate merino/silk from Uniquely Yours, Autumn Love BFL, also from Uniquely Yours, and Fleece Artist silk/merino sliver.

I had a chance to have a really great chat with Pam the other night (along with her hubby Mark, who was apparently her partner in crime... my attempts at sleuthing out her true identity have provided them with lots of entertainment!) We had an instant rapport, and I'm sure we have a great friendship ahead of us. All in all, I'd say that SP12 has been a success in every possible way!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cloak and Dagger

I have to take a few minutes to tell you about my SP12 experience and my amazing luck in swap pals.

If you're not familiar, SP12 is a Secret Pal swap, meaning that everyone involved keeps their identity a secret until they have finished their swap (although hint-dropping is allowed and encouraged). You are assigned both a "downstream" pal (i.e., someone who you send packages to) and an "upstream" pal (i.e., someone who sends packages to you). This gives you a chance to meet two new friends, and also takes some of the pressure off of making the gifting "even." In the case of this swap, the time frame was July through September, and during that period it was up to each pair of pals to determine whether one large package or several smaller packages would be sent.

My "downstream" pal and I had a very nice (if somewhat traditional) swap. I sent her a few packages over the course of the summer, which she seemed to enjoy, and I even knitted her a tea cozy (she's a serious tea lover, so that's not quite as odd as it sounds). Her name is Donna, and I very much enjoyed spoiling her. Hi Donna!

My "upstream" pal, however, has kind of put me to shame as a spoiler. I may never join another swap again, since she has done such a very cool job on this one that she's set the bar very high for my future expectations.

Over the course of this summer and early autumn, I have gotten dozens of emails, each with a hint or two carefully dropped. I know she lives somewhere that's warm in the summer... I know she has a young daughter... I know she's a working mom as opposed to a SAHM... I know she's married. I even know (after many months of teasing) that she lives in Pleasanton. Did you know that there are 9 different Pleasantons in the US?

We've had a lot of fun with this dance, she and I.... and some worries. When hurricane Ike hit, I was worried, since one of my theories for her home town would have put her in danger. A true pal, she quickly backed off the game to reassure me that she in no danger and things were fine (aha! another clue!!)

I have developed a wee obsession about trying to figure out who she is before that package arrives (we're likely down to the last few days now). I spent the better part of last Friday evening on Ravelry... stalking. I looked at people from Pleasanton.... I narrowed it down to the most likely couple of the 9 Pleasantons, based on my blog statistics. I looked at people who came from the major cities near those Pleasantons... I looked for people who mentioned work, or who mentioned a daughter (I don't know if she has siblings or not). I learned a lot about a lot of knitters (including the fact that knitters, as a population, have a disturbingly large number of cats... but I digress). But I'm no closer to figuring out her identity.

My most recent revelation came last night, when I realized that she has actually mailed this package to me on a somewhat round-about route of relays, in an effort to further confuse me about where it has come from. At this point... now, just days before all is revealed... she is still playing the game. You have absolutely got to love that!

Thanks, Secret Sis. I'm sure that package will be fantastic, and I'll be sure to post the pix to share with everyone, but know that this swap has turned into something much more than a gift exchange... you are a very cool chick, and I can't wait to get to know you for real!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Yes, while many of you were off enjoying Rhinebeck this weekend, I was home, coming to grips with the fact that my boys were not going to be going to the World Series this year. As you can see, they were coming to that conclusion themselves.

It's a bummer, there's no doubt about it, but they played great ball, and they can hold their heads high. Somewhere during game 5, when the Rays fans were watching their "sure thing" slip away, I saw on their defeated faces a look that was all too familiar. (When you grow up a Sox fan --prior to 2004-- you are intimately acquainted with last-minute defeat) But somehow, that crushing game caused Tampa Bay to find reserves they didn't know they had, and they managed to squeak by the Red Sox in the 7th game of a great series.

So, Rays fans, have your day and enjoy it. You earned it. It was great baseball, but someone had to play better and to win. And this year, that was you. For those of us in Massachusetts... there's always next year!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

End of a Knit-a-Loo-o-ong

In the category of "things we never thought we'd see," I'm happy to report that Mystic Meadows is not only complete, but blocked. And it's absolutely lovely! (Lovely enough that I may be inspired to go back and finish some of my many lace WIPs) The Knit-A-Long aspect of this project was over long ago, as most everyone else has finished and moved onto other things, but in the spirit of "better late than never," here's a look at the finished product:
Pretty, I think. I thought it might be interesting to share a bit of the blocking process with you, since I was so pleased with my "adaptations." This was my first major lace blocking project, so I had no blocking wires. At $30 (and up), I was seriously contemplating whether I'd actually need to block enough lace in my life to make that worthwhile. Plus, I really didn't have a spot in the house where I could pin out something this large and just leave it there for a day or two.

Attacking my problems one at a time, I went to Lowe's looking for shop floor foam tiles. They looked at me as though I was speaking a foreign language, which I guess was their way of saying they didn't carry them. Same at Home Depot. Fortunately, I happened upon a set of foam alphabet tiles while I was in Michael's one afternoon. For $19.99, I got 28, 1-foot square foam blocks that I can assemble in whatever sizes I need. (and practice my letters at the same time!)

The wires were a little bit more challenging, but I eventually found the best-kept secret in the world! I found a local welding-supply shop (definitely a "boy store," but they were very nice to me). What you want to ask for is TIG wire. I got 3/32" diameter, which is pretty rigid, for straight edges, but you can get thinner diameters for your curved edges. The wires are 3 feet long, and the 10 wires in the bag below cost me $2.10!! (a heck of a nice savings from $30!). With another $2.50 of my savings, I bought a length of PVC pipe and a couple of end caps, and now I have a nice storage tube for my wires. Hubby thinks I should be assembling these kits and selling them on eBay!

Armed with my new tools, I got out on the patio and pinned out my wet shawl, letting the autumn breeze do the rest.

By the way, I really loved this pattern. It splits into three distinct sections, each supporting the theme of Mystic Meadows. The first portion is tall flowers/grasses. You can see the stalks and leaves quite clearly, ending in flowers at the top of each.

The second section is bouquets of flowers, and you can start to see the meadow of individual blossoms scattered through the background.

Finally, the last section has butterflies frolicking around on that background of scattered blossoms. (I know it's a little bit difficult to make out on the colorful background, but if you squint and use a little imagination, I think you'll see them)

My thanks once again to Margene, whose advice to finish the thing that was closest to completion was what helped me slog my way to the end on this. And, as she suggested, I've rewarded myself by starting on a baby item for my nephew-to-be. No pictures on that one right now, since I don't know if my sister ever reads the blog.

Oh yeah, one more thing..... GO SOX!!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Guess What?

We're going to the ALCS!

Go Sox!!!!
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