Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Spinning!

Just checking in, still super-busy as I try to figure out the best times to take pictures of my stuff and then blog about it. I've been saving up photos for about a week now! I finished washing the bulky singles spun from Girl on the Rocks falkland wool in the Regulus colorway.

Regulus Singles (Girl on the Rocks)

I've got about 200 yards... which is somehow WAY more than I expected, even though this was a larger top, about 4.6 ounces. It's super-squishy, though, and I love it. I've been sitting on two tops from the Sanguine Gryphon (caught in a Loopy Ewe update), and thinking what I wanted to knit with them and how I wanted the yarn to look. I've been trying to get sock-weight yarn a lot recently, and I think now I'm going to move back to loftier, fluffier yarns. I had an idea to do a super-low twist singles, and then ply with black sewing thread. It took me a few days for the idea to settle in and also to find my sewing kit. Here's the results:

Egyptian Green Spinning Test & Swatch

Sweet! It came out almost exactly as I imagined. This was definitely inspired by some yarn I found on Ravelry (handspun fiber from Hello Yarn in the Maldives colorway). I love how the colors of the top are preserved in this yarn. It will make the softest, most scrumptious scarf ever. And maybe some fingerless mitts to match, depending on the yardage. Those are size 9 needles in the picture, and I just used regular old black sewing thread. I'm trying to decide if I want to go pick up a bobbin of higher quality thread before I start spinning the yarn for real... I guess we'll see how busy I get!

Finally, I cast on my yak yarn for the Bronte's Mitts. I've been slowly plodding along on the Honeybee stole and Pomatomus socks, and I wanted a quick knit like no one's business. These went REALLY fast! Here's where I'm at right now:

Bronte's Mitts

And here's what the finished one looks like on my hand:

Bronte's Mitts #1 (unblocked, back of hand)

I'm thinking I'll finish them tonight, and have them all blocked and ready by the weekend. They're very soft and extremely light. The yak was a very good choice for this type of project. And the best part? I'll definitely have some yarn left over. I might be able to squeeze another smaller pair of wrist warmers or something out of my skein.

The effect of the fractal striping got a bit lost due to the cochineal making friends with the rest of the light-colored parts of the yarn, and on the whole they're much pinker in color than I expected. But I cannot get over how soft this yak fiber is! I've even started marking the Etsy shops of folks that stock yak fiber, either in lock or top form. I would love to work with this stuff again, especially in the winter when it's nice and cold. A cowl out of yak would be divine!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to School... (A short post)

So today was my first day of the new semester, but it wasn't my busiest day, so I'm not totally worn out. Yay! Enough energy to blog! I've been spinning a bit more, and wanted to share more converted stash with y'all.

Regulus Singles Closeup

First, we have the Falklands fiber from Girl on the Rocks, dyed in the Regulus colorway. I spun this yarn as a lower-twist singles, originally intending to ply the two bobbins together. But I realized that the colors would probably get a little muddy when plied, so I'm leaving them as they are. I think it'll make a cute hat, if I can only decide if I know anyone who really adores bright pink, yellow, and blue!

Regulus is a very bright start in the constellation Leo, sometimes called "The Heart of the Lion" based on its position in the constellation. It also happens to lie almost directly on the ecliptic (path of the Sun & other planets across the sky). Because it's one of the brightest stars in the sky, it is an important, named star in many cultures. I kinda bought this fiber because of the name, which is weird for me. I usually buy fiber for the amazing color, and while this is great color, it's not necessarily my thing. I am an absolute sucker for astronomy, and Girl on the Rocks does lots of colorways with astronomical names (see my falling down at the Verb booth when I found a merino/angora/silk blend called Supernova). It's going to be a bit of a problem for my wallet!

Speaking of A Verb for Keeping Warm, I am super-duper excited about their new fiber club. I've done one sock club, and I'm not hopeful about my chances for getting into the highly coveted Hello Yarn club. Now this is not to say that I consider Verb to be in second place, nor do I wish to imply that I'm merely settling for Verb or anything like that. Kristine and Adrian are both magicians with dyepots as far as I'm concerned! But I am really grateful that I can get into this club on the ground floor, because I think Verb is awesome and this club will get popular fast. I signed up for the Woolly Wonders option. :)

Anyway, this fiber club is one of the very few fiber (or yarn) purchases I'm allowing myself for awhile now. I have California Wool & Fiber, the opening of Urban Fauna Studios, Verb's birthday party, and Color to look forward to over the next two months, so I need to save up a bit!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Here's the Redwoods!

Whew! I'm off to the faire in a few minutes, and since Monday is my first day of classes and the significant other returns on Tuesday, I decided I should get a post out while I can before the week starts. I'm still chugging along on my Pomatomus socks (still in the leg of the second one) and the Honeybee stole (just got into the Bee Swarm section on the second half). I took both projects with me on the camping trip, and ended up knitting on the stole much more than the socks. I must have temporarily lost my mind or something, taking a huge lace project like this out into nature.

Big Sur River

My favorite thing to do this week was sit with my feet in the Big Sur river, knitting on my stole, and listening to Frankenstein via Craftlit. I could have seriously dropped the whole thing in the water at any point, but I didn't really care. It never got quite hot enough to fully swim in the river, but having your feet in the water while sitting half in the shade, half in the sun was just about perfect. I had a great time getting to see my parents again, hiking around, and just enjoying the woods.

Neat Trees

Our campsite was warmish but the beach was chilly. When my dad, sister and I hiked to a lookout point, we could see why:

Cool Fog

The marine layer would retreat every morning just over the ridge beyond our campground, but it hung out over the ocean for the entire day. You can just see a little bit of the sea underneath the clouds in that picture, and lots of blue sky above. It wasn't too cold to stop us from poking around on the rocks for a few minutes.

Beach at Andrew Molera State Park

More Burn Areas

We were all a little worried that the recent wildfires would be a big downer, because the park was closed for awhile this summer and just reopened a few weeks ago. They'd basically closed off all the trails on one side of the Big Sur river in our campground, so we did most of our hiking at Andrew Molera State Park. You could see the burned areas on the side of the hills every time you look off in the distance. The trees were red and the ground an ashy white. We had clear air and could go in the river, so it was still a fun camping trip even though the fires are scary to think about.

Big Sur Bakery

On our last morning we had some really fantastic pastries at the Big Sur Bakery before breaking camp. This place was awesome, and I bet they sell out of their croissants, rolls, and quiche every morning. Good coffee, crisp morning air, great scenery. Oh, and a spirit garden next door with people-sized elevated nests. I love it!

A Nest

In other news, Prudence is moving on. I got her for free, and she doesn't really fulfill any of my spinning needs that aren't taken care of with my Ladybug. I have a good friend who I learned how to spin with, and she will be giving it a good home in the other half of California. Now I just have to figure out how to ship the darn thing!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Last Gasp of Summer

Ok, not really, because it's often warmer during September here in San Francisco than it is in August, but I wasn't talking about temperatures or humidity levels. This afternoon I'm off to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for some camping with my family. Camping will be awesome, it was what we did for about a week every summer while I was growing up. Sometimes in a cabin, sometimes in a tent, as long as we got a source of cold water (lake or river) and some pine trees, my parents were happy as clams and us kids couldn't help having fun too. Hopefully there won't be too much fire damage in the area. I'm trying to not set myself up for disappointment, but my sister's and my favorite hiking trail up the Big Sur river gorge is closed according to the park website. Poo. At least it will be a good chance to get unplugged a bit. I get back on Friday, and next weekend is the Golden Gate Renaissance Faire. Yipee! This is quickly turning into my favorite faire of the season. Since its inception, it's always been held (magically) during the last weekend before the fall semester begins.

All this means no blogging until I get back, and possibly not for quite some time, as the new semester starts next Monday and I'll be busy busy busy. I'll try to bring back a few pictures of redwoods to share with y'all on Friday or Saturday, though. In the meantime, here's some laceweight singles to hold you over:

Tactile Merino/Silk Handspun

As you can see, I've made my peace with double drive. Turns out the drive band just needed a serious tightening. I did a 2-ply last night while watching the Olympics (wasn't the opening ceremony incredible? And hooray for the American men's gymnastics team!) but I'll have to wait to see what kind of yardage I get. It's a laceweight to light fingering weight, and this is a 50/50 Merino/Silk blend from Tactile Fiber Arts. I purchased this at the first Color fiber festival, and they've just announced the day for fall! Hooray, more fibery goodness to look forward to! Guess I better get through some of my spinning stash so I can at least pretend to justify some purchases...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Food in Europe

So I guess I'm not hip enough, because I don't really understand what exactly makes "foodies" different from other people. Doesn't everyone like eating good food? Anyway, I guess the significant other and I would qualify as foodies to some, but not to others. We're still kind of learning how to really cook, but we're lucky to be exposed to some awesome cuisine around the Bay Area. We've certainly moved up from our college days of ramen noodles and pizza!

Now, once you accept that the food is not necessarily going to be what you expect, I think that the food culture in Europe is definitely one that every U.S. resident should try if they can, because it highlights some of the main differences about their attitudes towards food and life in general. First of all, meals are a chance to socialize, relax, and connect with other people. We saw very few solitary diners, and I believe the figure I cut at lunch, sitting alone with my book, was a slightly odd one. I also saw people sitting at a Starbucks, drinking coffee and espressos out of actual ceramic mugs for the first time ever. Think about it: when was the last time you saw people with a Starbucks cup that wasn't paper? Additionally, the waiters do not come to check up on you. They will come take your order, bring you your order, and leave you be until you flag them down for the check. Seriously. Only once, when my book got really good all of a sudden, did I outwait the waiter and get my check before I had to ask for it. I'm sure this is where the image of rude or slow service in Europe comes from.

Here's what I mean about the food being a little unexpected. We ate a lot of sausages while in Germany, and it took me about two weeks to learn the word for mustard (senf). I love mustard with my sausages, and I learned the word because we had a very kind waitress in Munich who spoke excellent English. She pointed out the condiments: mayonnaise, ketchup, and two kinds of mustard. The significant other and I occasionally like a nice spicy mustard, so I went for the one described as "hot" mustard. We were a little underwhelmed to discover that the "hot" mustard tasted like your standard yellow over here. However, the regular mustard we got in Dijon nearly knocked me down!

In some cases, you kind of have to sit back and just eat what's put in front of you. While we were in Lyon, we had one of the most amazing meals I've ever experienced. I already mentioned this, but it's the sort of place where you don't really order off a menu. The waitress asked us for drink orders, and after we'd had a chance to start feeling our aperitifs (that's Euro-speak for pre-dinner cocktail), she just started bringing out food. The dinner consisted of five courses, and we started with the soup. Now, of the four of us at the table, I spoke the most French, so everyone else was kind of relying on me to know what was going on. So when the waitress brought out the soup, and we had a rich brown broth with a white-ish lump in the middle, I didn't recognize anything overtly French, so I decided it was a potato or dumpling of some sort. When I took a scoop out of the dumpling with my spoon, you can imagine my surprise at seeing a yolk in my "dumpling"! Turned out it was a poached egg. The waitress informed us that the soup is called Oeufs en Meurette.

Lyon Dinner: Ouefs Meurette

It was delicious soup! If you'd told me that one of my favorite memories of this trip would be poached egg in beef broth soup, I would have been a bit skeptical. The second course was a salad and plate of pickles, marinated onions, and cold cuts. By this time, we were halfway through our bottle of wine and starting to get a bit full. The chef came out to tell us our options for the main course, and we all placed our order. The guys were brave and ordered the pork cheek, not knowing if they were going to get an odd-looking cut. I got poulet au vinagre (chicken in a vinegar sauce), which was delicious. Now we were all starting to feel REALLY full, and starting to think about having a nice walk along one of the rivers to help out the digestive process.

Then they brought the cheese.

Lyon Dinner: Cheese Course

This was all really good cheese. That sounds lame, but I'm not that good at describing food, I guess. It was just really, really good. We had a small selection of hard, medium, and soft cheeses, some plain, some with spices or herbs. That bowl in the back has that iconic cream cheese with chives and other spices, which was easily my favorite. I don't know if I'll ever be able to eat any of those packaged herb cheese spreads again. We had nice crusty French bread to go with it all. Now we are all so full that we can barely eat any cheese; we were really just tasting it so we wouldn't kill ourselves. But we still had dessert. Each of us got something different, so we could try a little of everything.

Lyon Dinner: Dessert Course

Clockwise from the top we have ice cream, chocolate mousse, fruit salad, and some kind of tart (I can't remember what the filling was). We had our walk after everything was over. It was incredible.

One thing I realized about food in Europe is that there are regional differences in cuisine as significant as those we have here. You do see some of the national trends in food, but it's easier to talk about a region as opposed to a country. I got to eat Swabish spätzle in Stuttgart (deliciously close to macaroni and cheese), Bavarian weisswurst in Munich, and lost of delicious Provençal cooking while we were in France. I don't normally enjoy pesto the way it's made in Italian restaurants in California, but that's because (I am convinced) THEY ARE DOING IN WRONG. Genoa, where we spent our only night in Italy, is where pesto comes from, so naturally we all had to try it. Amazing, creamy without being too cheesy, and really tasty fresh pasta. Another winner. While I was starting to miss food from home by the end of the trip, I think it was mostly missing the ease of ordering food in my native language. Overall, I just wish I'd taken more pictures!

Finally, here's a general principle about food in Europe that we learned, sort of a variation of the "When in Rome" adage: Don't expect to get a really good croissant in Germany, and don't expect to get a really good pretzel in France.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Apparently I Missed Spinning (and love hyphens!)

Tour de Fleece notwithstanding, I guess I missed spinning a lot. A LOT. So much so that, while in Germany, I continued to stash spinning fiber from Hello Yarn, A Verb for Keeping Warm, and Girl on the Rocks even though I knew I wouldn't see any of it (or my wheel) for several weeks.

In the midst of one of my bouts of wheel wistfulness, I stumbled across a post on Ravelry from a person who needed to make room for a new fiber source. She was giving away her Kromski spinning wheel. GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE. I was dumbfounded, but I sent her a message, just in case this too-good-to-be-true offer was, in fact, true. Well, don't say that being awake and online at weird hours compared to the left coast never got anybody a free spinning wheel. I was the first person to respond, and this Saturday afternoon, I drove to the other side of San Francisco to pick up my new (to me) Kromski Prelude.

Kromski Prelude

Meet Prudence. She's really not an upgrade from Birdie, because they both have similar ratio ranges, similar size drive wheels, and Prudence is scotch tension only. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth too much, but there are two main reasons why I'll hang on to this wheel for awhile. A) I can spin more than one batch of singles, as I now have nine bobbins for holding potential yarn. B) This wheel is light enough to carry and of appropriate appearance for renaissance faires. Yes, I am one of those kind of geeks. If I were going to buy a second wheel (why no, I haven't thought about it, why do you ask?), it wouldn't be a Prelude, because it's too close to the Ladybug to be of much advantage. But free? Yes, please! Oh, and it's small enough to fit in the closet.

I spun up my AVFKW baby alpaca last night as a getting-to-know-each-other exercise (4 ounces, 150 yards, pictures forthcoming when the fog rolls out). This was the last of the fiber I bought almost a year ago at San Francisco's Bazaar Bizarre, so yay stash busting! I was a bad bad person, however, and plied the singles without waiting for them to sit overnight and relax. It got to be a little tough to treadle by the end of the skein, and I think I had too much tension on the drive band. Also, I'm not used to the single treadle, and this wheel has a dead spot like you would not believe. It was much more difficult for me to keep the wheel going through the first two or three revolutions without reversing direction. I think this will come with practice and I should keep at it, even though I still prefer the double treadle.

On Friday and Saturday, impatient to pick up the new wheel, I felt I should show Bridie that I wasn't abandoning her. So I spun up my BFL/Tencel batt from Tactile Fiber Arts. This is the pink and yellow fluff that I got at Stitches West. I got a rather fine two-ply, similar yardage to the alpaca (a little less than 150 yards), but from only two ounces of fiber.

Summer Fruits Closeup

The color is a little too bright in this photo. I love that the little bits of bright, peachy yellow Tencel still show up in the yarn and didn't get completely blended in with the wool. I have no idea what I'll knit with either of these. However, I have another 18 ounces of fiber either already arrived or coming in over the next few days, and I was feeling like I need to make a dent in the stash. The unfortunate thing about spinning fiber, is that unless you're going to give the yarn away, spinning it doesn't really diminish the overall stash. Speaking of the stash... well... it's better if I just show you. Click on the photo to go to Flickr and see notes identifying the various bags and baskets.

The Whole Stash

I got a little worried about the stash getting out of control. We aren't in a studio, but our apartment isn't huge either, and every now and then I worry that I'm not converting yarn into lovely portable warmth at a rate that at least approaches that at which I acquire said yarn. So, in an effort to convince myself that I don't have too much, I got it all out and reorganized things into bags roughly according to weight. I noticed a few things:

1. I have a ton of sock yarn. I guess the last two years have been good for The Loopy Ewe because two-thirds of my sock yarn is from them. :)

2. I didn't really get a lot of yarn from Germany.

3. Most of my stash has intended specific projects. Mittens, another felted Noni bag, socks galore, even an entrelac cylindrical pillow cover. I was refreshed to remember than most of this stuff has a purpose. Except for the giant basket of leftovers. Dang!

4. I have no sweater projects stashed for, and at least 10 sweaters in my Ravelry queue.

5. Sock projects are nebulous, and without a specific pattern, it will take me a looooooonnnngggg time to figure out what exactly to do with a skein of sock yarn.

6. If I compare how fast I knit to how fast I spin, and then look at the stash, I realize that my yarn stash is GINORMOUS and my fiber stash is TEENY-WEENY. If I spun a lot and stopped knitting, I could probably burn through my entire fiber stash in a month. The yarn stash? I think it would take... gosh... years.

So, I think I need to take a hiatus from purchasing sock yarn, learn to plan projects for my handspun, and not feel quite so bad about buying yarn for sweaters. For some reason, I tend to shy away from the expense of buying yarn for a sweater, but don't really blink when that same amount of money is spent on two or three sock yarn binges. Not that I should start stashing sweater projects left and right, but I think I need to be a little smarter about matching the stash to the queue.

I'll try to be back next time with a leftover travel post, I want to try and get those out before the semester gets into full swing. See you later this week!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Well, I'm back.

It's good to be home! Yesterday I got to see friends and eat good Mexican food, and unpacked a bit. Today I was very good and did work and chores all morning so I could blog, knit, spin, watch movies, drink coffee, and generally putter about this afternoon without feeling guilty. So, the plane trip was a little trying. My flight was delayed five ways 'till Tuesday, because just about everything that could go wrong, did. Airline worker strikes, earthquakes, broken air conditioning units, and inclement weather all conspired to put me on the ground in San Francisco about 3 hours late. I didn't sleep much on the flight, as we were following the sun westward the whole time. Instead, I did this:

Wollmeise Pomatomus

I got about halfway through the leg of the sock while on the train to Frankfurt and waiting to board the plane, and finished the gusset decreases shortly before we landed. I didn't knit for the entire flight, because my hands started to cramp up! Between the lack of sleep and the flight delays, I was awake for about 24 hours straight, and it made me a bit loopy that evening. The jet lag isn't as bad today as it was yesterday, but I still plan on applying caffeine at carefully planned times this afternoon so I don't fall asleep before dinner.

Anyway, details on the sock! This is Wollmeise, the original 100% superwash yarn base, in the Vergißmeinnicht colorway (that word means Forget-me-not in German). I got this yarn last year as part of Mrs. B's Taste of Germany yarn pack, which included five skeins of yarn from German indie dyers, all in blue colors. I actually (gasp!) swatched for this project, and discovered that 2.5 mm needles (US size 1 1/2) were necessary, and I only had those in metal circulars. So I popped over to the Wolle Rödel and bought sock-size bamboo DPNs for the project. The pattern is Cookie A.'s Pomatomus, which I think works wonderfully with this semi-solid color.

Now that I'm home, I have been gratefully reunited with my spinning wheel. I cannot wait to get this on some bobbins:

Hello Yarn Illuminated Wensleydale

I stalked the Hello Yarn shop during the last update, and was lucky enough to score this gorgeous Wensleydale fiber and some of her scrumptious Fat Sock yarn. I'll be spending Saturday afternoon learning a little more about spinning plant fibers at the botanical gardens in Golden Gate Park. They're having their annual Summer Gardening Fair tomorrow, and some local spinners will be around doing demonstrations. In preparation for that event, I had to nab myself some cotton from my favorite local fiber source:

AVFKW Organic Cotton

I can't wait to see all the ladies of Purl Jam on Tuesday, and eat at all my favorite restaurants again. I have about a bajillion other things to take care of before the new semester starts, not least of which is reacquainting myself with the view from our living room window.