Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New Verb

So I know I've mentioned Verb's new store a few times already here. I can't put my finger on precisely what quality it is that draws me to Kristine's yarns and fibers. I do know that, even when I'm not looking for anything in particular, I always see something I like. Every time. Maybe it's the subtleties of the color palette she gets from natural dyes, or the huge variety of fiber bases she dyes ranging from super-crunchy wool to the most luxurious blends of silk, yak, and cashmere.

Verb Grand Opening Party

Aside from the products, there's also the mentality of the shop that I really appreciate. Perhaps it's the fact that Kristine taught me how to choose and wash a fleece. Or it could be the way she supports local farmers by carrying wool from their sheep in her shop. There is always something new to learn when I walk into the shop. I've been wanting to take the rigid heddle weaving and natural dyeing workshops for a while now.

Verb Grand Opening Party

So let me tell you about the party on Saturday. It was fabulous. First of all, you walk into this amazing space. And I mean SPACE. There is enough room to wander around (and you don't bump elbows as much as you did in the old shop), big windows to let in the light, and tall ceilings to let the air circulate.

Verb Grand Opening Party

There's a central table for sitting and crafting, and a side area with a gallery space around it.

Verb Grand Opening Party

I'd forgotten how much I love Sonya Philip's work until I saw it in the shop.

Verb Grand Opening Party

Verb Grand Opening Party

There was even a yarn cake:

Verb Grand Opening Party

and a familiar friend:

Verb Grand Opening Party

I couldn't resist telling a few knitters (including Kristine's mother) that they were petting and oohing over my wedding shawl. I'm so stinking proud of that thing, even though the beads were a royal pain.

The funniest part was how I felt tempted by so many things throughout the day, and resisted. But I wasn't really tempted too much by anything in this corner:

Verb Grand Opening Party

I don't own a sewing machine, although I know my way around one from growing up with a mom who sewed everything from Halloween costumes to my senior prom dress. Every few years I think about getting a machine, but sewing has never been something that stuck with me like knitting has. So it was absolutely hilarious to me when Kristine called my name in the raffle to come claim this:

Quilt Kit

A quilt kit.

It's going to take some willpower to work on holiday knitting instead of this. We'll see how it goes. For now, I have a borrowed sewing machine hanging out in the living room and another reason to visit the shop, take a new class or two, and add another verb to my repertoire.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm in luuurrrve!

With a yarn. It's bad. I haven't been this in love with a yarn in a long time, and certainly not with a commercial yarn of all things. I've been in very deep like with many skeins of my handspun, especially when they ended up in the perfect project. And I've felt gratitude towards yarns for being the way they are. I have a profound platonic friendship with Cascade 220 that will probably never leave me (inexpensive? 270 different colors? What's not to love?).

So how did it happen? How did I find myself in this slightly embarrassing yet delightful situation? Well, it started the day after the stash exchange. I was out at the big local yarn shop with knitter friends, most of whom had been listening to my knitting woes at the stash exchange the day before. Having just cleared out lots of yarn, I went in with three allowable purchases: first, yarn in very specific colors (hello again, Cascade 220!) as requested by a family member for their gift.

Slytherin Cascade 220

Second, a new travel mug with a cute sheep on it; my old one has finally kicked the bucket after nearly four years of daily use.

Travel Mug

Third, yarn for my special super secret project. I can't tell you about the project yet, but I will as soon as I can. Lately I've been thinking in tweeds, obsessing over Shelter, knitting things out of rustic yarns or from very old, very familiar stash yarn. So with my guilt alleviated from the recent stash exchange, I was on the lookout for just the right colors, and not too particular about getting something under budget. Also, technically I wasn't buying stash yarn. I've got a deadline, so I knew this yarn would be on and off the needles in a matter of weeks. Since my handspun and spinning fiber stash contains something like 90% variegated colors, I've recently been drawn towards solid or semi-solid colors when buying commercially spun yarn. And I needed solids for this project. Nobody does solids and semi-solids quite like the fabulous colorist behind madelinetosh. I know, because I made this yarn

Madelinetosh Worsted

into this hat

Thunderstorm Tam

last April. Dark blue is one of those colors I will never escape. It's a staple of my wardrobe. "Thunderstorm" is a breathtaking variation on dark blue, and it's difficult to capture the yarn adequately because the color changes are so subtle. The true color is somewhere between what you see in the yarn and hat photos. One of the funny things about yarn produced in small batches is how much variation can occur across different yarn bases, because different fibers react differently to the same dye formula. What looks just right on a merino yarn might be washed-out on cotton, or deeply saturated on a wool/silk blend. Not that saturated or washed-out are necessarily bad, sometimes that's just what the project calls for. We were wandering around the shop, and I got to comparing one tosh color across the sock, vintage, dk, and lace yarn bases. And then I picked up pashmina, and everything clicked. I won't say that I heard birds singing, or that a ray of sunshine broke through the window to shine on the skein, but it was a close thing.


Fig. Perfect. I mean the color, not my photography skills. A deep, dark chocolate brown with a few hints of milk chocolate. And the yarn feels simply amazing, good enough to wear the unknit skein around your neck. Except... I needed a contrast color. I couldn't start the project without both colors. Aha! I remembered from previous trips to the yarn shop that tosh produces a creamy white (undyed?) colorway called Antler. Reminds me of bone buttons. Again, perfect. Sadly, no Antler was in stock in the Pashmina yarn base, and the Fig colorway did not show up on the sock base in the way that I adored on the Pashmina base, so no substitutions. After searching and some deliberation, I decided that I couldn't pass up the Fig. But I know myself, and I wouldn't be able to rest unless I knew I could go home and immediately order some Antler online. Technology to the rescue! A friend lent me her cell phone portable internet machine so I could verify that Antler was for sale somewhere in the Pashmina base. I found three sources, just in case two of them sold their last skein of Antler Pashmina by the time I could eat lunch and go home (never underestimate the power of paranoia). We made our purchases, and I went off to lunch with the skein of Fig nibbling at the back of my mind.

Once home, I ordered my yarn from Happy Knits. Here comes the really awesome part: their service was amazing. Nearly instantaneous email confirmation of my order, and they must have put that sucker in the mail first thing on Monday morning, because the yarn arrived on Wednesday afternoon.


I desperately wanted to cast on my project on Wednesday night, but held off, knowing I had to photograph this adorable package.

Happy Knits Yarn

Not only did my package arrive lightning-fast, but they included a thank-you note, a little sample skein of Skacel Urban Silk yarn, and a tiny blank booklet. And best of all, they swiftly silenced all the tiny nagging doubts my brain was building up about how Fig would look next to Antler.

Antler and Fig

I can't show you photos of the yarn knit up yet as it would spoil the surprise, but the fabric feels absolutely decadent. If you're looking for something to spoil yourself with (but not too much), I cannot recommend this yarn highly enough.

Then again, I'm in lurve, so I'm biased.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One Million

Is a pretty big number. I'm an astronomer, so I should know.

We are mighty. As I said back in January, Ravelry is a community I am proud to be a part of and to which I am happy to contribute.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That's what friends are for.

They're there to tell you that the things you make are awesome, and give you awesome things in return. Also, they'll tell you your obsessions aren't strange in the slightest, and will never give you looks that suggest you might be a little off in the head for going on and on and on about the perfect shade of green.

It's been a tough semester, having a night class that means I'm missing my regular knitting time every week. This weekend I got to see my knitting friends and have knitting conversations and discuss ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for weeks. The husbeast is very patient with the yarn talk, but it's not his thing.

Purl Jam Stash Exchange 2010

Every year my knitting group gets together and does a stash exchange, and since we usually do it on a weekend, I was still able to go and hang out with folks that I'm used to seeing once a week. The event is now in its third year, it's started to feel like the holiday season really begins with the stash exchange party. It's also the perfect way to justify buying yarn for gifts I want to knit, and gives me a chance to clear the dead weight out of the stash. In the past, I've mostly cleared out yarn that I bought on a whim and have since let marinate for a few years. This year, I attacked the handspun stash.

Purl Jam Stash Exchange 2010

I know, sounds scandalous, right? But this was all yarn that I'd spun at least three years ago. In almost every case, I'd been aiming for something very specific and the yarn ended up disappointing. Too chunky, not enough yardage, colors combined in an odd way when plied, that sort of thing. After three years, I don't think I would ever knit it into anything, and I was starting to think it was... bad yarn. But my awesome knitting friends snapped it right up, and the only reason they thought I was crazy was that I was giving it up. They were all the very image of politeness and never once asked how I ended up with so much pink handspun. It's good that they didn't ask, because I don't know the answer myself.

The other great part of the stash exchange is that it always feels like we all won some great fabulous yarn prize. Not only do we all get to go home with some great yarn, we also get to thin out our stashes. Anything that doesn't get picked up, we donate.

Purl Jam Stash Exchange 2010

I can assure you that the Shibui Sock or Skinny Bugga went to loving homes, though. I took 17 skeins of yarn, plus some bags of leftover sock yarn bits that were never going to get used either. I came home with 6 skeins of yarn and one bump of spinning fiber. That just feels great, especially given what happened on Sunday. There was a trip to a yarn store. I'll tell you the rest later. Right now I have to figure out what to do with that single skein of Shibui Sock (the Bugga got snapped up faster than you can say "indie dyer").

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Just in Time For Fall!

Wayfarer Scarf

Wayfarer is complete, and I'm so glad that this time I managed to finish a seasonally-appropriate knit (unlike the past two springs, when I've been finishing a pair of lined mittens). I didn't finish it in time to wear on our trip north and east, to an area of the state that my brain has started calling "Inner California." Two amazingly generous relatives of the husbeast gave us some land as a wedding gift, and we took a weekend to go check it out. It's totally undeveloped, far away from everything, and very very cold in late October.

Property near Susanville

I brought Wayfarer with me to keep my lap warm in the car, and I made sure both of us had hats and hand coverings. I brought along my Noro scarf for my neck, and worried that I was overdoing things by packing both my Fiddlehead mittens and my Endpaper mitts. I ended up wearing the Fiddleheads on top of the Endpapers while we tramped around the property, it was so cold! It was very mentally relaxing to be out in the middle of nowhere. We saw a pretty cool snakeskin:

Property near Susanville

and admired the juniper trees:

Property near Susanville

and tried not to think too much about the temperature and how we're pretty big wusses when it comes to the cold. It was a really nice kick in the pants for holiday knitting, which should be awesome this year. Both my siblings have moved to climates colder than where they were living in last year, which means knits are extra-appropriate! It's pretty hard to top Minnesota, but my brother and his wife managed it somehow, and I'm not about to fail in my knitterly duties. The husbeast teases me for knitting and wearing lined mittens here in California, but at least I've never fooled myself into thinking it gets cold enough here for thrums. Now I have the perfect excuse.