29 September 2008

Fil de France

A friend and coworker of the Cuddly Hubby's has a fondness for European vacations. The Bard and his wife like to take a couple weeks in France each year for hiking and bicycling during the day, and eating amazing food at night. The Bard also knows of my love of textile goodness. And the Bard's harp teacher is also a knitter. So, returning from France with good yarn is a way to please two women at once! Additionally, the Bard visited an old mill with 19th century spinning equipment. Very cool!

So, I am adding to my stash, courtesy of the Bard (thank you, thank you, grovel, grovel, thank you)

105 grams, approx. 100m Artisan wool, color mulberry
25 grams, approx. 90m 70% angora, 30% merino, color bright turquoise
25 grams, approx. 90m 70% angora, 30% merino, color pale peach

And I must admit that I love how the angora seems to be glowing in the photographs. Its halo is glowing brightly.

25 September 2008

Glee! I found some!

I haven't put gas in the zippy sippy in over a week. Partly I didn't need it, and partly I did not wish to be any part of the feeding frenzy that is happening here. I truly thought it would blow over by now. I was wrong. Tonight I knew the tank was getting low. And I want to go to JapanFest on Saturday, which is over in Gwinnett County. And I want to go game with friends in Dacula on Sunday -- that's almost exactly 100 miles round trip from my house to theirs. So I knew I was going to need gas tonight or tomorrow.

My drive home from the shop in Woodstock involves cutting across Cobb County. Now, Woodstock has been out of gas for most of this crisis, but the city itself is only about a mile off I-575. I figured that as I got away from the interstate, I'd find gas. In fact, my plan was to just drive to the place where Cuddly Hubby and I always fill up. I couldn't help but notice on my drive home as I passed several gas stations, and they were all empty. Even the off-brand one on the back road was empty. I decided that rather than waste two miles' worth of driving which I might need if I ended up on fumes, I'd just go home and look tomorrow. As I came up to the intersection where I would need to make the right turn to head towards the service station, the tanker (with the appropriate brand insignia) was headed right to left across my path -- i.e. away from having just made a delivery! I had just enough space to guide the zippy sippy nimbly into the right lane and make the turn. In the one mile to the service station, I saw two cars in the opposite lanes execute u-turns. Yes!

The service station was busy, but having a little car means you can scoot to an inner pump. I didn't have to wait long. And the price was under $4 a gallon for regular unleaded. Rarely have I been so happy to have my 8.678 gallons / $34.53 worth. I am increasingly in favor of gas rationing. I don't care a whole lot about the price. As long as there is some, I'm good. And I spoke to one of my friends today who owns a diesel Volkswagen Golf. Boy, is he a happy camper. Great mileage and he only fills up every-other week. Here's hoping this frenzy is over soon.

24 September 2008

Shop Hopping

I know this is sacrilege, but I really don't need more yarn. That's not to say that I don't want more. It is to say that, should I be forced under house arrest, I should be okay for quite some time. In the time that I've been in the Atlanta Knitting Guild, the guild has sponsored two shop hops. I did the shop-sponsored hop last year. And, since I've been around to meet with the local owners individually, I've essentially done another hop by myself this summer. The owners sponsored a shop hop a couple weeks ago. The weather was nice, the gas prices weren't but, hey, that's why I have the zippy sippy.

Now, I do have to admit to a small guild president meltdown in my living room earlier this month. It was the day after Dragon*Con, so I was still recovering from four days of partying like I'm 20, which I'm not anymore. Cuddly Hubby was home -- wise man that he is, he takes off both the day before and after the convention. I had just turned the computer on and was about to check my e-mail when the phone rang. It was Debra, who is doing a fabulous job booking superstars for the guild. Those of you who follow Atlanta Knitting Guild news know that we didn't have our scheduled superstar this month. So, after my cordial if unhappy conversation with Debra, I walked into the living room and told my husband that my reward for being guild president shall be enough yarn to do Lizard Ridge. The Cuddly Hubby has the sort of even temperament that he was not the least bit bothered by either this statement or its financial implications.

This worked out well, because I really did need to stay on a budget for this fifth shop hop. Dragon*Con is always a significant financial event, and we upped that this year by purchasing art. Cuddly Hubby just bought an airline ticket so that he can go meet his birth mother for the very first time in the cool upper Midwest. The zippy sippy turned 30,000 miles yesterday, which means time for a major ($400+) maintenance check-up. And both critters are due for check-ups and tests at the vet. (Can that comprehensive national health care plan cover pets, please, if I have no other dependents?) Thus, the need to be relatively well-behaved. Fortunately, I had two checks from working the August run-off election for Cobb County, so a great deal of what I spent was my pay from helping democracy happen.

Because I worked Saturday the 13th for the SPLOST election, I decided to start the shop hop on Monday the 15th. I drove to Watkinsville. It was a lovely fall day. I had a very nice time in the shop, and even came home with a few springs of fresh catnip which was much appreciated by the Russian Kitchen Mafia. Main Street Yarns has a strong selection of books and also stocks the Lucy Neatby dvds. At some point I will blog about the class I took with her and how completely awesome she is and how, if you have any opportunity at all to take a class with her you should, but that will have to wait for another day. I already had Sock Techniques 2, so I bought Sock Techniques 1. After much internal debate, I also chose a big hulking skein of Mountain Colors Weaver's Wool. And I finished off the purchase with a brown-orange-pink-green skein of Noro Kureyon. They also have Louet Mooi lace yarn with buffalo, but that will have to wait. Then I went to Mirko's Pasta for lunch. You have to drive past it anyway to get back to GA 316, so you might as well go in and eat. Oh . . . my . . . gosh! Between the beautiful yarn shop, the great Italian food at a reasonable price, and the prettiness of the north Georgia countryside, I could almost pack-up and move to the Athens area. So Monday was a good day.

Tuesday I was teaching a class in the morning in Woodstock, so I started there. I bought two skeins of Paintbox that have been lurking around The Whole Nine Yarns for several months. I'm under the impression that TWNY isn't going to be re-ordering this yarn. I might make the shag scarf from Knitting New Scarves out of these two skeins. We'll see. I also bought a pink-orange skein of Noro Kureyon. As this is my main hang-out, it's hard. There's always new Rowan or Jojoland or more of those lovely trindles that Jeremy makes.

Then I headed over to Only Ewe and Cotton Too. I hadn't been out Arnold Mill Rd and 140 before. Did you know there is a house that looks like a castle in Roswell!?! I had to concentrate on driving because my brain was asking my eyes to please reality double-check on that. I had a very nice conversation with the owner of the bead shop next door while we waited for Brian to return with his lunch. She is thinking about buying a red Mini Cooper. Of course, I had to tell her how much I love my Milano red Honda Fit. I picked out a grey and greens skein of Noro Kureyon and the Oat Couture Entrelac Purse pattern. Dale, who I see both at North Georgia Knitting Guild and at Purly Gates Remains has done that purse. I was glad to stumble onto an opportunity to get the pattern. If I make it, I'll probably make it bigger because I like more space in a bag. But at least I now have a starting point. And I would have liked to have spent more at Only Ewe, but it was early in the hop. They are sponsoring a trip to SAFF in October, and I may use that or Christmas as an opportunity to give them some business. The owners are super nice and supportive of both guilds. They also have Shi Bui sock yarn, and I might want to make some socks for the Cuddly Hubby.

From there I went over to Cast-On Cottage and Needlepoint Garden. I got into an interesting conversation with a guild member. Always helpful to hear feedback from the membership, since I need to lead in the direction that is best for the group as a whole. The owner was sitting on the floor and working out which skeins of Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden had been discontinued. I bought two skeins -- one in strong party colors including turquoise, hot pink, chartreuse, and tangerine and the other in orange and pink with some turquoise and orchid purple. Again, I would have bought more if I had been in a more spending mind-set. The broad selection was very nice. And I must keep that mental note that she has Frog Tree Alpaca.

Since I was working election returns that night in Kennesaw, I then cut across the top of Cobb County. I forget what a nice selection is in Knitting Emporium. If I had a yarn shop, these are some of the same choices I might make. I had a mental note that there was something towards the back right corner at the end of the hall. Sure enough, a nice stash of Schaefer Anne. I chose a green and brown skein that seems perfect for late summer/early autumn. And I picked out two more skeins of Noro Kureyon -- one in the same dark green with brown colorway as the Anne, and a bright blue with a touch of purple and green that is like so very much of my stash. But there are also great selections on many other things I like. I am finding myself drawn to Jitterbug. And Knitting Emporium has some beautiful shawl pins that I haven't seen in any of the other shops. I don't know if they are enamel or dichroic glass, but they have some of that shimmering iridescent quality. After that, I got some Chinese food (sesame chicken that, oddly, didn't agree with me). Then I went to the designated parking spot for election return workers and sat and stitched on the baby surprise jacket. Finally, I got on the shuttle and went and worked election night. A good night, too -- all the precincts were in by quarter of ten. November isn't going to look like that.

I started out Wednesday morning again in Woodstock, as that's the time for Knit Lit. I'm not getting through Dragonfly in Amber with the speed I'd like, as there is just too much else to do. But I am enjoying the company of Jenna, Lori, Mary Lou, and the rest who drop in now and then. After lunchtime I headed for the inside the Perimeter shops, beginning with Strings & Strands. This is probably the shop that is closest to my house, and certainly easy to get to as it is just a mile off I-285 on Roswell Rd. I was totally smitten with a skein of Jitterbug. I guess that's what happens after you make a successful Will Save the night before. There was also some very nice lace yarn that might be calling my name after Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer's visit in January. I bought another skein of Noro Kureyon in a nice autumnal palette.

From there I scurried down GA 400 and made a side stop at Lenox Mall so that I could enhance my tea stash. Teavana was packed and it wasn't even lunchtime! I remember when I thought I was the only person in Atlanta who knew what hot tea was. I bought Sweet Lily White and 9 Treasures (green) and some Rare Hawaiian White Honey. The honey goes great with Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls, which fill a permanent slot in my tea stash.

From there I got back on GA 400 and found my way down to Needle Nook. I'm not sure which store is the oldest in Atlanta, but it might be this one. I believe it has been around for about thirty years. She even has an exclusive sock line -- Toasty for Needle Nook. I bought two more skeins of Noro Kureyon -- one grey with green and a dash of turquoise, the other brown and russet.

My last stop on on the official shop hop trail was Knitch in Virginia Highlands. I try not to go in there unless I have at least $100 to spend because the place is full of great stuff. The high-end stuff an artist might want is there. Rowan. Odd things like Habu. A large well-stocked bookcase covering the common and uncommon. As I was near the end of my cash, I bought only a single skein of the rare Socks that Rock and no Kureyon.

By that time, it was 4 PM and I figured I might as well check out Sheepish in Decatur. After all, I wasn't going to beat the evening rush. Sheepish has just opened where Nease's Needlework used to be. The stock is still a little low, but some good choices have been made. There's more of that Weaver's Wool. I bought one skein of Mountain Colors Winter Lace. I don't remember seeing that lace weight before, and I do love all things Mountain Colors. It will go with my post-Jackie multicolored lace yarn stash.

All in all, a good trip 'round the area. Breaking it up over three days made it manageable without being crazy. And if this economy really goes completely to hell, at least I'll be able to knit away merrily for quite some time.

22 September 2008

A Perfect Seam

In spite of the frenetic pace this month, I somehow managed to knock out a Baby Surprise Jacket for the shop. I'm not sure yet if I'll be teaching this as a class or as a knit-along. As this is my third time through the pattern, I'm to the point that I'm making refinements. Some of those I'll save for class, but I thought I'd share the seaming refinement with everybody.

Here's the trick -- in the initial cast-on, use a crochet cast-on. The crochet cast-on, when not used as a provisional cast-on, involves throwing the yarn around the left-hand knitting needle in between the formation of each crochet chain. The result is a chain edge that looks just like a bind-off.

Why is that such a great thing for this pattern? Because there are two unavoidable seams in this pattern. And to make matters even more interesting, those seams involve sewing a cast-on edge to a side-selvage of garter stitch. And those two seams sit on the top of the sleeve, not hidden underneath where they are less likely to be noticed.

On a previous baby surprise jacket, I got around this by using a provisional cast-on. I later picked-up stitches along the selvage edge and used all those live stitches to work i-cord all around, both as trim on the cuffs and bands, as well as the seam across the sleeve seam. But this time, I wanted to try something quieter.

So, use a crochet cast-on. When you fold the sweater together, you'll have a garter-stitch edge meeting a chain-stitch edge. Match each chain of the chain stitch to one ridge of the garter stitch. For me, the easiest way to do this was to take safety pins and pin every fifth pair together. This made it easier for me to keep track as I worked.

There will also be a nice chain-stitch border at the cuff. If you use your sewing needle to good advantage, you can neaten the join so that the cuff chain-stitch appears unbroken.

I worked a sort of mattress-stitch variant. I used the edge of the chain closest to the selvage and one bump of the garter-stitch ridge. I also tried it using the far edge of the chain on the fabric side rather than the edge side, but decided that I liked the other way better. The chain lying across the top looks nice -- at least to me. If you don't like the chain, you could try catching the far half of each chain to make the edge half disappear into the seam, but that might make the seam bulkier.

The end result is very pleasing. As you are just catching the chain, the seam has very little fabric thickness in it. It isn't bulky at all, yet this garment was knit and sewn together with Malabrigo. In many ways, this is very similar to an invisible mattress stitch in garter stitch. I also liked having as much chain edging as possible, because it is easy to pick up into it for edgings. On this particular jacket, I added contrasting crab stitch all around.

For more information, look at Nancie Wiseman The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques (Woodinville WA: Martingale & Co, 2002) pp. 18-19 for the crocheted chained cast-on and pp. 68-69 for garter stitch seams.

15 September 2008

More Dragon*Con

I just had to post this great picture. When someone in the parade says, "Do you want me to pick him up for the picture?" you have got to remember where you are. The Young Mr. Star Wars is the son of one of the Cuddly Hubby's co-workers. I think the young gent was a little embarrassed by the whole thing, as he struck me as a shy child who didn't really want to be the center of attention. But I do hope when he's a little older he'll realize that this is a wickedly good picture! Photo credit here to the Young Mr. Star Wars' dad.

He also snapped this picture of the Young Mr. Star Wars with his mom, the Dear Friend who took my avatar picture last year, and me with the Cuddly Hubby. The Dear Friend is proving that just because one is over fifty, maturity is not required in all behavior. Something about Dragon*Con brings out the fun.

08 September 2008

Dragon*Con recap

It has taken me a full week to sit down and write. For the Cuddly Hubby and I, Dragon*Con is the best weekend of the year -- better than the last week of the year that includes Yule, New Year's, and college football Bowl Week. This was our fourteenth Dragon*Con. The Cuddly Hubby doesn't do any costuming at the convention. I've slowly eased into doing costuming, although I don't do anything too elaborate. And, alas, I don't have great pictures of myself in all the costumes I wore during the weekend. But I did promise I'd post, so here's what I have.

Day 1: Friday about lunchtime at the Dunwoody MARTA station. I've had to adjust this photo a bit, as the bright background behind me and the lack of a flash made for a poor exposure. Most of the MARTA stations have public art, but this array of glass is among my favorites. The outfit was a gift from my in-laws. It came directly from India. Colorful and comfortable! Also practical. I did have another change of clothes for Friday evening, but I got too busy with convention fun and didn't get around to changing outfits. And the luggage in the picture is both mine and the Cuddly Hubby's.

Day 2: Saturday we started out at our traditional spot on Peachtree for a view of the parade. I remember when the parade was brand new, had a different route, and was over in about ten minutes. This year it lasted for about forty-five minutes. I started the day in the Medieval/Renaissance outfit. I didn't bother to tighten the corset, as I wanted to actually eat breakfast. Also, tightening the corset best requires a friend to help. I acquired the gold shoulder dragon midway through the day. I also put my hair up midway through the day and added a brass hair barrette and some ribbons with bells.

For the evening I wanted to go to the drum circle. I am still very self-conscious about my skill at dancing. But, at least I can be suitably attired. The black and green dancing costume came from the Georgia Renaissance Festival.

Day 3: I started off Sunday in my most complicated costume -- elf druid. This required using the pointy ears and my first experience with spirit gum. It worked pretty well -- I didn't feel any discomfort, and I left my hair down so that the ears coyly poked out. I initially developed the costume last year for a Mensa regional gathering. The handwoven shawl was purchased three years ago at the Central Pennsylvania Arts Festival. And I'm very pleased with how the staff turned out. The curly stick came from my own backyard and I added all the decoration including the woven laces myself. I also did the lacing on the potion bottle myself.

For the evening, we were attending the pirate party. I've built up the pirate outfit over a couple years. It was initially a costume for the Mensa Northwest Florida Regional Gathering. The boots of butt-kicking were acquired earlier this year. The red blouse was purchased last year for a friend's October wedding. In the end, we didn't stay long at the pirate party and ended up going to the late-night filking, which was great fun.

Day 4: Since we had to check out of the hotel on Monday morning, there was a chance to wear only one outfit. I chose my other Indian outfit. Again, this was a gift from my in-laws after their trip to India. I know I look a little tired in the picture. This picture was taken about 6:00 PM on the platform at Dunwoody MARTA Station, while we waited for space in the elevator so that we could make our way back to our car.

I still had a couple outfits that didn't make it into the rotation. The sari from last year didn't make it out. And I have a yukata that has gone to the convention twice without getting worn. I must do something about that next year. Still for me, one of the best things about Dragon*Con is that you can wear whatever you want. It is always exciting to see what people will do when this simple restriction of everyday existence is lifted.