17 April 2017

What Was I Thinking?

The game master asks, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

This is a running joke between Cuddly Hubby and me. Cuddly Hubby is a benevolent role-playing game master. He is not trying to get the player characters into mortal danger. Danger, yes, as that is part of the game. But he wants everyone to have a good time. Having your 12th-level elf cleric bludgeoned to death in two rounds by a hill giant does not a happy gaming session make. If a player is about to make a decision that is maybe not the smartest thing to do, Cuddly Hubby will ask, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

Sometimes life needs a little pop up to say, "Are you sure you want to do that?" (I also need an iPhone app to say, "Don't listen to the Garmin! That way lies traffic madness.")

Back in October, I decided to spin a pound of lace weight yarn. I spun all during Spinzilla. I took a bit of a break going into the holidays. Then I heard there were people trying to spin for fifteen minutes every day in 2017. I liked that idea. That would be a way to make steady progress and keep up the spinning mojo. So that's what I did. I spun for at least fifteen minutes every day, except the couple weekends when I was away teaching. I did this through January. I did this through February. And I did this through March.

A pound of lace weight yarn on a Majacraft overdrive head.
At the end of March I finally finished the yarn. It took more than an hour just to wind it off the bobbin and up onto the swift, and that was with my super-nice Strauch free-standing swift. The skein is so large I could only soak it, rather than finish it in the steamer. It took three hours to wind it into a ball. If my measurements are correct, this is about 1½ miles/2.4 km of yarn, or about 3 miles/4.8 km of singles. Yes, this is almost the 5K of spinning.

My thought was to make a reversible lace circle jacket. Reversible lace takes twice as much yarn, hence my interest in having a whole pound of fiber rather than merely eight ounces. This is so fine I am wondering if I would be better off putting it on the loom instead? Or I could just go for a giant circle shawl after all. There's enough yardage to be sure it is big and spectacular.

After I finished it, I took about a week off from spinning. Now I'm on to another project. But I must ask of you, dear readers and friends; if I ever say, "I think I'll spin lace weight from a pound of fiber," please, please, please look me straight in the eyes and ask, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

21 March 2017

Last Call

I just happened to pick today to drive out to Robinson Salvage. I've been visiting about every-other week since January as the pile evaporated but the savings deepened. Apparently, today was the day the remaining stash was marked to 90% off.

That's the first pile. Some yarn, a few books, some spinning add-ins. Lots of cotton.

The second pile is all Mountain Colors. When you mark $21.95 down by 90%, that's only $2.20 a pop. This pile was about $50. I must say, I was surprised these didn't go faster. Then again, there are fewer spinners. It isn't surprising that the spinning fiber didn't move as fast as the yarn.

In between January and today, I purchased a whole breed study and enough silk-wool blend to make an entire sweater. Over the course of the sale, I think I purchased around 4 or 5 grocery-cart fulls. I have more than doubled the spinning fiber stash. If you see me at a fiber festival this year and I attempt to purchase any yarn or fiber, please redirect me to the nearest ladies' restroom and splash cool water in my face until I snap out of the hypnotic trace induced by wool fumes and hand-dyed colorways. I can't even rationalize a fleece, as I have an amazing one I purchased last year at SAFF. If I were on the board of one of the guilds, I would have been tempted to scoop up the pile of Ashford scarf kits at $2 a pop, as I think they would make nice door prizes.

By the way, at least some of this will probably be gifted to friends. This is truly an embarrassment of riches.

16 March 2017

Reversible Lace Double Decrease

Several months ago, I posted a video of how to work the centered double decrease in reversible lace. I finally got around to shooting a video for how to work a regular double decrease in reversible lace.

For the double decrease, the center stitch is on the bottom of the stack. Unlike a centered double decrease, a double decrease tends to break up the vertical line. While this is a subtle distinction, it can make a difference in lace patterns where uninterrupted wales are part of the design.

knit-wise, right stitch on top (leans left) =
  • slip 1 stitch knit-wise
  • knit 2 stitches together
  • pass the slipped stitch over

purl-wise, right stitch on top (leans left) =
  • slip 2 stitches together knit-wise
  • slip 1 knit-wise
  • return all 3 stitches to the left needle
  • purl all 3 stitches together up through the back of the loop

knit-wise, left stitch on top (leans right) =
  • slip 1 knit-wise
  • slip 1 knit-wise again
  • return 2 stitches to left needle/cable needle through the back of the loop
  • knit all 3 together

purl-wise, left stitch on top (leans right) =
  • slip stitch #1 purl-wise
  • reorder next two stitches:
  •     put right needle behind stitch #2 and into stitch #3
  •     remove left needle so stitch #2 is loose
  •     replace left needle in stitch #2 but not stitch #3
  •     return stitch #3 to left needle
  • return stitch #1 to left needle
  • purl all 3 together

Reversibility and symmetry can be peculiar. Either knit decrease can be paired with either purl decrease. Depending which you choose, you may get identical reversibility or mirrored reversibility. When designing on your own or converting patterns, be sure to swatch to confirm you are getting the intended result.

01 March 2017


Now that Yarn is over, I've shifted focus to what is happening in my own home. I spent the last week or so organizing the stash. This required two trips to Ikea. I'm not completely finished, but I have corralled most of the yarn, fiber, and craft supplies (including the beads) into one room. This involved moving some stash out of the master bedroom. I don't even remember why there was stash there, other than it must have been when I first started knitting, since most of it was very old stash. In the process of doing that, I discovered moth damage.

The basket isn't even in my Ravelry projects, as it was executed B.R. (before Ravelry). It is also B.B. (before blog). The pattern is Entrelac Tote by Melanie Smith marked "Revised 10/25/2005." It was probably in the very first order I ever made from Knit Picks. I recall it being a very fun knit that I worked up almost immediately. In fact, it was so much fun that I ordered 2 more skeins of spruce, 2 more skeins of hollyberry, and 1 more skein of cloud and knit a second tote. Note to yarn sellers: If you offer a pattern where I can easily make two by buying a little more yarn, please let me know. I'd rather knit it twice than add a big pile of partial skeins to the stash. And you might sell me more yarn!

I improvised on the second tote by making the narrow stripes at top and bottom as waves. Interestingly, they pulled in more when felted giving the tote a vase-like outline rather than the rounded basket shape. I also hid a small pocket behind every other diamond in the entrelac. I twisted the large i-cord handles around each other to give a braided effect. And I made a multi-twist möbius edging at the top. What was I thinking? Maybe I was going to use this as a knitting tote? I even used up the last little bits of yarn by making some "Five-Star Flowers" from Nicky Epstein's Knitted Flowers (New York: Sixth & Spring Books 2006), page 100. (Long time readers will remember I've used the "Buttercup" from this book to cover a hole in a woven bamboo bag.) And I added a couple tendrils because, clearly, this variant should be labeled, "More is more, dang it!"

The moths had munched on the felted totes, especially the first one. Fortunately, they are felted. I took the first bag and ran it through the wash, thinking more felting would ameliorate the problem. Instead, a piece of the bag bottom disappeared. That would make the tote less-functional, wouldn't it? Sigh.

To the stash!

I have a box of half a fleece of freebie merino wool that is too fine for spinning. If you tug on it, it sounds like Rice Krispies. Snap, crackle, pop! It has lots of nepps and noils. If I were to make batts on the drum carder, it would make a very textured yarn. However, there is no such thing a bad fiber. If all else fails, it can be used as stuffing. This wool has turned out to be very useful for felting. While it takes some time to prepare (picking out all those little short bits), most of the time when I am needle felting I only need a small amount of wool. Fifteen minutes of picking isn't all that onerous.

I needed to dye the wool. I got out my Jacquard acid dyes and my set of samples. I was hoping there would be an obvious match. No such luck. Color 631 Teal seemed like the obvious choice, but it was a little too green. In the end, I started the dye process with a bath of teal. After an hour I added some 621 Sapphire Blue. After that cooked for awhile I finished off with more teal. As you can see, the dye struck the wool with quite a bit of variegation. It looks a lot like Malabrigo. Very, very pretty.

To make the patch, I got out my felting needles. The variegation was a tremendous help. There were parts that were too green, parts that were too blue, and parts that were about right. If the wool had taken the dye evenly throughout, it would have been an all-or-nothing outcome in terms of whether the color matched. Because there was variegation, I was able to use mini-combs to blend color. In the end, I got enough fiber that was a close enough match.

I spent about an hour needle felting. Ta-da!

Not a perfect match, but not obvious.

21 February 2017

Big Event

As some of you know, I am one of those people who says, "Why not?"

Back in the summer, my gaming friend Paul asked if I had seen a documentary called Yarn. Why, no! I decided I wanted to see it. But it wasn't playing anywhere in the southeast, not even some place I could drive to in three or four hours.

I put together a proposal for Atlanta Knitting Guild. The proposal was something along the lines of, "Here's this neat movie. I want to see it. I'll bet other people would like to see it. Can we bring it here?" There were multiple possible ways to do this, including simply screening the film at a guild meeting or going big, renting a theater, and selling tickets. In the end, guild president Susan Duralde put a lot of enthusiasm behind the idea of going big. The AKG board got behind it as well. And now, Atlanta Knitting Guild will be screening Yarn this week on the morning of Saturday 25 February at Lefont Theater in Sandy Springs.

As you can see, we have lots of wonderful sponsors. There will be goody bags, including patterns, coupons, and yarn samples. And there are lots and lots of door prizes. For example, Center for Knit and Crochet has donated this:

Yes, that's a limited edition gradient yarn kit from Wonderland Yarns, a CKC bag, and a one-year membership.

Atlanta Knitting Guild is also having a raffle. The pile of high-end yarn is worth over $700.

There is Noro, Madeline Tosh, Mrs. Crosby, Mountain Colors, Opal Harry Potter, even some gradient sets. Raffle tickets are $10 each.

I'm contributing a special printing of a recent pattern. The pattern is a reversible lace scarf and hat set. On Ravelry, the pattern will include both items. For the goodie bags, I have printed a version that has the directions for the scarf but not the hat. This will give you a taste of the technique. For the door prize, I've contributed a skein of emerald green sock yarn from Fiber Charmer and a pattern for reversible lace tube socks in a leaf pattern.

As of this posting, we are close to 200 tickets sold for a theater that seats 240. So we should have a nice full house!

Edited to add:
Here’s the plan for Saturday:
Doors open at 9:15 AM.
Please arrive no later than 9:45 AM.

Check-in and then check-out our Gold sponsor tables.
You may also buy your popcorn, additional raffle tickets, seats in Charles Gandy classes, AKG Membership. The concession stand will have cookies for $1.50 and coffee for $2.50.
To speed the process, please bring check or cash for additional purchases. We will have a limited number of Squares to process card payments.

Take your seats.

Opening remarks.
Prize giveaway: Door Prize (~65 items) and Raffle Prize (1 big prize) give-aways.
You must be present to win.

YARN screening.

Brief closing remarks.

When you arrive, you will check in at the desk. You will receive your goodie bag as well as an envelope with your door prize ticket, your raffle ticket(s) (if you purchased any), and a printed version of your online receipt. You should then put you door prize ticket and your raffle ticket(s) (if any) in the appropriate receptacles near the center of the room.

14 February 2017

Off Topic — Too Mild a Winter?

In spite of my love of knitting, I am not a cool-weather person. I know some people who adore that first hit of cool autumn air. I prefer the first hit of warm spring air. Some people say alpaca is too warm. I'm thinking of making alpaca pajamas. But even I, lover of sunshine and warmth, must object to this:

Yes, the St. Valentine's Day azaleas. Go back to sleep! It is only February, not April.

Last winter was a mild winter. I don't have the data, but this one might be milder. Yes, we started off the year with an ice storm. And then we moved into weeks of 50 to 70 degree weather. Cherry trees are blooming right now. Our local news reported on March-like pollen counts. We are not merely a week or two early. Some trees are 4 weeks early. My azaleas are 8 weeks ahead of schedule.

I'm not sure of the full implications. For example, in the spring the azaleas are usually covered with happy pollinators. I don't see a lot a bees, yet. This makes me wonder if there are plants blooming now who won't get pollinated? And I wonder in general about how plants and animals match themselves up with the seasons. Those who do it by the sun should be okay, I think. Hours of sunlight are not affected by climate change. (Amount of sunlight might be affected if cloud cover changes drastically, but the hours the sun is above the horizon are set by stable planetary motion.) But the living things who rely on warmth and coolness to match themselves to the seasons will be confused.

And some living things need that cool period of rest. This recent article from our local National Public Radio station WABE warns this year's peach crop may be less because peach trees are not getting the chill hours they need. As someone who loves peaches with vanilla ice cream in the summer, this is a worrisome development.

06 February 2017

Teaching and Learning

I started off this year with two weekend events — one new to me and the other an old favorite.

In January I taught at the Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Retreat. This retreat has been happening for more than a decade. It is scheduled for the weekend of Dr. King's holiday. The location is tranquil — an Episcopalian retreat and campground in the North Carolina mountains. Varian Brandon is the organizer. I know Varian from Georgia FiberFest. In fact, I'm sometimes sorry I teach at that show, and I would dearly love to take Varian's steeking class. She has an incredible eye for color and design.

Kanuga is setup as a retreat. This means the classes are part of the package price. Students come and go. The weekend involved about 9 hours of instruction. I was asked to teach modular knitting. The nice thing about the long format is we had plenty of time to swatch and play. Modular knitting lends itself to play, both color and shape.

Another great thing about the retreat format is that you eat meals with the group. This means that over the course of a weekend you make new friends. This isn't like a fiber show where you are in class with someone for three hours and then don't see them again. A significant fraction of the retreat participants return year after year. There's plenty of crafting during the day, but also community around the fireplace at night.

And because this is an Episcopal retreat, there is morning communion and evening prayers. Reverend Jennifer Deaton from St. Andrew's Cathedral in Jackson, Missippippi, arranged the prayers around the five senses. How could you miss one prayer session? What was she going to say about taste or smell? The church building At Kanuga is made from local pine. The entire interior is knotty pine, unfinished, emitting a warm glow of old wood. Outdoors, Kanuga has a labyrinth to walk for those who like that spiritual practice. You might find sitting and watching the lake, the woods, and the natural creatures also nourishes the soul.

Since this is a knitting and quilting retreat, there was a room full of quilters. I watched a demonstration; and now I better understand the boom in quilting. About 30 years ago I cut out a quilt — sat on the floor, used scissors, and cut out lots of little squares by hand. Today quilters have these marvelous clear acrylic templates/tools! They have rotary cutters and mats. They have sewing machines that look like the love children of iMac and Singer. It was amazing how quickly and precisely the quilters could work their craft. And I haven't even mentioned the beautiful fabrics!

Kanuga was the shiny new thing in January.

Kanuga Knitting & Quilting Retreat 2017. I'm partly hidden in the back row, to the right of tall Bonnie.

In February I attended South Carolina Knit Inn.

I've written previously about was a delightful gathering it is. This was an opportunity for me to teach more people about reversible lace. I'm still looking for a critical mass. In addition to teaching, I also took a couple classes.

I took a class on needle felting from Cheryl McLane of Purdy Thangz. I've done some needle felting previously; and I've read a little bit about felting. I just thought a class would be fun. And it was! Cheryl showed us how to use a template. And she showed us how to felt around wires in order to give a piece some structure. I got the black rose kit, but I brought some of my own fiber and tools with me. This rose has a base of black with scarlet red overlaid — very vampire! After the weekend, I went home, dyed more fiber, and finished my rose. The red and black is for the Falcons, who had better rise up and knock it out of the park on Super Bowl LII, don't ya know!? Or maybe they will be the first team to win it all in their home stadium in 2019 for Super Bowl LIII?

I also took a class on Tunisian knitting from Helen Cogbill. I had heard of Tunisian crochet, but not Tunisian knitting. Both involve a set-up row, but then action on the return row. It takes two passes up and down the needle to create one row of stitches. It requires thought to convince your hands to manipulate yarn and slip stitches without working any stitches on the set-up row. After the weekend, I made three sizeable swatches to put in my class notebook.

Traditional Single Tunisian Knitting (also called Oblique Tunisian)

Tunisian Rib Stitch

Double Tunisian Knit Stitch (also called Horizontal Tunisian)

As Helen pointed out, this is probably not a fabric to use for a whole garment. But, it could make for nice trim. I think a few rows of Double Tunisian would be a clean, modern border. And while I don't have a picture, I did try working in two colors. Tunisian would work as a way to introduce a horizontal line of complementary color, almost like a supplementary weft in weaving. I also worked the Tunisian rib as a Tunisian seed stitch. Possibilities!

07 January 2017


Well, 2017 is off to a wild start. I surmise the erratic ju-ju from 2016 is not exhausted?

My plan for yesterday was to stay home, drink hot chocolate, and knit. I knew the wintry weather was coming. I had already stocked up on groceries earlier in the week, checked in at The Whole Nine Yarns to be sure my Saturday classes would be canceled, and generally put things in order.

Then I went to the Thursday evening Atlanta Knitting Guild meeting. Elke and Lynne told me that Robinson Salvage out in Carrollton had received a shipment of items from a shop impacted by the fires in Tennessee. The shop's insurance had covered the inventory as a loss. The salvage store had items at 40% off, including weaving and spinning books.

So instead of staying put in my warm little house, I got up, cared for the feline electron cloud, got dressed, and headed out to Carrollton. It took not quite an hour to get out there; and that was from my advantageous starting position on the west side of town. I got on I-20 at exit 46 (Six Flags Drive) and drove to exit 24. So, yes, with a snowstorm imminent I drove halfway to Alabama. Priorities! The salvage store is about 15-20 minutes south after exiting the interstate. Robinson Salvage has a main store a mile or two up the road from the real address you want: 620 Bankhead Highway. This is their overflow warehouse. Walk in the doors and head back and to the left.

And there you are. There are two big rows of palette after palette of yarn, fiber, and books. I did not see any tools (wheels, looms, needles) or DVDs. There was a very nice selection of books. I was able to greatly fill out my library wish list (sorry, Interweave). There was plenty of yarn, including Cascade Fixation and Alpaca Lace, Liberty Wool, and Mountain Colors. There was mounds and mounds of spinning fiber. And there, on the spinning fiber in every color, was the proof I had feared. This was from Smoky Mountain Spinnery.

I mentioned Smoky Mountain Spinnery in a blog post back in the spring of 2015 when I enjoyed the great privilege of teaching at Fiber Forum, held at Arrowmont. Smoky Mountain Spinnery is a delightful destination shop. While it is not difficult to find yarn shops, it is much harder to find shops that carry spinning and weaving. This shop had a wall of rovings in every base color the dye manufacturers make. They had fiber from prize-winning sheep from major wool festivals. Looking at their website, they say they do intend to reopen, possibly as soon as later this month. Still, I can not fully imagine what a major undertaking it must be, even with insurance, to swap out an entire smoke-afflicted inventory. If you find yourself near Gatlinburg this year, please go check them out! After the loss of the Mannings a year ago, I do not want to see our community lose another major shop.

At Robinson Salvage items are just piled up in boxes, so you have to dig and sort. Sometimes matching skeins are not right next to each other. I spent more than an hour and way more money than I had intended. I have specific plans for reversible lace projects for all the knitting yarns. Several of the books were on my wish list. Maggie's Ireland was probably the last major XRX book that wasn't already in my library.

I did not see any equipment — no wheels, looms, or knitting needles. I'm thinking of going back next week to see if any appear. Employees were still unpacking weaving yarns while I was there. So while I was tempted to linger, I knew I needed to get my tail back home. Especially if you are a spinner, I can not stress enough this rare chance for significant stash enhancement. There were qualtities of undyed fiber that would be perfect if you wanted to make a whole sweater from scratch.

So, while there is joy (happy Epiphany!), there is also sorrow. I like Smoky Mountain Spinnery. There are mixed feelings to be benefiting from their horrible 2016.

The cold rain had just started when I left Carrollton after 1 PM. I got back to Mableton after 2 PM. I was grateful to use the inbound lanes on I-20, as the outbound lanes were crammed. Traffic was thick after I got off the expressway. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever seen local traffic of that magnitude. It reminded me of the weekend before Christmas, but with the volume turned up another notch. I parked in my garage, unloaded, spoke to my mom (Thank you for checking on me!), ate, and then walked over to Kroger because I was out of whipped cream for hot chocolate. Yes, first world problems. I also picked up some Chinese food at the local family-run hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon; and I have never seen the restaurant that busy. The snow emergency preparedness memo for Atlanta: Buy milk, bread, and Chinese food?

Jump to this morning and the beautiful view from my windows.

And I guess it is just as well that I've enhanced the stash, as I am not going anywhere.

Charlie Brown Christmas tree on left, Ewok Imperial driveway barrier in distance

I could hear the trees cracking last night. One of my friends has been talking about coming over some afternoon with his chain saw so as to trim the long branches off the pine tree. I think the ice beat him to it. It should be below freezing all day today. I am not going outside. When the ice is gone in a day or two, I'll see if I can drag the boughs off the street and into the side yard. I was going to get dressed this morning, but then reconsidered. I've made a pot of hot green tea and put on NPR. (Boo, hiss! "Wait, Wait, . . . Don't Tell Me" is a rerun clip show today.) I have leftover Chinese food for later today. And I am almost done with my latest reversible lace project (more on that soon, I hope!).

So much for 2017, week 1.