Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making a list…

The winter holidays always bring out the list-making, goal -oriented part of my personality.  Here is this year’s list of goals, all unrealistically slated to be accomplished during the week between Christmas and New Year!

1.  Texsolv tie-ups to be applied to my 60” Toika loom

2.  Choose pattern for napkins which will be woven as test samples for future tablecloth project on the Toika . Warp the loom!

2.  Taka dai to be made by Bob according to Rodrick’s plans.  Naturally I will be turning out my first braid within hours of the taka dai’s completion.

Taka Dai Rodrick

3. Dyeing with my avocado pit brew which has been steeping for almost 3 months now. This means spinning some white wool to dye.

4.  Weave the small test tapestry for the medieval spinner with the wonderful wools that have arrived from Renaissance Dyeing in France.

Jan. 10 009

Won’t I have a busy week!  And somehow I imagine myself sharing delicious meals with my visiting family, lounging on the sofa reading all the fiber magazines that never got opened during the course of this year, continuing to knit my handspun Fair Isle sweater project, and starting a new baby sweater for the upcoming Feb. birth.  Dec. 2009 006

I need a dose of reality!…but then dreaming is so much more fun!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Cheer to all

…or what happens when the 20-somethings outnumber the 50-somethings at the family Christmas celebration.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Buy Handmade

Goodbye funk….

Regretsy advent20

I regret that I am posting this so late in advent.  It’s dangerous to look at too many of these at once because your laughing fit may cause accelerated heart rate, inability to breathe, and severe stomach ache.  You’ve been warned!



This is as good as You Knit What? that I’ve sorely missed!
Thank you, Helen Killer!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ah, December…

It seems every holiday is balanced with a share of grief.  Perhaps winter celebrations were established to balance our sufferings through these dark months.

This is a study for a larger tapestry I still haven’t made.  The bigger idea is not ready yet, but at the time of the study I made a list of mothers I know who had lost their children.  I just added one more name to that list.

Detail of Life 18 x 8 And yesterday I found this poem mixed in with my cache of knitting patterns:

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called.  This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours though

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking:  This is what the living do.  And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush:  This is it.
Parking.  Slamming the car door shut in the cold.  What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up.  We want the spring to come and the winter to pass.  We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living.  I remember you.

--Marie Howe

I promise to be more upbeat for the rest of the month…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Late, as usual!

This Saturday will be the closing reception of The Wednesday Group’s exhibition “Henry’s Hudson” at ASK! (Artists’ Society of Kingston).  I guess I’d better post some photos from the opening reception!

Wed. Group Kingston opening 022






Archie, standing next to his tapestry, which is already sold.


Wed. Group Kingston opening 016






Susan standing with Betty Vera, and hey!..that’s my little Hudson River piece right between them.

 Wed. Group Kingston opening 007

One of my favorite pieces from the show, by Annelisa DeCoursin.






Several pieces in this show are real knockouts, but my camera battery was dying so I missed getting some of them.  The opening was well attended, probably our biggest crowd yet!  And ASK! is definitely the best venue we’ve had.  The space is perfect!

Wed. Group Kingston opening 027 Eleven of the fourteen Wednesday Group members standing in front of Susan’s powerful work “Taxi!” (All those yellow spots are taxis!) Archie and Susan are back row, left side.  Helen and Alta, who master minded this exhibit, are front row left.  I am in the center.  It was a fun evening!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Soul Collage

A friend of mine invited me to join her at a one-day workshop on Soul Collage which I had not heard of.  I thought that learning some collage techniques might help my tapestry design, so I was looking forward to the workshop.

The collage class ended up being much more than I expected!  It’s a way to get in touch with many of our deepest, strongest, sometimes unrealized feelings…and how great is that for creating art?  The collage techniques were nothing compared to tapping into such deep seated emotions and powerful core beliefs.  I’m so glad I participated in this!…although by the time  left I had a massive headache! (I still seem to wilt every afternoon with aches, headache, nausea and exhaustion…what a flu!)

Soul Collage Earth Wisdom

This is an image of someone else’s collage posted on the website.  Many of them are quite powerful.  I wanted to post one of mine, but my scanner refuses to scan right now.  It’s making a lot of noise and giving me error messages!  Hmmph!

Friday, November 13, 2009


What a happy surprise arrived in my inbox!  I got a message from Tien Chiu (co-founder of Weavolution) that her article on plain weave went online today at Weavezine. The article ends with photos of two of my tapestires: “NY 30’ Sailing by the Palisades” (misnamed in the article) in progress, which shows that sometimes tapestries are worked sideways, and “Stone Buddha.”  I was particularly thrilled that Chien ended her article with an ‘inspirational photo’... my Buddha!  Woohoo!

Meanwhile…. progress on Rob:

Rob tapestry 002

Falling Behind

Since July the Wednesday Group has had a heavy schedule of exhibitions.  It’s been very exciting for us!

I missed all the opening receptions except our most recent one, last Saturday.  But in late September we had a lovely reception at the Clifton Arts Center, and the exhibition closed on Halloween with a visit from art students at Skidmore College.

Here are a few photos from our Sept. 26 opening reception at the Clifton Arts Center in NJ.Wed Group tap. Clifton Arts Center 10.09 012 Wed Group tap. Clifton Arts Center 10.09 014 Wed Group tap. Clifton Arts Center 10.09 053

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Robert Frost

Chris' camera winter.spring 2006 012

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spinning Dreams…

Several years ago at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival I got to sit at a dream spinning wheel, the Wyatt  ‘Norwegian.’  I’d never had such a perfect spinning experience, and I realized right then what some of my friends must feel when they get on a five year waiting list for a Norm Hall wheel.  This was my spinning dream…

That one brief encounter with Bill Wyatt has stayed in my thoughts ever since.  I can’t say for sure when it was…four years ago, maybe?  I run the conversation through my mind sometimes….when Bill learned my origins are in Texas he caught me up on the incredible changes along the Gulf Coast over the past several decades.  He talked of his career flying with commercial airlines, and his innovations in spinning wheel design.  He was noticeably a better spinner than I was at the time!  In fact, his spinning made me vow to work on my own spinning improvement, and I have. His ‘Pegasus’ wheel was actually too fast for me, but he could spin on it effortlessly.

I’ve kept the Wyatt Wheel brochure on the book shelf with my spinning books, and I have the website bookmarked in my spinning folder.  I was so sad when I learned he was sick, not only because of his wheels, but mainly because interesting people like him are so rare.  We all need people of his creative caliber to stay with us and influence us for ages, not fleeting moments… but I only got that brief encounter with him, so I replayed it often.

This week I’ve encountered another interesting spinning wheel maker, Myles Jakubowski, who was Bill’s apprentice. He is an ‘automation engineer’ who loves woodworking and will be continuing to make Wyatt Wheels to Bill’s specifications.  Not surprisingly, Myles also has some ideas of his own and is planning to make the first wheel of his own design this winter.  I can’t wait to see it!Spinning Wyatt Wheel Myles Jakubowski

So now I’m on one of those long waiting lists!  I’m in spinning nirvana thinking about the finite time before I have my dream wheel.  And although it was the Norwegian I fell for a few years back, I have decided to get either the ‘Pegasus,’ since my spinning prowess has greatly improved over these few years, or I will seriously consider the new wheel that Myles is designing:  a castle version of the Pegasus. 

It’s wonderful to have a dream, and I’m so glad that Myles has brought my dream back to reality!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


In the last 10 days of October I was on quite a roll, getting a lot of things done…weaving off a 16S network twill scarf, making progress on my current tapestry, knitting various things, and even spinning.  I felt unstoppable!….

Chloe sweater 001

“Shadow Baby” by Joan Somerville, using 2 shades of Tofutsies yarn. Check out the cute Gita Maria buttons! This sweater is for my new niece who will arrive in Dec!

Tapestry HRob progress 11.09

My biggest accomplishment this month was tackling the details on Rob’s face!  I’m at the halfway point of the cartoon, but have completed more than 50% of the difficult areas now. (Lots of ‘hand-holding’ from Soyoo Park to choose skin colors and to work three interlocking sections on five warps for Rob’s mouth!)

A few other things with no photos:  a pair of jaywalker socks where I tried to get the pattern part out of one ball of Regia Color Effekt, by using a solid color yarn for the cuff, heel, and toe.  Didn’t work!  I ran out of the Regia before I got to the toe, so part of the foot is done in solid color.  Bummer.  At least that won’t show when I have shoes on!

I’m also brewing another avocado pit dye.  This time I’m attempting patience, how novel!  Each time we eat an avocado I finely chop the pit and add it to the brew.  Every second or third day I heat the dyepot to a simmer for 30 minutes as per Carol Lee’s instructions.  She says this goes on for months before actually dyeing. It’s a luscious red!

Then, on the penultimate day of the month I began to malfunction…and by the end of the day I was in bed with the flu!  Seven days later I can barely get out of my own way.  I’ve lost momentum…. and I”m in a funk….

The last time I had the flu (12 years ago), I ran to my LYS and bought some lace weight merino (Grignasco?) and got in bed with a Eugene Buehler pattern from Knitter’s Magazine. This time I’d been eyeing the recently arrived box of Icelandic unspun yarn in six colors from Schoolhouse Press.  So I went to bed with my little laptop tuned in on Schoolhouse Press’s current shawl KAL by Maria Von Keppel.

Sleep, knit, drink tea…..sleep, knit, drink tea…. 4 days later:

schoolhouse press shawl KAL 10.09 003

I was able to get out of bed on the day I did the crochet loops.  I graduated to sitting in a chair!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Safflower and Cochineal Shibori

I may not get things done in a timely fashion, but it seems to me that I’m always juggling too many diverse things.  In the midst of my shibori ideas, I went sailing with my husband for five days over the Columbus holiday down in the Chesapeake.  I also got quite a bad cold which slowed me down…

So…back to shibori!

Oct.09Shirbori workshop 1

  My safflower dyed sock blank pleated and bound with four rubber bands, ready for the cochineal bath!



Oct.09Shibori workshop 3

The safflower dyed silk scarf ‘scrunched and wrapped around a soda bottle, ready for the cochineal bath…





Oct.09Shibori workshop 5

sock blank and wool/mohair skein after the cochineal bath.




Oct.09Shibori workshop 7

The finished items.  The silk scarf did not take the cochineal well.  It was not mordanted, which did not matter for the safflower, but certain must have for the cochineal. 

 Oct. shibori 003

Sock blank wound onto niddy-noddy, with silk scarf in background.




Oct. shibori 005

skein of doubled sock blank yarn!  I can’t wait to knit with this, but it might have to wait ‘til the near year, after all the holiday knitting is done!


Next step (someday!) will be to mordant the scarf, then stitch some designs, and re-dye it!  I don’t think I’ll hold my breath waiting to get it done!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yesterday I went to see the woven cloth made from spider silk at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Emails about this amazing cloth have been flying around the internet for about a month, and the descriptions at the museum website are quite intriguing, including a wonderful video which I will post here.

The cloth is under plexiglas in the grand gallery.  When my friend Susan and I entered the gallery we had a hard time finding the exhibit!  The plexiglas case is tucked against the wall at one side of the gallery, with very little signage to attract attention to it.  There is one small display of photos and a brief description at the front of the case.  Clearly, if you want to know as much as possible about the whole process-- the spiders, collecting the silk, making the thread and weaving-- you have to go to the website, which seems odd to me.



Yet there is no substitute for seeing this amazing woven cloth in person.  In the late morning October light it glowed brilliantly, like a saffron dyed robe, and yet its glowing golden color is the natural color of the spider silk!  Breath-taking!

My son visited during the last hour of the museum’s day, just after 5pm, and he said the piece is not well lighted.  To him, it was a dull gold, not glowing the way I’d seen it.

This is not my first experience at learning a little about spider silk.  During my younger son’s last year at the University of Rochester, he had a job working in the laser lab, and he arranged for me and his dad to get a tour.  It happens to be the largest laser lab in the world, which must be the best kept secret! Professor Bigelow described to me that spider silk (purchased from spider nurseries) is used to hold a single atom in place in the chamber where it will be ‘shot’ with the laser.  I don’t know anything about the spider nurseries, but I found it amazing that in Madagascar, the golden orb spiders were collected from the wild, ‘milked’ for their silk, and then returned to the wild.  Amazing!

I can’t go to the Museum of Natural History without visiting all the wonderful textiles in the Central and South American exhibit!  I can’t imagine a time when these textiles won’t thrill and inspire me!

After lunch, my friend and I went to Loop of the Loom, previously in Englewood, now on 87th and 3rd Ave.  What a lovely spot this is! I wish I’d taken photos to share.  It is a basement shop, yet so filled with light!  The shop is dedicated to Saori weaving, which is not my style, but I’m always so intrigued with how personal the finished items are.  I’m always drawn to the work people do on these simple looms.  Actually, I have to say that I’m really quite moved by the strong evidence of the ‘maker’s hand,’ so prevalent in Saori weaving.  I highly recommend stopping by if you are in Manhattan!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Safflower Update

I finished the yellow dyeing of wool in the safflower bath.  Here is the sock blank and another small skein (50 gr) that I added later to hopefully use up the yellow pigment in this bath.Dyeing Safflower 10.09

Kathy asked me if, after dyeing, I would knit directly from the unraveled, ‘kinky’ yarn, or if I would re-wet the yarn to make it smooth again.  I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about this!  Now, since she’s brought it up, I believe I will try steaming the yarn after it has been skeined. Before I get to knitting, this sock blank will get folded and clamped and over-dyed for a shibori effect.

Unfortunately this photo does not do justice to the colors!  The sock blank is truly a complex blend of colors ranging from a creamy golden color, to soft oranges.  I love it!  The skein is a pale, creamy yellow, a delicate, soft color.

Today I have the silk scarf and a small piece of muslin in the bath which I’ve shifted to alkaline with the addition of soda ash.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Lesson in Viniculture

What a lucky day!  Over the weekend, at my in-laws double 80th birthday party, one of my husband’s cousins brought his homemade grenache wine share.  It was a sensational hit; everyone loved it!  He told me he would be pressing this year’s grenache grapes sometime this week, and I asked if I could watch. 

He called this morning to tell me that this evening he would be pressing.  I arrived to find the crushed grapes fermenting in a real oak barrel.  They’d been fermenting for 8 days. I learned from our cousin Paul that the first fermentation (the crushed grapes in the barrel) takes between six and ten days.  After the bubbling and rising (somewhat like bread) begins to subside, it’s time to ladle out the crushed grapes and their juices into the press, where the juices are drained off into glass carboys, where the fermentation continues without the solids of the grapes.  Paul was doing a half batch (about 15-16 gallons) of wine which took six crates of grapes which he ordered from California.  Wine making DiDario 10.09 001

The grapes in the barrel.You can see how the level of grapes has subsided.



Wine making DiDario 10.09 003

The barrel with press and glass carboys in the background.




The barrel and the press are impressive equipment, and understandably expensive!  Just like weaving, spinning and knitting, wine making is an expensive endeavor.  He spends about $10 a bottle just on materials.  The equipment was a considerable expense above and beyond materials,  so I doubt there is ever any point at which this is an economical endeavor!  (Reminds me of when people ask if I knit my own sweaters to save money!…not!)

Wine making DiDario 10.09 004

Putting the grapes through the press.  In the beginning the juices run through easily, as here.  Later it is necessary to use the threaded rod with crank to press out the last of the juices.




Wine making DiDario 10.09 005 The juice drains from the press into stainless steel pots which Paul pours into the glass carboys as the pots get full.  Tonight he got a total of 16 gallons of juice from this pressing, which was a 1/2 barrel of grapes.




Wine making DiDario 10.09 008 Father and daughter beginning to press.  This was actually quite labor intensive.  The press is wrapped in plastic film to prevent the juices from coming out the sides.  In the background you can see a full carboy with air lock stopper.  This allows fermenting gases to escape without letting any impurities get in.


Wine making DiDario 10.09 009 Hard cranking at this point.  Paul is adding some wooden blocks in order to add more pressure.





It was a beautiful evening, crisp and clear, with a 3/4 waxing gibbous moon and bright stars against the cloudless sky.   Paul always presses in the evening because at this time of year the bees would be swarming if he pressed during daylight.  The garage which serves as his barrel fermentation and pressing room smelled deliciously like wine. It seemed like we could get drunk on the scent alone.  It was hard to imagine that this wine needed any further aging since it smelled so good, yet it will not be ready until at least spring.  Again, there is a range of time needed to complete the wine, some years taking longer than others.

Paul sent me home with a bottle of his 2007 Grenache, which he said was a very good year for him.  Decisions, decisions!  Do I save it or drink it now?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spinning and Dyeing

In the midst of chores today, I am making a safflower dyebath in which I hope to dye a knitted sock blank yellow and then a silk scarf blank coral!  Both of these projects have further work after the safflower dye.  I want to do some shibori on both.  For the sock blank I will do some binding (haven’t decided what yet) and dip in indigo.  For the silk scarf, I want to do a lot of stitching, which will probably take me some time, before overdyeing with madder.

I understand that safflower is not terrible fast, so in the case of the scarf, as the safflower fades the madder will remain the dominant color of the scarf.  I am counting on some safflower color remaining.  I just don’t care for the look of shibori when the bound areas are white.

Dyeing.Spinning Sept. 09 001 The first safflower soak is taking place here.  Great golden color, isn’t it? The safflower is wrapped in an old handkerchief. After I get all the yellow out of this soak I will use this bath for my sock blank and start a new bath for the pink/coral I want for the silk scarf blank.  I’m following Jenny Dean’s recipe which recommends making the second bath alkaline with soda ash. I may also follow her further directions to bring the bath back to acid to get a pinker coral on silk.  More photos will follow!

I just joined GoddessKnits’ upcoming fall mystery sock KAL (starts early Nov.) and have decided to spin my own yarn for it, based on techniques I learned from Judith McKenzie quite a few years ago at a workshop during the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival.  I’m using three colors of merino top and creating my own color sequence.  I plan to make a cabled 4-ply yarn for my sock project.Dyeing.Spinning Sept. 09 009

Dyeing.Spinning Sept. 09 010

Bob is leaving today to sail our boat to Annapolis with a crew.  I will pick up everyone (including Bob! …since he’s working in his Manhattan office and will take a train to CT, where the boat is waiting) at various train stations on my way to the boat with provisions later today.

I will then have four days on my own in which I hope to get a good amount of spinning done, spin and weave with a couple of friends, finish weaving a scarf that’s been on my AVL for a year, and make plans for my next tapestry.  As long and slow as tapestry weaving is, I think deciding what to weave is the slowest part of the process!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Pickwickian Quibbler

I have just learned that William Safire has passed away. 

Today’s Telegraph describes him:
”Applauded by his peers as ‘a Pickwickian quibbler,’ he ran a gimlet eye down the solecisms, gaffes, weaselly euphemisms, jargon and sonorous drivel of political discourse and pounced with the restrained relish of a talented linguist.”

Since I am passionate about linguistics, I was a long time fan of his column ‘On Language’ in the NYTimes Magazine. Who will now fill his shoes?

Do you remember his phrase, “the nattering nabobs of negavitism?” Such creativity!

I never followed his politics, but his use and abuse of language was priceless….

This morning I finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  I hope there are many others reading this at the moment, so I won’t say anything except that The Chicago Sun-Times’ review was spot-on for me: “This story, like all great tales, will break your heart, but it will also make you realize—or remember—that sometimes the pain is worth it.”

The garden is calling for attention, but I do not think I will get there today….garden fall anemones

Monday, September 14, 2009


This month is always an emotional roller coaster for me.  On the one hand, the weather is magnificent! I have so many new plans and projects in the works that it makes my New Year’s resolutions look amateur!  We celebrate several wonderful family events, including birthdays and anniversaries. 

Last week one of my husband’s uncles turned 90, and he is as spry as the most youthful 70 year old! Both my husband’s parents will turn 80 at the end of the month, as well as celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary.  My father turns 75 today.  It’s a month with a lot of parties and large family gatherings. There is so much to celebrate… 

And here’s the balance.  I miss the quickly fading light as we hurtle toward winter.  I’m often overwhelmed by the demands of all the things I’ve promised to people, deadlines rushing toward me, obligations I wish I’d never made!

My younger son, who lives in Manhattan, went to the site of the World Trade Center on Friday, late in the day, after the services were done.  He took several moving photos there, but the one that haunts him, and now haunts me, was never taken.

I’ll preface it with these photos from the New York Times.sept. 11 2009 memorial 2 Sept 11 2009 memorial

The image he did not take is of a crew of men shoveling thousands of flowers into a dump truck.  The inevitable clean-up from such moving ceremonies….

Here is one of Chris’s photos from that afternoon.Chris. Sept. 11 2009 memorial

Such is September, a mix of celebration, reflection, sadness.  Over the weekend I learned that Chris has been friends with Annie Le and her fiance Jonathon throughout their four years at Univ. of Rochester.  Jonathon is at Columbia with Chris now.  Such an unspeakable tragedy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Thrills

This one is a bit embarrassing to tell.  I was zipping along knitting one day near the end of our sailing trip, and I accidentally stabbed myself with my Signature stilletto-pointed needle.  You’d think I’d never held a needle before!  It was a fluke!  As I finished a row, the empty left hand needle slipped out of my grip.  For some irrational reason, I did not want to drop the needle…. it would only hit the cockpit sole, but I think subconsciously I must have thought I would lose it overboard!  I grabbed for it as quickly as I could. The needle managed to hit the cockpit bench on end with its tip standing straight up. My hand came straight down, and that stilletto tip went into my palm, dead center.  It actually hung there for a second or so before falling out, so I was impaled on my knitting needle!  It hurt,  but my laughter definitely took the edge off! I thought about taking a photo of my bleeding palm, but then thought better of it!

After 45 years of knitting I’ve had my first knitting accident.  Beware….

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some thrills

There are many people who find knitters and knitting so boring they cannot possibly imagine what thrills we have. I spent a lot of time knitting my kimono cardigan on our recent sailing trip, and it seemed a good time to analyze my technique and see what I might do if I wanted to knit faster!

I am a picker (meaning I knit by holding the working yarn in my left hand and making the right hand needle do the work of catching it to create the new loop).  I am left handed but knit in the right handed direction since I’m pretty fast at it.  I knit about 60 stitches per minute, which would be a poor showing for knitting speed competitions, but seems faster than most knitters I have spent time with..

To be fair, I should say that I have tried many ways of knitting and still use them all on occasion.  I was taught to knit ‘throwing’ (the traditional English way which involves having the working yarn in your right hand and using your right hand to ‘throw’ the yarn around the left needle), and over the years I’ve tired both ‘picking’ and ‘throwing’ in the opposite direction (with the knitted work on the right needle moving to the left needle) just because I’m left handed and felt I should give it a whirl!  It comes in handy when I don’t want to keep turning my work around, but I am still faster at right handed picking than other methods. Other methods will get mentioned later…maybe!

So, faster…  knowing that efficiency of motion is a vital key to speed I have also made efforts to keep my knitting right at the tips of my needles, and now, for years now actually, I’ve managed no movement at all in my left hand…my right needle does a little flick to get that needle to pick up a loop from the yarn in my left hand.  When I switch from knit to purl, involving moving that working yarn from the back of the needle to the front, I barely move my finger, making ribbing quite fast to work. 

What else could I do to get faster?? I realized that while my knitting stays right at the tips of the needles, my right needle which gets inserted into the loop on the left needle was going into the loop a bit further than just the tip before catching the working yarn.  Could this be minimized??  A little practice showed me it could! Since I was knitting my kimono cardi on brand new Signature needles (another thrill!) I could keep track of how much I was inserting that right needle by keeping the movement completely on the silver tips.  Those silver tips sure come in handy for checking movement!  Although I love my Addi Turbos and my wooden Knit Picks, and in general prefer circular needles to straight, these Signature needles gave me a visual marker to how little movement I needed to make with the right needle.  Almost immediately I noticed that the tiniest change with the inserting needle made a noticeable difference in speed!  In a couple of hours I was knitting faster than ever before!

What is fast now?  I think I’m knitting in the range of 75 stitches per minute now, and it happened with only about an hour of practice.  Pretty exciting for me!  Here’s my plan for checking my accuracy.  I tried knitting to my metronome, but I got so uptight I became completely clumsy!  Since I have a natural memory for 60 beats per minute (try it, many people do!) I will listen to my metronome at other speeds until I feel that rhythm is well established in my head, then I will try knitting at that speed!

I have some piano works that I’ve played at certain speeds for so many years that they come naturally to me now (like Bach inventions that I had to practice ad nauseam to work up to speed).  I will hum those pieces at speed and see if I can knit to them!   75 stitches per inch is pretty satisfying, but if I can get closer to 100 I’m going to go for it!  I’ll let you know how I get on! Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


It’s always wonderful to return home, but returning home after some hard sailing makes the pleasure even sweeter.  I may be a seasoned sailor after 35 years (well, maybe not) but I will never be a a hardened sailor. Late summer often offers some big challenges.  My husband doesn’t feel this way at all! You can check out a particularly hard day for me here by clicking on the video.

While sailing, I finished knitting (and partially sewing!) my kimono cardigan from Dovetail designs.  I just tried it on and I love it!  (I don’t say that often.)  I might not add the shawl collar since I like it so much as is!Sept. 09 009

(After wearing this sweater on two chilly days last week I have decided to knit the shawl collar, which you can see in progress)




While knitting I listened to my audible copy of The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, read by John Lee.  I’ve wanted to read this book for years and never got around to it.  To listen while knitting was a delightfully guilty pleasure!  It’s hard to imagine wanting to actually read anything ever again when I can listen to someone who was chosen to read for their lyrical voice while I continue to knit!Pillars of the Earth

Although I listened to four books on audible this summer,  I did manage to actually read two books:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows, and The Elegance of Hedgehogs by Muriel Barbery (translated from French by Alison Anderson).  Both were delightful for the same reason! …a quirky look at a particular time period in a particular niche of society.  Both were so well done that  I regret finishing them! I particularly regret that Ms. Shaffer’s voice is gone from us now after such a lovely book. 

Blog The elegance of the Hedgehog blog the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society

I’ve just bought my ticket for the “Wild Fibers” annual dinner at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, which means I will definitely go the festival!…in spite of never needing another ounce of spinnable fiber!  The weekend is October 17 and 18, and the dinner is Saturday evening.  If you will be there please let me know!  I want to meet you!

Goethe said, "One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words."  I’m off to do a little of that right now….

Friday, August 28, 2009

Vacation Interrupted

All packed and nowhere to go!  It’s raining buckets here, and we thought we’d be ahead of it in Maine, but even so, arriving before the rain hits Maine doesn’t really sound appealing when we are traveling with our dog.  When we are on Pandora in rain we snuggle up down below and turn on the heat, bake some bread, or biscuits, or pie, and spend the day reading and knitting or spinning.  Having a wet dog down below, who needs to go ashore three times a day,  is much less appealing….

So today I’m using my newly found time to dye a second small skein (only 1 oz., 70 yds) in the Brazilwood pot. Yesterday’s 2 oz. skein is a wonderful color that I cannot describe well.  It’s a medium/dark shade of something between rose and terracotta.  Yes, it’s both a cool and warm shade of a complex reddish color! That’s what I love about natural dyes!  The colors are so complex I can’t find the words to properly describe them!  And monitors being what they are, I can’t even show you an accurate photo! Today’s skein will be lighter.  I could keep going with this dye bath, but I think I will discard it after this second batch. Pack rat that I am, I have saved the sawdust…

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I’m scouring my two large hanks of grey corriedale which seem to have a lot of lanolin in them.  I washed that fleece before sending it off to be processed into bumps, but oh my!  There is a lot of lanolin still in it!  I may take a skein with me to Maine to sample some lace patterns…. I’m now imagining this yarn as a lace cardigan.Aug. 09 033

This little swatch of the corrie is 6 st/in…just what I wanted! (I love using my Signature needles! I now have size 1 through 6!)


And since it’s a dark, dreary day, I will take some time today to spin the Shetland which is now my first choice for the stranded, round yoke sweater I want to make with the handpainted yarn I spun earlier this summer (the Gale Evans “grapevine”).

Our ETD is now Sunday, very early.  That means I can go to the local farmers’ market tomorrow morning.  And perhaps this evening we’ll go to a movie….

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Finishing Projects

I have been home for a little over a week, in which I’ve spent a few days with my younger son (attending the all-John Adams concert at Alice Tully Hall, seeing the Julia movie and basically relaxing!), a little time catching up with friends, and perhaps even less time attempting to finish some projects before we head back up to Maine for another couple of weeks of sailing.

Today I’m finally dyeing with the Brazilwood sawdust that I began soaking in February.  I was advised to let the sawdust soak for 6 months so this is the right time to revisit my dyepot.  I had the dye liquor covered with plastic film to prevent molding, and it seems to have worked!

My instructions (from Deb Bamford) called for heating the sawdust and soaking water together for about 30 minutes at 80C.  Alas, I inadvertently let the mixture boil, which means the color will shift to into the brown range of reds.  Frankly, the dye liquor already looked quite brown before I began heating it!  After that initial boil, I turned the heat down to a simmer and let the dye continue simmering for about 30 minutes, after which I turned off the heat.  When the dye liquor had cooled a bit I strained off the liquid into another dye pot and have saved the solids for a possible future dye.Aug. 09 024 I then put in 2 oz. of my pre-mordanted yarn (Henry’s Attic ‘’Texas,’ wool/mohair blend previously mordanted with alum and cot) which had already been wetted.  It immediately turned a medium value of dull orange.  I have been reheating the mixture more carefully now, trying not to exceed 80C, and it is now simmering at about 75C for 1/2 hour. The color on the yarn has become a deep red/brown…more red than brown! I like it very much!Aug. 09 028

The flash washed out the color quite a bit….it’s a much deeper red.  Who knows, it might be this color when rinsed, but I’m hoping for darker!

While dyeing I have also been finishing up a simple vest project that I’d like to wear in Maine on cool evenings.  It’s a vest knit entirely in stockinette from yarn that I got from DBNY (Discontinued Brand Name Yarns).  I have sewn on the zipper now and am now sewing a decorative ribbon (from LFN designs) over the zipper to add some visual interest when the vest is open.Aug. 09 020

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My dark brown/grey corriedale which I washed and sent out to be processed into bumps, and which I was spinning during out last sailing trip, is not the right color for the stranded knit sweater I have in mind for the multi-colored roving, in a colorway called “Grapevine” which I got at MDS&W from Gale Evans. Gale Evans Grapevine roving BFL  Earlier this morning I sat down to spin a little of the dark charcoal Shetland roving that I recently got from Hatchtown Farm, and it appears to be just right for the Grapevine.  I am considering doing this sweater from the Twist Collective.Aug. 09 027




I think I will use the grey/brown Corrie to make a lace cardigan sometime in the future.  It’s a dream to spin, but I will put that project aside in order to spin the Shetland for the the stranded sweater. Well, now! Aren’t I being mature?

And there was a very happy occurance in my inbox! Linda Lee has written to tell me that she will soon be dyeing my cotton sliver in her colorway “Phoenix Garden.”  I can’t wait to get back to that project!  Maybe the package will be waiting for me when I return home!Cotton spinning (1)


I’ve been thinking a lot about weaving, but not actually doing any since I returned from the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Conference in Gettysburgh, where I took a 3-day class with Jason Collingwood on 3-end block weave and shaft switching.  While I am thinking about what sampling I’d like to do on the rest of the warp from that class, I have also been thinking about future tapestries.  I have some ideas brewing….

I need to leave some time today for packing since we are leaving tomorrow morning!  I hope this weekend’s storm is the only difficult weather we experience during this sailing trip!