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….