Monday, August 31, 2009

the braiding bug

Leah's been playing with kumihimo, a braiding technique. There are lots of fancy and expensive supplies available for kumihimo, but, as usual, we decided to dive right in by making the most of what we had. This video, some scrap cardboard, and colors from our massive embroidery floss collection (much of which was received as a prize when Scott's cross stitch won Best of Show at the Eastern States Exposition) got Leah off to a good start.

She has since finished that braid, which will be a necklace with one of Scott's beads on it, I think, and chosen a new group of colors to try a different braid. It's easy, fun, portable, and its techniques and potential uses leave lots of room for exploration, so kumihimo gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up around here.

She's also sewing doll clothes lately, with the help of Two-Hour Dolls' Clothes, borrowed from the library.

Stitched entirely by hand and embellished with ribbon and beads, her designs are taking much longer than two hours, but that's by choice. Her idea is that as she gets better with making doll clothes, she'll be better at making her own clothes. I think she's already doing a pretty good job on sewing her own clothes, but it still sounds like good practice and she's enjoying it.

I knit barely a stitch last week, but between hanging with assorted knitters at the farmers' market yesterday and then watching a movie last night, I was able to finish the Habitat hat. Pics to come when it's done blocking, but one thing I wanted to mention is how unimpressed I am with the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran yarn that I used for it. This merino, microfiber, cashmere blend is a beautiful deep, rich red. Unfortunately, there are wisps of undyed fiber spun into the yarn throughout the skeins. The instance above is the biggest I noticed - most weren't such a thick wisp, nor did they continue for 5 twists - but there were many throughout these skeins. They were easily picked out, but at $8/90 meters, I should not have to deconstruct the yarn as I'm knitting it in order to get the glaring white bits out of a deep red hat! The yarn is wonderfully soft, to be sure, but I'll steer clear of Debbie Bliss products in the future.

Hmm...I just checked the Debbie Bliss website because I was going to send a comment about this problem, but there is no Contact link. So then I figured I could at least let other knitters know by leaving a warning comment at this yarn's entry on Ravelry. Sheesh, if I had only read the comments there first! There are MANY others with similar problems with this yarn. This is clearly not a fluke and I will definitely not buy any more Debbie Bliss yarn.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 24, 2009

and the winners are...

The Random Number Generator has proclaimed ChristineMM, Amy21, and Pyro_98 as winners in our Getting Twisted giveaway. Please check your email for a message from Scott. Thanks, everybody, for playing along and sharing all the cool things you're learning!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 23, 2009

don't MESS with the knitter

Oh, yes, it was a nice hat and I was solidly into its crown decreases when I noticed miscrossed cables here and here and here and here and...oh, crud.

I'm nothing if not consistent. Screw-ups all 'round!
Yeah, so it was a nice hat, but it will be a better hat on the second try.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 22, 2009

going mobile. or not.

We've been on three interstate road trips in the past two weeks, but the world just keeps offering up irresistable funstuff, so off Leah and I went on Thursday for another one. This time, it was to Northampton, MA, home of Webs, where Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed was presenting an evening talk about some of his inspiration and design processes for his new pattern booklet, Made in Brooklyn. I've been a fan of his designs for quite a while, having knit quite a few already, and am even knitting one of his patterns right now.

It's a second Habitat hat, the first one having been for Jesse. I'm knitting it in a deep red luscious yarn. The evening was hot and humid, but Webs, as always, was a great host, with bottles of cold water for all, big fans providing a breeze in the event tent they set up outside (since there were more than 100 people pre-registered for the event, too many to fit in their classrooms inside), and giveaways. After Jared's charming talk, we were all invited to cool off in the air conditioned store with a table full of complimentary sandwiches and snacks, a book signing and, of course, plenty of yarn and inspiration. We met up with friends for the evening and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Meanwhile, Scott's beads have been going mobile too. Since Twist Collective came out last Sunday, we have enjoyed a great response to his little sheep and other beady offerings, shipping orders to Belgium, Australia, Norway, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Finland, and all across the United States.

After so much out and about, today is all about the balance. I'm happily staying put. I am at home, alone(!), and I am not working!! This type of day is rare and wonderful, so I'm savoring it. I hope you all are off to a great start of your weekend too.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

just what we needed

When it's over 90ºF out and you're coming home for a quick game of catch-up-on-a-million-things before bedtime, and all of those things require (1) light, (2) refrigeration, (3) Internet access, (4) printer, and/or (5) fan/air conditioning, and you turn onto your street to find it blocked by fire trucks and police cars with lots of flashing lights, it could be a sign that you should just sit quietly in a chair and laugh a little.

It was nearly dark and I dared not get too close to all those drooping electrical lines, but can you see the neighbor's tree that fell across our street and caused every utility pole up and down the road to go "sproing" and now be off kilter from their usual vertical position? Not so good for the a/c and internet access, if you know what I mean.

Yeah, so that's how our evening went. Nothing left to do but throw our hands up in the air, dig out some flashlights and amazingly bright LEDs (yay for Jesse's electronics stash!) and eventually try to go to bed. No fan, no A/C, way too hot. Later, our alarm set off because the back-up battery had run down. Then, some time later, we were awoken by the lovely sound of chain saws in the night. Yes, we were somewhat happy to hear this because it meant restoration of power was in progress, but still, ugh. Then, later, by the alarm system beeping again to let us know it was back on, but needed to be reset. And multiple more times by the flashing lights and our dog's response to those worker dudes and police/fire guys prowling our street.

Um, not exactly the most restful night we've ever had, but the power's back up today, so onward and upward. I'm not sure if it'll be disrupted again when they re-set the utility poles, so it could be an interesting day to match the night. Oh well. I don't have any Calgon, so maybe we'll go soak in our favorite cool swimming hole later today.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 17, 2009


Yesterday was a hot and humid scorcher of a day, but a pleasant one nonetheless. From the relative coolness of the bakery's shade tent beneath a big tree, Scott was jazzed, as usual, by the bakery's many friendly customers.

While Leah served the Nathan Hale Homestead's iced tea and baked goods, and collected the admission price for the Hugh Blumenfeld concert, I chatted with knitterfriends gathered in a shady grove.

Jesse was picked up by friend who took him for a rollicking time of tubing behind their speed boat on the lake. While exploring the bottom of the lake later, he found a pair of prescription glasses that just happened to have been lost by his friend earlier this summer and for which the friend's family was offering a reward, so good vibes all around! When back at the market later, he and the ice cream guy picked up their ongoing rocketry conversation, as the ice cream guy is a fellow rocket enthusiast.

We broke down the bakery booth in record time and were home to refresh and enjoy the jump in Glastonbury Glassworks Etsy store traffic, courtesy of Twist Collective, then Leah and I were off to western MA for a performance by the Sound of New England, an award-winning Sweet Adelines chorus with whom she has gotten involved.
This is only about 2/3 of the group and not a very good pic because of my obstructed view, but it might give a sense of the energy of these shows. They're planning to start a Young Women in Harmony group this fall, but until that takes shape, they have welcomed Leah to take part in their rehearsals. She hasn't been with them for more than a few practices so far, but she and some of the other kids (mostly daughters of members) joined the group on stage for some of the songs last night. Singing + choreographed moves = great fun and big smiles!

Thus ends a run of busy-ness, the likes of which we have never seen before and didn't think we'd survive, with a few extra surprises thrown in for good measure. Not like there's hibernation and infinite chill time to come now, but there will be breathing room and something resembling normalcy, or our version of "normal," at least. ;-)
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 16, 2009

getting Twisted!

Welcome, Twist Collective readers! I've been admiring Twist Collective's work since its first issue, continuing through to knitting Leah's Sylvi last winter, and am THRILLED to see Scott's sheep beads as one of the featured goodies in the fall issue's Tidbits section!

It occurs to me that we haven't done a giveaway in quite a while and those are always lots of fun, so let's whip one up right now.

Wanna win a freebie sheepy?

Up for grabs are those three sheep in the Twist Collective feature, one black and two white. Well, not those sheep, since those are probably floating around the Twist Collective world headquarters somewhere, but similar ones from the same flock.

Since we're all about enthusiastic living and learning 'round here, how about if you leave a comment about what you're learning lately (doesn't have to be fiber-related!). Please make sure to leave your contact info (email address/blog link/Ravelry name) in the comments so we can contact you if you are a winner. Every commenter will get a chance to win, with one sheep going to each of three randomly chosen commenters. Comments will be open until Monday, August 24, at 5:00 p.m.

Don't forget to subscribe to the blog and/or Etsy store to see the newest things we're working on.

Thanks for coming out to play today! Knit on!

BTW, have you seen Mari Muinonen's Luminen? I fell in love with her work on Sylvi and think this might be calling my name next, only this time it would be for ME!
Posted by Picasa

feeling revived!

Work and life have kept us hopping lately, so by Friday night, I was feeling a little run-down. How convenient that the very next day was the Fiber Revival! We hadn't made any specific plans because we just didn't know if we could swing it, but by Friday night, I felt like it was exactly what I needed and it was going to be too good to miss.
So, bright and early, off Leah and I went to spend the day in the shade of huge trees on a living history farm museum, chatting with knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers. And hey! There's our friend Leslie Wind, with whom we'll be sharing a booth at the Franklin County Fiber Twist next month!
Here's Alasdair chatting to Julia about his beautiful double knit scarf, which Leah found especially interesting because she had just bought a skein of Kauni yarn in the rainbow colorway, while Guido (microbrew smackdown challenge, on!) drools over some roving.

Is this not stunningly gorgeous? Alasdair does some incredible work.

Leah must've counted the stitches on that sleeve four times. It's difficult to concentrate when there are fun conversations going on all around you, fibery distractions, and lots of laughing.

Thanks to the Fiber Revival, I do indeed feel revived, energized, inspired. Yahoo!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 14, 2009

does not compute

While I was happily sipping a beer, chatting w/ assorted relatives, cheering for the Pirates, and doing a little of this...
at the baseball game last weekend, one of our friends turned around and said to me, "Don't you ever relax?"

I was gobsmacked. This did not compute. There were no words (and if you know me, you know there are always words).

Luckily, my sister came to my rescue with, "This is how she relaxes."

Yeah, that.

Some people relax in a different way, especially after being up early and bouncing around in the pool for hours. Yes, my knitting is in the hand you can't see. Shoulder/arm motions with Continental style knitting do not wake up an exhausted boy who needs a little nap in between baseball game and concert/fireworks.

Friend then offered that her daughter could sell my scarves or other knitting in her boutique. Now, most certainly it's a high end boutique, but even still, I told her that every zig in this particular scarf takes 1/2 hr to knit, and so does every zag, and there's a total of 60 zigs and zags in there and I earn way more than minimum wage, baby. ;-) The discussion ended with agreement that my handknits should go only to people I love, not for sale.

The knitting bag o' tricks became ultra cool after dark, when a little cousin (second cousin? twice removed? something like that) didn't have quite enough light to continue enjoying his book and I pulled out my headlamp. You just never know when the knitting tools will come in handy and help with relaxation and enjoyment all 'round.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

on turning 90, the crafty bits

Some of you may remember a year ago, when we all (along with some of our New York relatives) trucked to Pittsburgh to celebrate my awesome Grandma's 89th birthday. Well, that was just a warm-up for this year's festivities. You see, when lots and lots of people love you and you are turning 90, that's good reason for a whole weekend of celebration! There was a pool party and open house, Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game with concert by O.A.R. (I didn't know of them, but sure did like them) and outstanding fireworks show, a church service in which the pastor referred to Gram as his girlfriend Jessie and a reception in the church's welcome center afterwards, and a lunch out for the friends and relatives who could stick around for it.

So now you know the big pic of how the weekend went, but since this blog's focus is on our creative stuff, here's a bit more detail on how the handmade things fit into it all.

Leah cross stitched and framed a little pic of her Great Grandma's favorite bird.

I, along with help from my sister, made Gram a pillow. You've previously known of this pillow as the "secret project." It was inspired by The Pillow of Sei Shonagon (scroll halfway down the page), but of course I complicated the heck out of the thing.

My version contains the signatures of ~250 well-wishers, including old friends, overseas penpals, her doctors, garden club pals, church members, relatives, and Historical Commission members. These signature snippets of fabric were then fused onto strips of muslin and woven into a background of holey handknitting and sewn to a purchased pillow.

There have been hints in past blog posts about what an epic undertaking this project was, including multi-state travel, dealings with pen companies, stuffing a zillion envelopes (earlier on the very day that we found out Gram had a mild heart attack!), help from people in other states (thanks, Nancy! thanks, Irene!), finding a pillow that was the right size/shape/color, soooo much secret communiction, knitting the background...oh, and Gram has so many friends that this originally one-sided pillow turned into a two-sided project, so back to the knitting again! Either I cast on the wrong number of stitches or my gauge changed along the way because the 2nd panel isn't as big as the first, so I was sick about it for a while, but finally made it work. Then, at the very end, I discovered that PERMANENT marker is not necessarily waterproof, but Scotchguard to the rescue to help get me over one last big bump in this road. An album with some more pics of the process can be found here.

I've been planning this project since the ride home from Gram's birthday last August,

actively working on it since May of this year,

and it has consumed my spare moments and my thoughts for the past two solid months.

And I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

Love you, Gram!

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 06, 2009

tiny stitches

Well, Leah's bouncing back quickly from her Swallowtail shawl heartbreak. She shifted gears yesterday to finish up a counted cross stitch project...
trimming the edge of the dust cover on the back,
after she finished framing her work

and browsed her Ravelry favorites for some new project ideas, but ultimately decided to dig out her Rogue hoodie and get back to work on that.

While waiting for something picture-worthy, I thought I'd show you this handknit sweater and hat set. The doll belongs to my mom and she gave it to Leah. I don't know for sure, but I think the knitting was done by my mom's paternal grandmother, so that would be Leah's Great Great Grandma. That's some mighty fine knitting there, being appreciated by five generations of knitters.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

ups and downs

Me working on secret project (up)
just before realizing it had a measurement problem (down)
which resulted in a migraine the next day (really down)
but it's going okay now (up).

Then Leah brought me a bouquet from the garden (up).

Leah's Swallowtail Shawl, where we discovered she had difficulty understanding the instructions for the Lily of the Valley section. She replaced the nupps with beads, no problem. She did all the lacy goodness, no problem. But she misunderstood the direction the nupps beads should go in on each side of the center stitch, ending up with zig zags (and some of those incomplete) instead of graceful curves.


This too shall pass. Ripping to commence soon.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 02, 2009

hangin' with the Redcoats

Since we've been loving Old Sturbridge Village's Redcoats and Rebels weekend for years now, you've seen plenty of pics of it before, but here are some highlights from yesterday's event.

Reenactor using a lucet to make a square cord. I've known about lucets, but never tried it and never seen one in action, so this was a fun thing to come upon.
My favorite independent reenactor, proudly wearing the dress she sewed specifically for this event. She started with this Simplicity pattern as a guideline, but modified the heck out of this thing because she had way less fabric, time, and experience than it called for. The pattern talks of boning, lining, bias tape -- all sorts of things Leah had no intention of fussing with, so she just skipped those parts of the instructions and made modifications where necessary. When it became clear that there wouldn't be enough time to finish her crocheted lace collar, she subbed in a fabric one. Cotton fabric and buttons from our stash, "petticoats" from my wedding dress storage box. :-) There's lots of room for improvement, of course, but she is ecstatic with the results and her mind is spinning with more sewing ideas. Given how many times she was stopped along the way at Sturbridge yesterday by people asking if they could take her picture (and given how many people in costume were there, the fact that she was picked out of the crowd so often is truly astounding), she certainly had a lot of encouragement as a result of her efforts!

Reenactors enjoying some shade near the blacksmith's shop while troops and spectators gather in the distance for the big battle.

Jesse with some tired reenactors after the battle, chatting it up about the weapons collections. This guy made his big gun from a kit and, like all enthusiasts, was happy to discuss its finer points as long as there was an interested audience. Jesse spent the early part of the way with the historic miniature gaming group from Boston. He discovered this group at Redcoats and Rebels last year and has since become involved with a group locally, some of whom are also members of the Boston group, so he enjoyed being welcomed back this year as an experienced historic gamer who could help other new folks learn the game.

A new experience for us this year was the comfortable feeling of being a part of it, not just visitors. We know some of the reenactors through the Nathan Hale Homestead and the fiber community, knew the gaming guys from last year and the local group, are recognized by some of the OSV staff because we've been going there forever, and just generally bumped into people we knew all over the place and found ourselves in pleasant conversation with other people everywhere we went. No doubt about it: this is one of our favorite events of the year.

Then we came home and I worked on my secret project, which hit a huge roadblock. I can't bring myself to look at it yet, but will re-evaluate later today and determine course of action. Let's just say that everybody 'round here wisely gave me lots of space by bedtime last night.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 01, 2009

what a long, strange trip it's been

The past few days have been amazing, including discovering a radical and rocking Sweet Adelines/barbershop harmony singing group for young women (they said they'd stretch the age range down to accommodate a certain enthusiastic participant), rocket launches, pool date with friends, visit to the science center, and happy-making developments in the work world of both adults.

To top it all off, last night I went out solo(!) to hang with a big bunch of my old friends, one of whom is visiting from out west and provided a darn good reason for us all to get together. I've known most of these folks since we were around the ages some of our kids are now. We've traveled the country together, seen a million bands together, been in each other's weddings. Kind of bizarre and time-warpy to be talking with them last night about who's retiring when, who is now cancer-free, who's getting a divorce, whose kids are pursuing careers in what part of the country, what live music we've all be enjoying, and to look around and notice that everybody looks basically the same, except for the increasing number of gray hairs mixed into all those guys' ponytails. :-)

Somewhere in between it all, there has been a heckuva lot of work and many hours dedicated to a certain secret project that is coming along quite nicely. Update on its Ravelry page.
Posted by Picasa