Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lilac yarn and mountain laurel

Last week, I finished my lilac yarn, but I haven't had a chance to let it dry / take pictures / upload them until today, when I'll share them with you!

Lilac puddle

I'm really happy with how this yarn came out. It's somewhere between a fingering and sport weight, 350 yards, a merino-tencel blend. Look at that tencel shine!

Lilac in sunshine 1 Lilac skein

I'm very happy with how it came out, as you can imagine!  There seems to be a clump of blue and a clump of pink/lilac, and then other colors, green, grey, and violet, in between. I'm looking forward to making a nice scarf out of it for next year's spring - maybe Palette or Lace Ribbon (knitty spring 2007 and 2008 respectively).

Lilac blues 

Coffeeboy and I also took another hike this past weekend, and we saw some mountain laurel blooming (no rhododendrons, yet!)

Laurel blossoms
(This one is by Coffeeboy himself, lover of macro-flower-photos!)

It's been amazing to watch spring and then summer come out in the mountains. This weekend at a juncture between trails, we stopped for a few minutes and listened to the birds chirp, and to the wind rustling the trees. It reminded me of when I was a kid, living in the suburbs, hanging out at my friend's house. There I'd listen to the wind in her pine trees and think of hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains (we lived in CA when I was a kid). It was lovely just to take a moment to hear the wind in the trees.

Tomorrow, we're headed out of town, to go visit Coffeeboy's family in Chicago and Milwaukee for a family event. We're driving - still cheaper than flying, especially where we're coming from and since we're going to more than one city - so we've downloaded some books to listen to, and I'm debating whether or not knitting will make me carsick! Sometimes it does, sometimes not. I'll definitely have a range of projects to choose from, though!

When I get back, my busy month of June will already have started. I'll spend a few days renew books at my home library; much of that time will be spent traveling, also. Then, a few days after that, for the last half of June, I'm off to Chicago (again!) for two weeks to do a whole lotta research. If any of you live in or near the Windy City, let me know of some good fiber haunts to check out!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fibers of springtime

Lately, my knitting and spinning has all been geared around the weather: a mohair sweater perfect for those ever-fewer still-cool mornings, or a braid of roving aptly named "Lilac" by the lovely folks at Three Waters Farm.  (I bought some of their Lavendar-Oatmeal Goat's Milk Soap at SAFF last year, and it is divine!  Come to think of it, I knit a stole/shawl for my mom out of their merino in that same colorway!)  Here is what it looks like, however, in roving and unplied singles of a merino-tencel blend (purchased at Yarns Etc. in Carrboro):

Lilac roving Lilac singles

I've also been trying to knit the trees and sky and trails that I've been hiking on these last few weekends. It seems every time I get out into the woods, I start thinking of knitting a stole to wear when I'm inside a cold, air-conditioned library thinking about being outside in those woods. I finally screwed up my courage this weekend to learn a new cast on (a basic provisional cast on) and start the stole, ideas for which have been roaming around in my mind these last few weeks.

Pisgah stole too small

While I like how it's going so far, unblocked it is only 14" wide. I don't think blocking will quite get this to a respectable 18-plus inches for a stole, so off to the frog pond it'll head shortly - unless a bunch of you tell me that it's likely to grow that much. Knowing how I tend to block lace (which is usually not as vigorously as is likely possible, due to lack of blocking wires and frustration with many tiny poky pins), even if it's technically possible, I doubt it'll work for me, so I expect that before too long, it's froggie-frog we go!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring sweater

As promised, here's my latest FO, the mohair sweater! After several amusing modifications, I can finally put it out there on the 'net! Although for some reason, I felt like making this a faceless post; not sure why. This way you can see that the neck edge is rolled (using where I picked up stitches to stop the roll), the sleeves roll, too (except there's ribbing to stop the roll), and the waist edge is crochet. A bit schizophrenic, and there are some funky pooling issues in places I'd rather them not to be, but other than that, it's not bad for a cozy, lightweight spring sweater!

Mohair raglan sweater FO

First, you see, I had to redo the bind off on the collar. You should have seen me trying to pull it over my head at the knitting group meeting. You could see a little bit of blond poking out the top, but that was about it! Several women kindly suggested that I bind off more loosely (more loosely?), which worked well. Then, of course, there was the rolled hem. Now, I have several sweaters with rolled edges, all machine-made, store-bought, and their rolled edges don't seem to add bulk where it doesn't belong, so I was foolishly unworried about the plan to knit myself a rolled edge. What a mistake that was, even after blocking!! This meant that on a Tuesday evening listening to election coverage on the TV, I found myself crocheting the bottom edge of the sweater. Yes, listening to the TV because I couldn't not look at the little hook at the end of a stick.

The Stats:
Pattern: The raglan pattern in The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns
Yarn: Brooks Farm Primero, about 1.5 hanks
Time; Ravelry tells me it took about a month and a half or so
Needles: size 5 for the body

I've been doing a lot of dissertation work - most of it inside, in the study, all previous posts and photos to the contrary - and have actually been making progress. Well, at least, the progress of a quote strung together here and there with another quote plus a possibly off-topic analysis of a few photographs, all added up to make a few really long sections scattered over several MS Word documents... and it's starting to feel like a chapter draft is taking shape in my mind, even though I can easily see many more pages of typing before it gets printed out in something resembling a coherent document on a date with a red pen. (Or pencil or blue pen - it depends what's lying around). Given that May is about half over and I haven't had any drafts to show since January, like the funky pooling on the sweater, I'll take what I can get! I'd like to have an actual draft-to-show-the-advisor by early June, which is when I'll be driving all my books to my home school so they can be renewed. In person. All several shelves of them. Given that Coffeeboy and I'll be gone for a week or so in late May, this just might be a dubious goal. But one can always hope for the best, right?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend surprises

This past weekend, my MIL was in town. We had two surprises: one was a very small fiber festival at the Southern Highland Craft Guild off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the other was a gorgeous hike full of spring color and amazing wildflowers.

The fiber festival was, as I said, small, but a lot of fun. We watched an expert sheep-shearing (my basis for calling it expert was how well the shearer handled the sheep, holding it between his legs, moving its legs around his in order to expose the parts to shear next, the whole fleece coming off as a unit), I watched spinners and thought of my wheel, and we observed several other interesting crafts - basketweaving, weaving, making pretty felt-covered boxes, tapestry weaving, beaded jewelry, doll-making, and much more! I didn't have my camera, though, so I couldn't get any pictures. (There also wasn't very much for sale, so my wallet was in little danger!)

I did have my camera for our hike, which turned, unexpectedly, into a wildflower hike of sorts after I saw the pink lady slippers. I remember looking for these flowers when I was a wee kid in the woods of Massachusetts; I remember my parents telling me, during our last spring in the state, that they were very rare and that one was lucky to see them, but so far as I recall, I didn't find them that year. This year I did, and I was amazed by their beauty, and by the beauty of the other flowers we saw in a scant two hours of hiking.

Small white ones Pink lady slippers

Hanging bells Green trail

Mini-daisies Jack-in-the-pulpit

May Apple blossoms Cranesbill geraniums

As you can see, I didn't know the names of several. "Mini-daisies" and "hanging bells" are far from technical names, and I'd love to know what they really are, if anyone knows! You can see bigger images over in Flickr.

I am constantly struck how beautiful it is here. My MIL kept remarking on how many different shades of green there were (she lives in Colorado), and it's true, springtime really is alive with greens, in so many more ways than one.

I've finally managed to get a picture of my latest sweater FO, so I hope to show that to you soon in the upcoming days!

Friday, May 09, 2008

This isn't so bad

You know, I know I've not always been the happiest about being so far from my home institution, but right now, life in the mountains has its advantages: 

patio dissertating backyard view

Such as dissertating on one's back patio, with mountains in the distance and the springtime sounds of birds, wind, and a stream nearby.  The folks I'm writing about appreciated the "restorative powers of the pastoral," and I have to say, I agree with them.  This really is a great way to dissertate.  Lovely smells and sounds, a cup of coffee, my computer's screen easily visible in the shade, wireless internet. 

I'm not sure it'll be quite so pleasant in the summer when it's hotter, but in the shade and springtime, it's really, really great!  I'm also not sure this is the best place to churn out the pages.  That would probably be upstairs in my office, or 45 minutes north of here in the library at UNC-Asheville, where on Wednesday I churned out seven whole pages in the course of an afternoon's burst of productivity.

Today Coffeeboy and I purchased tickets for several concerts at our local summertime classical music festival, the Brevard Music Center.  We stepped inside the shed and it reminded me of nowhere so much as Tanglewood, where I spent one of the best summers of my life. To have music in the mountains that I can go to all summer (all summer, that is, except the several weeks I'll be away at archives!)  is yet some more icing on the cake.  

I promised I'd show you a WIP and an FO. I haven't had a chance to get the FO photographed yet, so we're just going to go with the WIP, Tailored Scallops, my current leading-love in the fiber world.  It's Malabrigo, it's blue, and it's feather-and-fan - - how better can it get than that? 

Tailored Scallops back

My MIL is in town this weekend (she needed to come to the area on business) so we're looking forward to getting out with her into the nice springtime. I hear the rhododendrons, which grow the size of trees along the streams of mountain coves, are starting to bloom, something we've been waiting for months to see. 

Monday, May 05, 2008

Green weekend

"Some weekends are grey, some weekends are mean, this one had plants, and so was green."  

Coffeeboy and I spent this past weekend getting the garden, in various permutations, going. When we moved here, we didn't think we'd garden much. After all, we don't own the land outside our condo, but we figured we could put in a few plants, just a few. Then the college where Coffeeboy works started a community garden and we got a 4x20 plot of land to use. Now it looks like we'll be gardening more food than ever!

First, of course, was the very exciting Asheville Herb Festival. We'd had a poster on our fridge about this for the past month, and knew we wanted to go there to stock up on our favorite flavorings. I was hoping to score some soap and maybe some interesting lavendar products, but we ended up with only an hour at the festival, barely enough time to scope out the growing (as opposed to turned-into-products) herbs we wanted.


As you can see, we had quite a loot! In addition to chives and lemon thyme which we picked up at a small local plant sale, at the herb festival we found, as you can see above, plenty more to flavor our lives with. 

DSCN4604 DSCN4602

The festival itself was tons of fun, with dozens of herb vendors, colorful signs, and interesting varieties.  After the festival, Coffeboy and I headed to Asheville where we had a beer at Jack of the Wood Pub followed by a lovely dinner at the all-vegetarian/vegan restaurant The Laughing Seed.  Of course, it wouldn't be a spring night in Asheville without a drumming session going on in Pritchard Circle, so we stopped to watch young hippies and old hippies groovin' together to what's always a really amazing impromptu performance, and of course, to watch the tourists watching the action, too. I didn't have my camera then, so I couldn't take pictures (oh well!). 

Saturday afternoon we planted the herbs in their containers: 

Herb plantings

In order from the back, the plants are: 
Back row: chocolate mint, placeholder plant, spearmint
Middle row: chamomile, a petunia, lemon balm
Front row: thyme, sage, oregano, lemon thyme
Round container on left: lavendar
Middle round container: cilantro, parsley
Round container on right: regular basil, cinnamon/Thai basil, chives

We'd decided to plant the herbs in containers so as to have more room in the ground for vegetables - and because I liked the idea of framing our little back patio area with herbs. This, to me, seemed like just the thing to do with such a little patio: make it smell really, really, great, and be useful, too!

Herb garden

Yesterday, we planted our veggie garden. We put in several varieties of tomatoes, saving two for the community garden and planting five by our house, to the right of the air conditioning unit. To the left, we planted four peppers, green and purple bell, and left of that, four Japanese eggplants. As you can see, there's still a lot of room to grow where the black anti-weed cover is. We're going to put in beets, spinach, and parsnips there, and also some of those over at the college garden.

Home garden 2008
(You can see the plants better in the bigger images at Flickr!)

Finally, just because they're cute, pictures of the cats: Juniper (the Sock-Lord, apparently, who loves handknit socks as well as her daddy's smelly, just-gardened-in socks as well) and Magellan (curled up on my desk chair):

June with handknit socks June with white sock Magellan

In the next post, I promise I'll have some fibery goodness - a finished object, and a new sweater-in-progress made of the to-die-for Malabrigo!