Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Off to a conference

Tomorrow, Coffeeboy and I head off to our big annual gathering of scholars of religion.  This year we are both interviewing; it's my first time on the market and he's on again after a year off.  He has lots of interview (count 'em, five!) and I have one. I'm really really proud of my sweetie for netting so many interviews!  My interview is at a school I'm interested in, plus I'm still ABD, so I'm not terribly surprised I only got one.  I'm taking some knitting along, a basic sock for Coffeeboy and a plain vanilla sock for myself.  No need to stress myself out with difficult knitting.  

Araucania ribbed
Coffeeboy's sock #1

This week, when I haven't been prepping and researching for my interview, I spent time thinking about fiber. Last year's SAFF got me all excited about spinning; this year I got very excited about bettering my spinning, and took too few classes in that regard, so I've been reading Ravelry spinning forums and perusing some of the books on my shelves.   I think I got myself thoroughly confused over whether I'm a right- or left-handed spinner; I write with my left hand, but I apparently spin right-handed (with my left in front and my right hand in back).  I also decided to try the fast flyer on my Lendrum, for the first time since getting it a year ago, and wow! What a difference!  It's really fun to use.  I love treadling slowly but getting such a fine yarn. Maybe I'll be able to spin 3-ply sock yarn after all.  

In making these explorations, I did try several new things at once, never a good idea: a new flyer, different hand positions, and merino fiber, which I haven't spun all that much of yet.  It seems to have gone well though.  I've been playing around with some plain white fiber and have spun a first layer onto two bobbins, mostly because I felt the need to spin in order to relax the interview nerves.  

After this conference, I can get into my next goals for spinning, which are to explore this new flyer more, and to try out different types of fiber.  As I think I hinted before, I bought a whole lotta different fiber at SAFF, and a measly amount of sock yarn, comparatively speaking: 

SAFF loot 2008

SAFF sock loot 2008

For the fiber, there's merino, merino-silk blends, alpaca, alpaca-wool blends, mohair and blends - not all of it is in that picture; some of it Coffeboy has, um, stashed away for all the various events of December (birthday and holidays).  I tried to go for a range of multicolored and more solid-colored fiber, too, but gave myself free range to indulge the blues.  That big giant bag is about 30 oz. of fiber, hopefully way more than enough to make a sweater for Coffeeboy (I decided to err on the generous side).  I might have chosen badly; the color looked so perfect for him but the fiber was made up of "little bits" rather than anything more official or "nice."   It felt nice, though, and like it would draft well, so I decided to go for it. We shall see. 

The sock yarn includes two skeins from Miss Babs, and one in "Sea Silk" from the Sanguine Gryphon - yum! 

Since I have to get up in a few hours to make it to the airport, though, I'm going to have to leave this post with that oh-so-tantalizing image of fiber fun to come.  Wish me luck with the interview, Coffeeboy too, and all our friends who also have interviews! 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Handspun, much fun

This past weekend, we fiber-fans living in the southeastern United States -- and anyone else who cared to join - celebrated all things fibrous at the Southeastern Animal and Fiber Festival, or SAFF. Unlike last year, where two of my best friends were waylaid in various ways, this year, one of them was able to come visit, and she was on a mission: to take a spinning lesson and choose a wheel. Her mission appears to have been wildly successful! (I'd love to link to her blog, but I'm not sure she wants me to.)

My mission at SAFF (which Coffeeboy chose to accept and enable!) was to find different types of wool and other animal fibers - but I'll have to tell you more about that when I post pictures of the loot! Instead of offering you a really long post, I have some more finished objects and spinning catch up to share, plus a picture of a 4-day-old baby goat that stole the show, so to speak.

Before I took my trip to New Jersey in September, I spun up a 4 oz. braid of BFL in "Mahogany" from Liza Souza, and also 4 oz. of a merino-tencel blend from Three Waters Farm. I liked the results of these so much that they immediately turned into quick little projects! In fact, the merino-tencel finished drying on a clothes
hanger as I drove north, much to the amusement of my aunt and uncle. (Their amusement had a happy result that I'll get to share with you one day!)

I turned the BFL into a scarf for Coffeeboy, using the Yarn Harlot's one-row handspun scarf pattern to make a very nice husband scarf.  I think it makes a great manly scarf, with the vertical ribs balancing the stripes of color.

Handknit scarf BFL far

Since the yarn excited me so much, I never even took a picture of the fiber or the finished skein!! However, I did take this close-up, which gives a sense of the yarn:

Handknit scarf BFL

The yarn had fantastic give and sproingyness, and was just a joy to knit. I knit it all up into this scarf in a matter of days, and presented it to a hubby who is very happy to have a lighter-weight scarf (well, lighter than his bulky weight, wrap twice around the neck winter scarf).

The merino-tencel turned into a short "My So-Called Scarf," using only about half of the finished skein. I don't even remember how long the whole skein ended up being!  I started this one in New Jersey as well, and finished it in Charleston last weekend during our quick vacation, when the weather turned unexpectedly cold.  I found myself eager to wear this scarf, so I cast it off with just enough for a short scarf held closed by cool wooden shawl pin I bought at SAFF last year. This was my second time spinning with this type of fiber, and I think it came out quite nicely, not perfectly even, but certainly better than my merino attempt!

Autumn Sunset scarf 

Autumn sunset scarf 1 Autumn sunset fiber

As for SAFF, I had so much fun this year in terms of looking at fiber, introducing my friend to fiber and exploring the festival with her, that I didn't actually do too much of the other online knitter meetup stuff. I brought my wheel and planned to sit and spin, but that didn't happen - oh well, there will be other opportunities! - and ran into surprisingly few of the knitters I know who live in this area.  I'm sure they all had as wonderful a time as I did, visiting with a baby goat and bringing home a bunch of loot.  But more on that in a day or two! 

Star the Pigmy Goat      SAFF Sheep

Now, if I'd brought the goat home, it would have been a really great kidnapping, wouldn't it have been! 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Handspun catchup, part 1

In the first of what promises to be several catch-up posts about what I've been up to, fiberwise, I give you a spontaneous cowl knit out of merino handspun. For some reason, the yarn didn't come out very even; I think I was too excited by the pretty colors to think too much about the spinning; plus, I'm still getting used to merino. I love knitting with it, but it's a bit slippery in the spinning. 


I spun this out of approximately 2 oz. of variegated merino and 1.7 oz. of teal-blue fiber, and then plied them together. With the extra 0.3 ounce, I navajo-plied that and used it at the top and bottom of the cowl.

Handspun cowl Cowl over face

You can see the more solid colors at the top on the left; on the right, you can see how the variegations in the handspun from the multicolored fiber created a striped effect despite the tweedy barberpoling. 

This weekend, my FIL was in town, and we took him up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to go hiking, where the temperatures would be cooler (high fifties to low sixties, farenheit) and the fall colors further along.  We were not disappointed in our quest! I got to wear my new cowl and get it photographed for the blog, and I also had a chance to take many pictures of North Carolina's finest fall showing.  

Ivestor gap 5

It's funny, now that I've been here a year, I've started to really notice the differences between fall foliage here in Western North Carolina, and  the foliage in New England and the northeast, which will always be for me the quintessential autumn tapestry.  Last year, I was still determined to like it here, and wanted to see the best in the WNC's mountain display.  This year, though, as I've come to realize that this place is yet another temporary place to live, I find myself really wanting to move back north, to somewhere with real winter, with autumns of maple and oak covering the hillsides, and a real crisp chill to the air, a chill that hasn't quite hit where I live now.  Certainly, the mountains do often provide this idealized setting, making it a very pleasant reality, as this photo shows:

Ivestor gap 2

Despite glimpses like this, other scenes remind me that I'm not quite where I want to be.  Fall is my all-around favorite season, so it's not surprising that I'm picky.  When the mountains reveal scenes like this -- 

Ivestor gap 4

-- scenes that are admittedly very, very gorgeous--I can't help but also see how the shrubs and the land are just somehow different from the pictures in my mind.   I am probably being overly picky in my fall foliage desires, and should try harder to be happy with the fall I have, not the nostalgic fall of my memories or my imagination. At least I have a fall to enjoy! But still - but still. As I go through the academic job search this year, I find myself checking out the potential for fall in the places to which I've applied, and I haven't limited myself to places where that idealized fall could be a reality again.  Whether I ever get back to that kind of a place again, such as I enjoyed in relatively-rural New Jersey, in Boston, and in Western Massachusetts, I don't know, but I do know that I'd like that very, very much. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bringing back the blog?

Hi folks, it's been a long time, hasn't it!  My summer ended up being rather crazy-busy, and if dissertation summer camp didn't indicate a busy start, it only continued from there. I left my camera, too, all the way across the country at my brother's, and it's due to arrive back with me sometime this week, allowing for actual blog pictures. 

Until the camera returns, I'll just give you a brief recap of what I've been up to: 
  • three weeks traveling for research
  • two-and-a-half weeks traveling to visit family
  • one room-painting project (our bedroom is now a nice yellow "butterfly-bush" color
  • some hiking, but not quite enough
  • bunches of fresh veggies from the garden and markets canned or preserved
  • one week-plus visit to my academic home in New Jersey
  • twelve years of microfilm read
  • little bits of dissertation written, certainly not as much as I'd have liked to complete
  • rather a lot of reflecting and getting myself back on track worked on
  • one Foliage Shawl completed
  • one pair of socks completed, plus another, one of which was way too short and needs some work
  • one cowl out of handspun, one scarf for Coffeeboy out of handspun
  • a bunch of light blue corriedale handspun completed after many months of very thin spinning
  • several academic job applications sent off (and an appropriate number of anxious dreams to complement them)
I think that just about covers the most of it! 

As for why I'm returning to the blog after a several-month absence, I have a few reasons.  Chief among them is that I had started to lose track of my projects, and figured the blog would be a good way to get back on-track.  I could also use Ravelry for that, but I haven't been good, lately, about updating there, either.  In fact, once the camera returns, I'm not entirely sure if I'll blog or use Ravelry.  

I've usually blogged about either my fiber adventures, my academic life, or about Coffeeboy's and my adventures in things like cheesemaking, gardening, hiking, or other activities that attempt to get us closer to the source of things.  Sometimes I fear that the blog spent too much time on academics, and not enough on fiber.  So many of you are so reflective about your pieces, about your process, about your choices or the ways you change a pattern, that my fiber-blogging always felt so matter-of-fact by comparison.  "Here's an FO! Yes, it looks just like the picture.  No, I didn't wildly change the pattern.  I like how its [insert 'blue' or 'autumn colored' here]. I wish the sleeves weren't quite as tight as they are, but I'll try to block it and see how it goes."  So you see, it doesn't exactly make for exciting blog fodder.  And on a purportedly fiber-focused blog, too much ruminating over the minutiae of the dissertation or the job search just might bore many of you.   

Maybe that's precisely the point - no, not to bore you - rather, maybe the blog reflects the place fiber has in my life.  It adds color and texture and warmth, it adds some challenge but is primarily there for relaxation and enjoyment.  Especially of late, the dissertation has been challenging enough to work on from what still feels like nearly the middle of nowhere.  If I'm working harder on that (or on other stuff that's taking up mental or emotional space), I want the knitting and spinning to play a different, more relaxed role.  I almost think that in order for it to be relaxing, I sometimes need it also to be private, which means I don't need the extra effort of blogging about it.  I guess this is what happens when an introvert tries to blog. 

Then, there are those friends who don't particularly care for all the fiber-stuff, and would rather hear about my life than about knitting and spinning - but since to my mind this is still, among other things, a blog about knitting "between the lines" of everything else going on in my life, the fiber will still play a role -- and I expect I'll also still write about schoolwork, hiking, or those other activities that Coffeeboy and I've taken to calling the activities of "amateur homesteading."  

If you're here for the fiber or here for a general idea of what I've been up to in other areas, I imagine you'll still find both.  

So, with that, I'll leave you with a good-faith gesture, a picture  or two of "socks on a train," my handspun socks that I worked on while Coffeeboy and I chugged our way from Colorado to California this summer: 

A sock in a dining car Scenery and a sock Obligatory train wine-and-cheese

And finally, the supposedly finished socks, made of handspun BFL, too! Don't they look cute there on that train seat? 

Finished socks

Of course, in my eagerness to finish them while still on the train, the second sock ended up being 1/2 inch too short... a month later and I have yet to undo the kitchener and actually finish it, but now that it's [Sock]tober, I might as well!