In Praise Of Her Triumph

This sock,

To you and I, perhaps, a simple exercise,

To her, a labour of love. My mother's right hand, once dominant, now dormant

In its new place -- even now nearly 18 years since the aneurysm and strokes -- as second to the left.

Time once was she lulled me to sleep with quicksilver clicking and sliding of needles, yarn dancing in her hands.

Gifts for herself and others all but flew from her tips.

Today, each stitch a miracle of patience and perseverance.

The woman who dared once more to live, to walk, to speak, to drive, to fight for independence...

The woman who dared not dream of gardening, of grandchildren, of quilting, of knitting...

All these, now, she enjoys,

And with her we celebrate.

We praise her triumph daily.

How could we have predicted the extraordinary work she would do to retrain her left hand, befriend that sinister side, as she determined to knit again, one-handed, nearly fifteen years after the insult? Then on from dishcloth to scarf to sock, and not one but two at a time?

Hers is a simple faith and patience

That each stitch can be made, each technique mastered,

In its time.

Which is saying a lot.

For her time moves more slowly now,

And socks that once would have been the whim of a week now occupy the steady ticking of a year.

But oh, what a glorious year:

Each stitch, each day, a blessing without equal!

Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (MUMTUs) by Zhenya Lavy. Ravelers get it here. Or find it with a full pictorial on Aesthetic Entanglementz.
Modified for a short-row heel.
Started: January 1, 2010, on Orcas Island in the San Juans (WA)
Progress: New Orleans (LA) and Mentor (OH)
Completed: December 17, 2010, in Lake Forest Park (WA)
Materials: Crystal Palace Yarns' Mini Moochi, Green/Purple 103, 2 skeins
Needles: US 2 (40" circular)


Nicety From NOLA

When my sister flew up from New Orleans last May to help my family move, she brought a surprise:

This sweet little sock project bag actually was created not by my sister but by her friend, Terri. I love it!

Terri, who had only just recently learned how to sew, designed the pattern. It features a carrying handle, a zipper, and grommets at the top...

... and bottom. It's also fully lined!

I think her fabric selection is just lovely. Check out the sunny lining peeking through!

To what did I owe this unexpected generosity from afar? A few years back, I had let Terri purchase from my stash some yarn she needed to make the Tulip Purse. And, of course, we're friends on Ravelry, where we have chatted on a few occasions. But the biggest connection is my sister and their friendship (which has included many, many hours in knitting circles and several knitting travel escapades). It's always interesting to be reminded of the many ways knitting unites us.

I've long wanted to blog about this gift, but hadn't really been anywhere much near my knitting since the move and so had left it unannounced. With Christmas yesterday, I was reminded to give thanks for this very special and now-beloved gift. It's happily stuffed with a sock project right now.

Thank you, Terri, and many blessings to you for the New Year!


Special Black Friday Fiber Prices at OFA

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Check out the latest inventory update at Olympic Fiber Arts, with seven new hand-dyed spinning fibers posted. All are 100% superwash wool, suitable for next-to-the-skin wear and great for socks! If you haven't checked out the new line, now's your chance. For the Black Friday sale, all hand-dyed spinning fiber has been marked down 25% through 11pm on December 3.

New Growth, 100% superwash wool in fresh greens with a hint of pink

Many longtime favorite yarns have made their way to the Clearance section, where they've gotten their final markdown to 60% off or more.

I've been working to finish knitting a pair of socks that I'm making from my own hand-spun wool. Pictures to come in the next post.

Best wishes for sugarplum dreams and fantastic Black Friday bargain finds!


Bet You Didn't See This Coming

I've added metallurgy to my repertoire:

It seems almost sacrilege, I know, on a blog dedicated to the gentler fiber arts... but I do call it Aesthetic Entanglementz!

What you see above are a hand-forged simple chain bracelet and hand-forged and
-hammered earrings (my new favorites). Basic metal fusing techniques.

Call this my can-do approach to rebuilding a lifetime's collection of beloved jewelry items in the wake of our home burglary earlier this year.

While I don't have any intention of making a seismic shift in blog content, I thought it would be fun to share some of my projects in this new area, as well. I hope you enjoy!


Big News about Time and Roving

So much has happened since my last post!

First, in late May we moved to a lovely new home just north of Seattle. We have a peaceful, wooded setting with a wonderful salmon stream running through the front yard.

While the move brought lots of good things our way -- notably, a ton more space, including ample workshop/studio areas -- let's just say I hope it's the last move I ever have to make! A month of packing and then three months of unpacking and settling really take a toll.

My second big bit of news is that we're in the process of adopting a child through the Washington foster care system, and we were placed with Quinten, an amazing 13-month-old boy, in late October.

[Imagine a picture here. Washington State law prohibits me from posting any pictures of Quinten until an adoption is legally finalized. This could take awhile.]

Thanks to this happy turn of events, I'm home on parental leave through February -- which means not only time bonding with our new little guy but also opportunity for more of the kinds of things that bring me and the rest of you here!

I've wasted no time getting back into things and have lots to share, but I'll keep today's posting short with one announcement:

Olympic Fiber Arts is now offering hand-painted spinning fiber! The new line, called Chances Are, launched just last night with an exciting selection of superwash wool. Of course we still carry our signature hand-dyed yarns. And for our budget-conscious friends, we're also having a fall clearance on many of our yarn store buyout items now through November 30.

Visit Olympic Fiber Arts on Etsy today to see the entire selection ... but here's a little teaser:

Freckled Lemonade


Every Stitch A Pleasure

Even though my job still consumes too much time for extended projects, I made something that isn't a sock!

It was the yarn that inspired me. When our family crossed the ferry from Orcas Island back over to the mainland, instead of heading south to Seattle, we headed north to Bellingham. First on our list: food. As luck would have it, "food" was on the same street as The Wool Station -- in fact, we had to park right in front of it! (Rats!)

The Wool Station is attached to Russi Sales, Inc., which distributes yarns under the name Yarns Northwest. It's a little confusing, and I'm not sure I got it right despite the keen question-asking skills I developed as a journalist. But the owner was very proud to show me her Diana Collection yarns, which she commissions from a mill in Italy.

It was the silk and merino blend that I suddenly found myself unable to live without -- specifically, color 09: not quite purple, not quite blue, not quite periwinkle, not quite wedgewood, but right in the middle in a lilac-y sort of way. Anyone have a better descriptor?

What I can say without hesitation is that this yarn is scrumptiously amazing! I picked up a single skein and tried my trick of walking around the shop with it until I could talk myself out of buying it. I failed miserably: I bought 4 skeins!

Because of the silk, it's a trick to photograph, and the color varies wildly from shot to shot depending on the location of the light. This next one is direct light.

I have to say that I loved every single stitch of this shawl. Seriously. Every couple of rows I would say out loud to whoever was around -- and to the empty room when necessary -- "I LOVE this yarn!"

Out of grief and a serious need for comfort, I cast on the day after my home was burglarized. It was fantastic therapy! I loved the yarn so much that I never bored of the 2-row, simple lace pattern. I continued well beyond the 55-inch length recommended by the pattern. On US 9's and with so much pleasure in every stitch, the yarn seemed to fly. I stitched until every last scrap of this gorgeous, luxurious yarn possible had been used and finished on Valentine's Day.

The name of the pattern? Simple Lace Shawl. It's a shop pattern from The Wool Station. But I've since seen this yarn on the Seattle LYS circuit, and it looks like the pattern accompanies the yarn to other stores, as well.

My mom was with me on the trip to Bellingham. She bought a skein of the very same yarn. Just one skein. After all my raving, I'm sure she's wishing she bought more!


Long Overdue

I started a pair of socks for C back in August. She selected the yarn while my mother was here visiting in the days following her Alaskan cruise adventure. I cast on and knit the foot during the PRIDE training courses for our foster-adopt licensing.

But there was a strange flaw in the yarn that I thought I might be able to fix without cutting. I was wrong. I didn't want to cut the yarn, though, so the socks languished while I convinced myself I might find another way.

C got this for Christmas instead:

(She's actually much more excited than it looks in the picture!)

By this time, my mom was visiting again! And so on Christmas Day, after all the presents had been opened, with the guilt hanging heavy over my head, I finally gave in, cut the knot from the yarn, and got back to the business of finishing those socks.

But we had a trip to Orcas Island planned. If you're anything like me, the night before you travel you do anything and everything but sleep. Among my activities that evening was not finishing C's socks. Instead, I made this:

My Grandma Catherine's legendary apple pie, passed down to her by I don't recall how many generations! It was truly a spectacular iteration of the pie, started at 4:00 am and pulled fresh from the oven just before 5:25. That's 5:25 AM!

Perhaps aroused by the aroma coming from the kitchen, the rest of the family eventually woke up, and we headed off to the island -- finished pie and unfinished socks in-tow.

We enjoyed a lovely, long ferry ride.

And finally, sometime shortly after our arrival on Orcas Island, C got her long over-due handknit Christmas present from Mommy!

(And you've finally gotten this long overdue Christmas gift post!)


Island Knitting

My family went to Orcas Island in the San Juans the first week of January. I love the island at this time of year. We took my mother with us to the little two-room cabin on the waterfront that has become our favorite home away from home. The last night of our stay, the setting sun reflected gorgeously on the underside of the clouds. It was truly stunning.

I knit a pair of socks on the trip.

Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (MUMTUS) - recipe compiled by me
Materials: Cherry Tree Hill's Supersock DK, Colorway: Country Garden, 1 skein
Needles: US 3 / 3.25 mm
Gauge: 6.5 st/in
Primary Stitch Count: 52

It's a straightforward sock: stockinette on foot and gusset, eye of partridge on the heel, standard 2x2 rib on the cuff. I finished them within the week of our trip.

This is the first time I've done a DK weight sock for myself. They're mushier and thicker than my usual preference. CTH promises that they wear like iron, and I'm putting it to the test given my preference for wearing boots every day. I have to say, the stretchiness of the fabric, even though I used a smaller needle size than recommended, causes me pause. Every time I put them on and slip them into my boots, I think, "Today's the day my toe will go through the end!" So far so good, though. No holes. I did reinforce the toes with my standby Russian laceweight wool, and it's only been about two months. Still, they're getting heavy wear in steady rotation...

I started another pair of socks on the island, too. This with Noro's Kureyon sock yarn. I'll blog on those later, but suffice it to say for now that I have not enjoyed one, single stitch on these socks, evidenced by the fact that they've been on the needles for two months and I've yet to get halfway through the gusset. If anyone out there has insight into the appeal this yarn holds for people, please share!


Na Na Na Na Na Na - Teasing Falkland is Fun and Fruitful!

Remember those 8 ounces of Falkland I dyed last week? I spun 2 of those ounces yesterday:

Falkland Wool in a yet-to-be-named colorway
Hand-dyed from commercially prepared combed top February 20, 2010.
Spun worsted draw and 2-plied February 27, 2010.
91 yards
8 wpi average (Aran weight)

I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. Which means I can make a confession:

I didn't think this fiber was going to spin well at all.

The reason? It wouldn't be too harsh to say I was pretty hard on it during rinsing. When I first hung it to dry, it looked like a seriously gnarled and ill-kempt dreadlock. I teased it apart a bit during the drying process, and although I could tell it wasn't fully felted, it seemed like I was having to work a little too hard to get movement... Certain I would spin it regardless, I couldn't necessarily foresee an enjoyable experience in my future.

So I hyper-teased it out before spinning:

At right is how it looked after drying -- and remember that this is already picked apart a lot. It's a very dense roll.

In the middle is my... well... middle stage of teasing. I had expected this to be enough, but realized that there were still dense patches that would get in the way of a smooth spin. These patches were mostly at what, in the process of teasing it apart, became edges of sorts.

Below (with my hand for scale) and at left in the picture above, is the finished fiber:

I worked out all the dense patches, and the shape is much more clearly dimensional. It's really poofy! As I teased it, I pulled the fibers apart "sideways" rather than elongating them like I would in a normal pre-drafting process. It came out more like a very large, very light, and very long batt than combed top.

It made sense to me that the perfectly aligned fibers of the combed top would revert to their more natural, crimpy state during dyeing, so the shift from combed top to batt seemed reasonable. Hope bloomed as the fiber did!

Here's the middle stage for scale:

And here's what I started with (after drying):

Tremendous difference, no?!

When all was said and done, I'm glad I took the extra time to fully tease it out. It spun like a dream -- a completely enjoyable experience. It has about a 5-inch staple, and it's among the softest fibers I've worked with. Definitely bound for a special next-to-the-skin something.
As for the color?
It's not the colors I had expected to be sending my sister, but I really like the subtle shifts.

As you can see from the pictures, the color really pops in the light...

And it seems to change based on perspective...
And on the other colors around it...

From a distance, the overall color tends toward the olive green -- which I clearly had a hard time capturing in the images today. Light does an amazing dance with this yarn!
So my sister will get 4 ounces of the fiber to spin (and tease!... it doesn't take that long and it's fun) for herself. I'll spin up the other 2 and will either give the yarn to J so he can make something for himself or I will make something for him.
Ideas for a great men's pattern for approximately 180 yards of Aran weight yarn? Please send them my way!


Dyed on Saturday

Great day dying multicolor roving Saturday at Weaving Works! Sanaset/Lanaset acid dyes.

This is 4 ounces of a wool/mohair blend. It was really hard to photograph. The light simply insisted upon dancing off this fiber, making it much brighter and more blue than in person. It's really quite green -- sagey mermaid-type colors, with hints of violet and a very pale blue.

The next one also brightened in the pictures. It's loaded with forrest greens, rusts, and burnt amber-type shades.

There is a royal blue in there, and some deep purple.

But it's predominantly the earthy greens and browns.

8 ounces of poofy Falkland fiber. It didn't felt, but the quality of the fiber did change considerably during the dye process, shifting from a smooth and well-aligned combed top to the more obviously dense and luscious crimpy fiber you see here.

I had hoped to woolen spin it, but I think I'll be going worsted. I'm shocked by how poofy it came out! I just hope the spun yarn doesn't have that spongey look you sometimes see with the Lorna's Laces dyed fibers when they've been spun more on the bulky side.

Thanks to Janene, Michelle, and Cheryl for a fabulous day! (Now I just need to practice my braiding skills!)


Happy Valentine's Day to Me!

Our home was burglarized January 12. Among the items lost were our computers and other tech equipment, nearly ever piece of jewelry I've ever owned (save the three pieces I was wearing that day, two sets that were in plain sight but somehow missed, and one necklace I had bought on vacation on Orcas Island the week before but not yet put away), and several beloved decorative boxes that I kept my everyday jewelry in. One of those boxes I had purchased while I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine -- a stunning hinged-lid box purchased at the little shop in the base of St. Sophia Cathedral that featured the highest quality delicate paint work of a courting scene. I adored that box.

When I saw this Golding spindle, I fell in love.

Its exquisite inset features a domestic handspinning scene. It combines my love of Russian decorative painting with my love of fiber arts -- and fiber tools. And it's not likely to be targeted should we be burglarized again (my spindles did survive the burglary this time!). It's not the same as my favorite, now-gone jewelry box, but it makes me very happy. The painting style is very similar to my box. I mentioned to Joseph that I would like something like this for Valentine's Day... and he presented it shortly after breakfast yesterday morning.

"Handspindling by Candlelight"
2-3/4" Walnut Whorl
Rare Vintage Handpainted Russian Inset
Brass Ring
1.4 oz
Golding Fiber Tools
from the Vintage and Decorative RingSpindle collection
Spindle of the Week posted 2-1-10

Love the brass ring!

Before I could justify starting a new spinning project, I had another WIP to finish. In fact, I was in the process of binding it off when Joseph gave me the spindle, so I just needed to do that and weave in the ends. You can imagine how long and grueling that project seemed with my gorgeous Golding sitting there, so politely, just waiting...


Catherine's Fiber Design No. 2

[Written 2-8-10 and postdated for chronology's sake.]

Catherine asked me to take her to The Weaving Works so she could design a new yarn: her second. She lured me with promises of actually wanting to spin the yarn. Of course, she didn't have to work to hard to convince me to go. Expecting to be off by a bit, I told her we would only get 2 ounces.

Instead, we ended up with 4-1/2! C likes her batts loaded with lots of different colors. This time she went with (L-R, above): raspberry, teal, periwinkle, sky blue, and pansy.

We took the stash home and straight away went to our trusty Clemes & Clemes drum carder. In no time, the fluffy, blended batts were practically flying off the machine!

She wanted the colors to remain distinct.

And after all that, we had two fluffy batts of this:

Plus a little one of the left-overs for me. Out came the spindles, and C spun with me for all of about 10 minutes before she was done. What a hoot!

I finished up my little leftovers batt into a cool thick-thin skein of singles.

No doubt I'll end up spinning C's batts, too... but I think I'll wait awhile to really give her an opportunity to spin them up herself.


Final Class at A New Yarn

[Written February 7, 2010, and post-dated for chronology's sake.]

One of my favorite local yarn stores, as you know, is A New Yarn: a non-profit yarn store associated with the Northwest Women's Shelter and benefiting women who've suffered domestic violence. Sadly, A New Yarn closed in March 2009. I don't know all the details except that it was very sad because the yarn store itself was doing really well both in terms of its community-building and in terms of the books... the closure seemed to have more to do with the non-profit itself and its real estate.

So although I had been scheduled to teach a sock class in February 2009 and an entrelac pillow class (from an original design) in March 2009, I only ended up teaching the sock class.

As is my practice, I knit along with the class. This group picked up Judy's Magic Cast-On quicker than some of the other groups. One of the women in the class, who spoke almost no English, came in the first day wearing a delicate hand-crocheted tank top that was so exquisite I considered honing my crochet skills. Recognizing that I don't have time to really practice a new handcraft, instead, I knit my socks in an orange yarn to remind me of her brilliant tank.

These socks knit up quickly, but they sat until August waiting for me to finish the stretchy bind-off and weave in the ends. (The new job went into its intense spring schedule, and I was just pretty sad about A New Yarn closing.) And then they sat again -- unworn -- until January 2010, when I finally got the camera out and took some pictures.

But, inspired when I put a hole through the toe of my Anti Pro Natura Socks, I finally got all the pieces in place, took the pictures, and started wearing them! They've moved into steady rotation as a favorite because of the yarn's comfort and breathability in the half boots I wear.

I'm planning to catch up the blog on my fiber exploits from the last year. I may have been swamped at work, but I did still manage to get a couple projects made... and I made some fun acquisitions and had some other accomplishments. So look for more soon!

Stripes of Sunshine Socks

Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (MUMTUS) by Zhenya Lavy (workshop pictorial, Ravelry page, downloadable PDF of the condensed pattern)
Materials: OnLine Supersock, orange, #789/69772
Needles: US 1 / 2.25 mm
Primary Stitch Count: 68 (gauge 8.5 st/inch)
Started: February 2009
Completed Knitting: March 2009
Finished: August 2009