Sunday, January 25, 2015

tea time tams

Today was the second (and final) knit-a-long class for the "Going to Town Tam" at Woolbearers yarn shop in Mount Holly. How wonderful to have had such a great group of people in the class. We had tremendous fun working on the pattern and dishing on Downton Abbey, more or less equal amounts of both.

Plus tea and chocolate torte and cucumber sandwiches (which lasted even less time than in the first class) and even Downton Abbey (fourth season) playing on the computer in the background. We thoroughly hashed out the issues facing Mary, Tom, Edith, Thomas, Isobel, Violet, Mrs Hughes, Mr Carson, Bates, Anna, the Russians... You name it. Julian Fellowes should give us a call so we can let him know our firm opinions on future plot twists.

As promised, here are close-ups of everyone's color choices. One student noted that most combinations had some element of green/teal. Looking at the pictures, purple is also a hugely popular element. There you go, Pantone. Make of it what you will.

I wish my iPhone had done a better job with the colors. The one on the bottom right, for example, was a striking orange/teal blue/grey combination that came out very flat, unfortunately.

I will miss these ladies, but onto new adventures! I will be holding a short rows class at the same shop on February 21. Preparation begins in earnest on that... tomorrow. Tonight, I have to watch Downton Abbey. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

frost feathers

Spotted on Primo's car yesterday morning: frost feathers!

Maybe the effect was so visible because the car is black?

The roof swirls were especially cool but I had trouble getting high enough on my tiptoes to capture it. Since I was still in my bathrobe and the middle school bus was on its way, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, or at least my fifth grader's ever-lasting embarrassment, and didn't go get a stool.

There's a knitting pattern in here somewhere!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

common criminal

If there is one thing Valentine loves, it's catnip. She is not one of those "I can take it or leave it" cats. She is a cat who has trouble managing her addiction attraction. She also has a problem with love for roving or, indeed, anything that smells like a sheep.

This has put a serious crimp into my cat toy production. Nothing can be left out. Everything, including completed objects, must be shut up tight into protective containers; tins work best, because I thought they masked the smell.

I thought wrong, obviously. The little brown bags are old pantyhose with catnip tied inside to scent the stored toys. She had ripped two of them open, and slobbered all over the contents while rolling around in her ill-gotten gain.

I came back from finding my iPhone to document the scene of the crime, and found these two goofballs using my yarn to make forensic calculations as to the possible identity of the suspect. As if there was any doubt.

Who me? I just steal dog's beds.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

vogue knitting live '15

VKL '15 in a nutshell: it took a three hour nap today for me to recover.

It was a really great weekend. My mom and I left before dawn on Friday to take the train into NYC. We kicked off the conference on Friday morning with a Franklin Habit class, always a delight. 

Interesting introduction to Bavarian twisted stitch, in which the background stitches are always knit through the back loop. I had spent the previous evening teaching a beginning knitter not to do that very thing; it is a common beginner mistake, one that I made myself, so it was funny to be doing it deliberately when I had just spent so much time explaining why she shouldn't do it.

We enjoyed a lecture by the Norwegian designing team of Arne and Carlos, talking about their efforts to incorporate Norwegian knitting traditions in new ways that preserve them.

My favorite example was this sweater they put together from old sweaters made and worn by Arne's family members, in a patchwork tradition of reusing and repurposing old fabrics. It was the first time I had seen it done with knitting where the original wasn't unravelled or felted.

My afternoon was spent learning entrelac from Rosemary Drysdale, while my mom learned a new way of felting that definitely requires more exploration. More on that in a few weeks, I think, but my brain is racing with possibilities.

All day Saturday was sweater design with Patty Lyons and math, math, math, but I can honestly say I get it. Maybe setting a goal of designing a sweater for one of the men in my life would help to cement it in place.

The marketplace was great, especially as I got to tour it with my mom and Lauren, my brother's wonderful girlfriend. Behind them? Yes, knitted Tower of Pisa, part of Lion Brand's Seven Wonders of the Knitting World. I didn't get them all photographed, but take a look at Paige's blog for the complete set.

The artistic fiber art displays were amazing this year. This fridge full of knitted food, with accompanying dessert table, done by a Swiss artist, had to be seen to be believed. Such jaw-dropping detail, even my non-craftsy brother was impressed. Take a look at the peeled orange on the edge of the dessert table. And I just noticed this detail: is that a rat's tail under the fridge? Too funny! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

fleece run

I am behind in everything these days. Case in point: the fleeces. Yes, from last year's shearing in March. Part of the problem is that I haven't had a skirting table in months and months; the sawhorses that hold it up were requisitioned for the barn project many months ago, and there they still sit. The other problem is that my favorite processing mill, Ozark, retired last year and I have been paralyzed with indecision about who to use.

And it is January. And Maryland Sheep and Wool is only four three and a half months away. Gulp.

On Tuesday I finally took action, and called the closest fiber mill to our farm: Sweitzer's Fiber Mill near York, Pennsylvania. I had met them a couple of years ago at Maryland, when they were going booth to booth introducing themselves and their new mill. What did I have to lose?

Heather, the owner, promised that if I could get the fleeces to her this week, she would have them done at the beginning of April. So my intrepid parents and I set out for York PA early this morning, with the fleeces finally sorted out and ready to go. Most of the time I need to make a deadline for myself to finally get things done, though when did I get them sorted and ready to go? This morning.

What a great operation the Sweitzers have going! Tucked away on their very rural farm, in a repurposed chicken barn (used by his grandparents to raise a ton of chickens), Heather has quite the operation. Fleeces are washed and dried in a clever arrangement that captures the grey water for use to irrigate their hay fields.

Fiber is picked, blended, carded, spun and plied by different employees, including Heather and her husband. I will be considering having some yarn made next year.

The mill does a LOT of commercial work and the product was very impressive. I can see why she has the volume of work that she does, and I am very grateful that she agreed to help me out!

On the way home, we made a surprise (to my mother) stop at Flying Fibers in Lancaster, PA, a charming yarn store with delightful owners. The purpose was to purchase her retirement gift from my father, an Ashford Joy spinning wheel, now that she will have more time to spend on fibery pursuits.

Luckily her wheel came with a tan carrying case; mine is blue and we would have had a hard time telling them apart otherwise! Rumor has it that she is already spinning away on her new wheel. She's going to have a hard time leaving it for Vogue Knitting Live in NYC tomorrow.

We're Broadway bound, baby!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

cucumber sandwiches and lemon cake

Today was the big day, the Downton Abbey tea at Woolbearers in Mount Holly!

In addition to white table linens, teapots and teacups, I took down a lemon cake and cucumber sandwiches to make it as proper as possible in the middle of a yarn store. The lemon cake was a box mix from Shoprite but fairly impressive result all the same, especially when iced with powdered sugar (that's the snowflake overlay, which looked better before the powder dissolved on the top; I had to reapply just before leaving for the class). Only a silver serving tray would do!

My friend Chris gave me a few tips for successful cucumber sandwiches, which you may find useful if you ever need to host a tea:
  • Use a pre-sliced bread of good quality; obviously, I opted for Pepperidge Farm "very thin" white bread.

  • Buy the cucumbers that are individually wrapped in saran wrap, labeled "hothouse" or "english" seedless cucumbers.

  • Thoroughly soften the butter, preferably unsalted, then butter both insides of the bread before putting on the cucumbers.

  • Slice the cucumbers thinly; I used a mandolin to make them as even as possible. No need to take off the skins.

  • Sprinkle a little salt on the cucumbers before putting the sandwiches together, cutting off the crusts and slicing them diagonally.

Last but not least: make them as closely to the event as possible so they don't get soggy!

They were a huge hit—not a single one remained, with me eating only one little quarter to make sure they were okay.

The rest of the class went just as well, I think. Certainly we all had a good time and eight new tams are well on their way. I can't wait to see all the results, because the color combinations chosen, not one like the original, were really great.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

freezing point

An extended cold snap is good for one thing... Frozen pond water!

Photo courtesy of Primo, who was home for a very brief break from studying for his finals. Our birthday gift to him was tickets for comedian Jim Gaffigan, a family favorite, before we understood how his university schedule works, with finals after Christmas. He was gracious and maintained it was a nice break from the stress. Since he made time to get out on skates this morning with Terzo (who was, of course, wild with joy) before heading back, it did appear that he was happy for the quick diversion. He was back at school by noon, grinding away again.

The ice sojourn didn't even last long enough for me to get out there with my camera. They heard what they thought was a nearby gunshot from hunters—we have quite a few in the nearby wildlife area—but turned out to be the ice cracking. It may have been more ice forming, as the temperatures were well under freezing, but they got off just in case. No doubt it will be checked for soundness again tomorrow.