Often, I can be a great victim of nostalgia, thinking back to a certain point in time, to a place, and I become consumed with the great desire to be there once again.  But today, sparked by a post about someone’s recent return from Paris, I was momentarily taken back to my four days there in October 2006.  Call me a heathen, but Paris was by no means our favorite city on that two-month adventure; perhaps that is why I simply remember that time with fondness, rather than an overwhelming desire to be there once again.

Interestingly enough, it was a picture on that blog post of the Paris Metro that brought all this back, rather than the more cliched Paris photographs (which is mostly all I have).

one of the many

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the anus of eiffel tower

ballerina painting

window in our hotel room

montmatre

opera stairs

katie jumping!

P.S. The one thing I do miss intensely about Paris is the food: the cheese, the crepes, the café, the ice cream. Check out the salted caramel sauce recipe on the Smitten Kitchen link up above – it looks divine.

What is it about summer that compels me to join swaps? Last summer there was the Ravelry Caffeine Addicts Swap and the Knitter’s Virtual Vacation Swap. Those were fun, but I seemed to be sated…that is, until recently.

The Ravelry Fiber Swap is 3 months long, with three other partners, so it’s almost like 3 swaps in one. So far it’s been a ton of fun. I got my July package from Ravelry user ambergem.

There is 4 oz. of hand-dyed merino/linen roving. I’m slightly intimidated but very excited to see how this spins! It will probably marinate for awhile, but I am looking forward to trying it. She also sent a little superwash merino (burgundy) and some mohair locks (green). I love it!

I have pictures of what I sent for July but I keep forgetting to upload them to flickr.

I have a few other dyed fibers, but so far my attempts to photograph them haven’t gone very well. They’re red, and one of them is targhee wool which is so fluffy that the camera doesn’t want to focus.

Soon there will be more dyeing for the August installment of Fiber Swap. I know what I want to do, it’s just finding the time that is proving difficult.

The other swap I joined last week is put on by the Spunky Eclectic group on Ravelry. This is one of the chattiest groups EVER, and one of the mods decided it would be fun to do a swap. Luckily we don’t send until the end of the September, but we’re sending both fiber AND handspun, as well as goodies and extras, so I can’t procrastinate too much. In this swap the only secrets are what we are actually sending – we know who our partners are and hopefully we get to know them over the course of the swap. It should be fun! I don’t know if I will be dyeing for this. I am hoping to go to the California Wool and Fiber Festival in September and I want to try and get the unspun fiber there.

This is the 1oz. of dyed alpaca I showed you last time, spun into a worsted weight 2-ply. Spinning from the fold was pretty tricky, because the alpaca is very slippery, but for a first try, I’m happy with how it came out. More than anything, I love how soft it is. It’s only 50-something yards, but I think I might use it as an accent in a hat.

This spinning is a little more recent. I finally got brave and tacked some Wensleydale I purchased from Hello Yarn awhile ago. It definitely came out a bit fuzzy (they call Wensleydale “the sheep’s answer to mohair”) but relatively soft. I’m a little nervous about using it for a hat or a scarf, but we’ll see…maybe another idea will strike. It’s around a DK weight. I haven’t counted the yardage yet. I’m loving the colors though. The greens/teals you can see in the roving have kind of dissipated, but I think they’ll show a bit more when knitted up.

In knitting news, I’m trying to work through a few very late gifts, and I recently finished knitting Talia. I still need to weave in ends, block it, and find buttons. Buttons are the hardest. Maybe I’ll take my chances and order online. Life is just too busy these days for button shopping.

I might as well have joined Tour de Fleece officially, because there has been a lot of spinning happening this month.

“Mud Season” from Spunky Club’s March fiber
100% merino wool, 4 oz.
fingering weight, approx. 470 yards

This was a long project, after I finished the first 2 oz I took a break from it for awhile. But as I got used to the fiber, and my spinning improved, I got a bit faster and the second half flew by. Spinning merino gives a very satisfying result – a soft, bouncy, squishy skein of yarn. The colors in this go so well together. Right now I’m thinking it will be the Palette scarf from Knitty.

“Franny” from A Verb for Keeping Warm
100% Bluefaced Leicester, 2 oz.
DK weight, unknown yardage

After hoarding AVFKW roving for months, I finally pulled some out to spin. I think this was my first time spinning BFL…I can’t believe I waited this long! It drafts wonderfully, it’s got a little crimp, and a little sheen, and it plies all bouncy and gorgeous. I love it. See?

Oh, and the red-orange-salmon colors of this naturally dyed fiber spun up so gorgeous too. It’s going to be even harder to resist buying more roving from her now.

Finally, in an effort to fill up my already-scarce free time even more, I’ve started dyeing fiber. Nuttnbunny tipped me off to a Fiber Swap Club on Ravelry. The swap lasts for three months; we were put into groups of four, and each month we send 4 oz. of fiber to one other person in the group. I joined and have used it as an excuse to start dyeing, which is something I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. I just mailed my first swap package yesterday, so I can show what’s inside of it yet (lest I ruin the element of surprise), but here are some dye experiments on alpaca.

2 oz. of combed alpaca top, kettle dyed
I call this one “Northern Lights”.

1 oz. of combed alpaca top, handpainted & steamed
“Mermaid”
The colors in this got a little more blended than I intended, but that’s why it’s an “experiment”. I think I should have steamed it in something a little flatter – I used a cheap colander that I bought at Salvation Army, but I think a lot of the dye pooled down and mixed. Luckily the colors blend well. I spun this up the other night to see what it looks like. The mini-skein is drying now. More details soon!

My alpaca top is some natural gray fiber I bought at Piedmont Yarn. It’s called “Handspinner’s Dream” from Alpaca With a Twist. It’s really lovely stuff, and it comes in a whole range of natural alpaca fleece colors. It takes the color wonderfully…and it is making me seriously consider doing something crazy like adopting an alpaca.

Look!

Mystery Stole 3.  Yeah, the one from LAST summer.  I finished the knitting in March but just blocked it recently so it could go on display at Piedmont Yarn.  Go see the entire Flickr set here.

Noro Lace Ribbon Scarf.  Just in time for summer.  At least it’s nice to look at.

One helical striped sock, a la Grumperina.  For my sister.  In place of mittens.

Aspen (merino tencel blend), Spunky Eclectic club fiber from last August (my first ever!)
2 oz, 290 yards, fingering weight single.  So gorgeous!  Spun from this.

Awesome green two-ply.  Spun from a hand-carded batt purchased from Funky Carolina
3+ oz, 189 yards, worsted weight two-ply.  I love this yarn so much, it’s ridiculous.

A few things I’ve been working on…

These were so close to being done before I went to Japan. All I had left was a toe. I wasn’t about to bring a project that was almost done, with airplane-incompatible needles, so I finished them right after we got back. The yarn is Pigeonroof Studios sock yarn, that I bought at Piedmont Yarn. I would kill to get some roving from Pigeonroof, but the yarn is almost as good. The base yarn is strong but soft, and has a nice sheen, and the short, random bursts of color make for interesting knitting, and almost no pooling! (Oh, and the pattern is Garter Rib from Sensational Knitted Socks.)

Last summer I started making granny squares for the Color Bar Blanket from the Stitch n Bitch Happy Hooker. I completed the squares in a few colors, and then they sat in a bag for several months. Lately I’ve been in the mood to make some more, especially during the heat wave we had last week. I’m almost through half the colors…just need to finish up this blue. There was a sale on Plymouth Encore at WEBS, so I got most of the other colors I need. If I don’t completely lose momentum, I hope to finish the squares and sew it all together over the summer so I will have an awesome afghan for fall!

This pattern came out last month over at Purl Bee. I instantly wanted to knit it…even though I’ve been queuing patterns and accumulating yarn for several bigger sweater projects, I can’t bring myself to start any of them right now. This shrug, however, is small enough, and wearable in the summer, so I finally decided to go find yarn and cast on. Our bamboo selection is a bit lacking at Piedmont Yarn, so I went to Article Pract on Sunday. There were several bamboo and cotton blend selections, but I couldn’t find a yarn I liked in a color that was inspiring (and wearable), or if I did, there wasn’t enough in the store (like a certain cotton tencel blend that I fell in love with). I went into the sale room and ended up coming out with several skeins of Berroco Glace, a rayon ribbon yarn, in an amazing deep indigo color. I’ll admit, it’s the color that did me in, but I’m pretty happy with how it’s knitting up. I just finished the first sleeve, and now I’m on the back. I’m trying to knit it fast and keep momentum because if I finish it, it will definitely get worn this summer.

James requested a hat last fall, I may have mentioned it at some point on here. It is to have mushrooms, snails, and squirrels. There will be earflaps, and we found some awesome buttons that will be integrated into the earflaps somehow (either decoratively or functionally, it is not yet clear). I did a little swatching a few months ago and started to cast on, but the size 1 needles and 190+ stitches were sort of uninspiring. I also realized more planning was necessary…I needed to draft an entire chart of all of the Fair Isle components, rather than just trying to wing it. I have been putting it off for several months now, but the other night I got motivated and drew up this chart. It looks like there will be 6 pattern repeats (3 repeats of the chart), for a total of 180 stitches. My chart is a conglomeration of several Adrian Bizilia charts (the mushrooms, snails, and swirls), and the squirrels come from a mitten pattern (pdf). The snails are actually significantly altered to fit into a smaller number of stitches. I have yet to start the knitting, but now that I have this chart I should be able to get at least to the crown decreases pretty easily. I know I will be using a provisional cast on so I can deal with the earflaps later on. If James is lucky, he might have this hat to wear next autumn…or winter. Those needles are still mighty small…

silk cowl

I knit most of this silk cowl while I was in Japan. I’d had the yarn for over a year, something I had purchased on eBay, but I never knew what to do with it. But when I saw the Butterfly Moebius pattern in Clara Parkes’ A Knitter’s Book of Yarn, the world of cowls opened up for me. The pattern only took 275 yards of yarn, and I had plenty for this cowl. I brought some of the yarn along on our trip, hoping it would be enough, but I ended up wanting it a little bit wider, so I finished it off after we returned home. I was so happy with it that I decided to make my Mom one as well, as a Mother’s Day gift. I made hers from exactly two skeins of Hempathy (about 300 yards). Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of that when I finished it, but it turned out so different, and so lovely. The stitch pattern in the book is double seed stitch, but you could substitute other simple knit/purl stitch patterns just as easily. I love this pattern because it really shows off the yarn. Perfect for handspun…I’m sure you will see more of these.

Last night, after letting the idea brew in my head for a few weeks, I finally cast on for some striped socks for my sister. You may remember back at Christmas, when I finished only one mitten as her gift. Well, when I miss a deadline for gift knitting, I tend to lose momentum. I had started the second mitten, but as I got my comfortable with stranded knitting, my tension loosened up, and the second mitten was definitely coming out bigger than the first. I hid it away in the bottom of my knitting basket for awhile, and when I saw my sister at Easter, I asked her if she still even wanted the mittens. She said socks would be more useful to her, and since I was pretty much over those mittens, I happily dismissed them from my mind. After seeing the awesome spiraling stripe socks that Grumperina has been working on, I decided I would use some of the leftover yarn and do socks in this manner. Here are the beginnings:

I think they are coming along fabulously. I would like to finish them in a somewhat timely manner, even though I know she has no use for wool socks in the middle of summer in New York. Hopefully they will not languish for too long, and hopefully I will have enough of the fuschia yarn to knit both socks without having to frog the lone finished mitten. Because even if it’s not useful, it does look quite beautiful, and it would be a shame (and a pain in the ass) to rip it out.

Yesterday we went to check out the new Borders that just opened up in Alameda, and I bought Weekend Knitting with the gift card that was burning a hole in my wallet. There were a few other books I wanted that they didn’t have in stock, but Weekend Knitting has been on my list, and after looking through it again, I decided it was a must have. My most desired pattern in there is the Brioche Stitch Neckwarmer (and hat and scarf), but I realized there are also TWO Veronik Avery patterns, both of which I would like to make, and after I showed James the Backgammon Bag, it was a done deal.

For some reason Ravelry seems to be down right now, which totally sucks, because it’s the weekend and I need to be getting my fix before it’s Monday again and I have to go to work. I guess I’ll just have to keep myself busy with all this knitting I keep starting.

I was sad to be away from my spinning wheel when I was in Japan (I know, life can be so difficult…). After I finished Pie, I started spinning some mystery purple fiber that Larkin gave me with the wheel. I was spinning thinner, about a fingering weight single, so the going was quite a bit slower. When we got back from our trip, I finished up the purple singles, and then got out the remaining 2 oz. of my Spunky Club “Goblin Eyes” Romney. The first two ounces were used in spindle experimentation, spun pretty thin and Navajo plied…but I think the whole mess was overspun because it was more like twine than yarn. I didn’t really enjoy that spinning experience very much. So I spun up the rest of it on the wheel, trying to match it with the purple singles. Toward the end I got a little lazy and the singles became sliiiightly thicker, but I’m pretty happy with how it came out after I plied the two together:



“Purple Goblin”
277 yards, 3.95 oz.
sport-ish weight

I love all the purple! And because it wasn’t so overspun this time, it’s a bit softer, and even more so after washing. It’s not supersoft, but I’m considering trying to make slipper socks from it, if I have enough. Toe-up will definitely be the way to go.

Here’s a not-so-great picture of my wheel…I plan to take a better one later.

As you can see, it’s been “well-loved”. Everything seems to work perfectly fine, the wood is just a bit worn and nicked in places, especially on that horizontal piece across the front. The tension nob for the brake band looks like a dog chewed on it, and I plan to order a new one at some point. The scotch tension also is just a piece of string tied to a smaller piece of fishing line (rather than springs like it should be), but it seems to work OK. I’ll replace that when I get around to ordering my Ashford Maintenance Kit. The drive band WAS just a black cotton string, but I fancied it up with lanyard cord. I was looking for Pony Bead Lacing, but Beverly’s didn’t have it. I got some green sparkly lanyard cord (the flat kind) and managed to melt the ends together enough to stick. It works ok, but I’m going to get the lacing next time I’m at Michael’s. It has connectors so you don’t have to melt anything, and you can change it out really easily. I also need to screw in more cup hooks on the flyer because they are only on one side. At some point I’ll need to get another flyer too (probably the 3-speed, but maybe the jumbo), because this Traditional is old enough that it only has one ratio. So far it hasn’t been a problem, but as I get more experience, I think I will appreciate the added versatility.

I started spinning Merino for the first time a few nights ago. I’m working on Spunky Club’s March fiber, “Mud Season”:

It’s not as hard to spin as I thought it would be…though I think it’s going much better on the wheel that it would have on the spindle. The Merino is sooooooooooo soft and sort of like spinning clouds. I’m spinning a pretty fine single and I’m hoping to get a fingering weight yarn from it. The colors are coming out really nice as they get more spread out and soften up.

The more I do it, the more I realize how addicting this spinning thing is!

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