28 June, 2009

Bean Sprouts and Birthdays

I am officially an AuntieBean! My bestest friend evar had her Superhero Baby today. He arrived 3 weeks early and on what I believe was the day his mother and father were supposed to see RENT with the original Mark and Roger, so MamaBean will be able to hold that one over his head for at least the next 18 years.

Also, today is my Tiny Grandma's 84th birthday. Her knitting inspires me to create just as much as my mother's craftiness, so I am sending her the best gift I can think of for a wonderful knitter on a tight budget: a bag of Crystal Palace Creme yarn.

Welcome to the world, Little Sprout. I'm excited to meet you! And Happy Birthday to an adorable and loving Grandma. What a wonderful day the 28th of June turned out to be!

27 June, 2009

I'm Still. Big. Red.

La Girasole, she is finished!
I really enjoyed knitting this. Jared's instructions are clear and simple to follow, and there isn't so much repetition of each motif that I got bored - except on the edging, which is to be expected. One can't expect much variation on the edging.

I ran out of T-pins on the edging, so it'll be a little scalloped. That's fine with me, but if I'm going to make more circular stuff I think I'll need more pins. Usually I can use my lace blocking wires, but with circular shawls, it's all geometry all the way.


I should invent an umbrella-style blocking mechanism. Hmmmm..... that's a thought. But for now, here she is, and just in time to start baby knitting in earnest - the littlest Bean is coming this weekend!

I'm Still. Big. Red.
Pattern: Girasole by Jared Flood
Yarn: Frog Tree Alpaca, sport weight, 1250 yds

25 June, 2009

Oy, My Head

Last weekend was a doozy. On Friday there was the VAC, which for those who are interested went better than I expected. My hands only shook while I was waiting for the other half of the conversation to arrive, and even though my Shield of Bees was (and remains) unfinished, I did use it to steady my nerves at the beginning.

Then on Saturday I headed up to Wine Country with my dear friend Nadia

to meet THB

and his dear friends.

It was a match made on a wine train, and we had a delightful time. However, I feel the need to say a Big Sister "I TOLD YOU SO!" to THB, who neglected to reserve a camping space and ended up with all 6 of us crammed into a hotel room. Those may be my 4 favorite words, but they are closely followed by, "next time, make reservations."

The wine train starts in Napa proper and goes up the tracks for roughly an hour and a half.

Then the locomotive is decoupled from the front of the train and put on the back - which then becomes the new front - and back down the tracks you go.

There was some brilliant wine and a to-DIE-for Porterhouse steak that I gave half of to THB. Oh yes, I voluntarily gave him half. It was, after all, his birthday.

After the wine train hijinks ended, we went to another bar in downtown Napa and danced the night away. The rest of the Flickr set is here.

I've been s-l-o-w-l-y breaking in the Cherry Schact, and I have been working on the edging of Big Red. At this point I have less than 100 stitches left of the live edging, so I will hopefully finish it in the next couple of days. Knitting and spinning time have been thin on the ground this week, as I've been trying desperately to complete the Photoshopping Contract from Hell. A professor at SJSU asked me to retouch some scans of slides that her husband took of his sculpture work. It is very interesting art - the man is a brilliant sculptor - but nothing will rid me of the knowledge that the whole thing would have taken less than 5 hours if the slides had been cleaned before they were scanned.

Now there only remains the Slide Room work to finish, and that's a) easy and b) an all-summer gig. Hurrah for that!

Today I also seized a rare chance. I love taunting my cats, so I put a hummingbird feeder up right outside the cat netting. These little birds have been entertaining me since I moved in here; they come right up to the netting and chitter angrily at the lounging kitties, who aren't entirely sure what to do about it. So I figured I'd give the birds a break and let them eat while they make me laugh. My chair is positioned so I can see them, but it's not so good for getting pictures. But today, I managed to snneeeeeaaaak out of my chair and onto the porch for a rare photo of a hummingbird at rest.
(click to embiggen)
Do you see her? No? How about here:
[again, click to embiggen(this one's really big)]
If you need a hint, she's pretty much dead center in both images and facing the right side of your screen. Pretty cool, no?

17 June, 2009

A Super Secret No Longer!

Today, I got a text message that said: "We just picked up your box at the post office! Can't wait to go home and open it!"

And then I lost all track of what I was doing because I was waiting to hear how the Super Secret Project was received.

Next came, "OMG I LOVE IT!" followed by a discussion of how the bebeh inside my best friend is indeed destined to be a super hero given the combined powers of the blanket now in his possession and the magnitude of his kicks.

So here it is, my friends. The Super Secret Project:
A nearly full-frame shot, pre-spokes

The biggest shot I could get, post-spokes and totally finished!

The stats: 1692 yards of Knit Picks Swish Bare yarn hand-dyed in scarlet and blue, and pre-dyed black. It's roughly 4 feet across and weighs almost 2 pounds.

May it spend many years serving as a blanket, a fort covering, a comfort, and a cape.

I love you, CoffeeBean.

16 June, 2009

Things I've Been Hiding

I have a confession. I have been keeping some things to myself lately because I, well, I wanted to. But now everything is here and photographed and uploaded and I want to share!

First, while I was at my mom's a few weeks ago, I came across a cabinet sewing machine that I think is from the 1930's, complete with a box of feet and the original manual. ManCandy and I wrestled it into the car and took it to the local Vac & Sew place to see if they could get it in working order again.

Yesterday, I picked it up, all oiled and clean and purring like a kitten.

There are some parts that are a bit problematic. The connector from the motor to the flywheel is, well, old and I'm on the hunt for one that's not cracked with age, as F-W isn't in business anymore.
But I just love the hardcore industrial look of this hunk of steel. Back before plastic sewing machines came out, they were made to last a lifetime and beyond. No one really conceived of having more than one machine, and they certainly didn't imagine having to take the thing in every time one little thing went wrong. This baby was made to last, and it shows. Even the light still works.

The mechanic did make an adjustment for me. Originally, this model had a knee-press to run the machine, but when the electric block was replaced (1930's wiring is not super-safe, who knew?), he changed it to a foot pedal instead. The only thing that's missing on this machine is a zig-zag stitch, but since I don't anticipate sewing a lot of jersey fabric I think I'll be okay.

I anticipate many happy hours of sewing straight lines on this new addition to the family. I spent some time at JoAnn's on Sunday and picked up a 60mm rotary cutter and some 8" Gingher dress shears, along with pins, thread, and woven fusible interfacing. I also dug out the box full of fat quarters I've been collecting for who knows how long, and hopefully soon I'll have a bit of a quilt to show for it.

The quilt may have to wait awhile, though; yesterday Jasmin and I picked up my graduation present at Carolina Homespun:

a 40th anniversary edition cherry wood Schact Matchless. It is... well, words fail me so here are some more photos:

But here's the best part:

Now no one can ever say they didn't know it was mine.

And lastly, Mr. Darcy helped me wrap up the Super Secret Project in monkey paper last Tuesday and I sent it off into the ether. I hope it arrives at its destination soon; I'm sort of dying to show you all the pictures!

07 June, 2009

Spinning at the Winery

Saturday was the annual Spinning Day at Retzlaff Winery in Livermore, CA. I packed carefully the night before: tiny spindle, some fiber, a garter-stitch baby blanket, my ID and a credit card. Last year I took my Sonata, but this year I didn't really feel much like spinning and I figured a spindle would allow me more mobility. AuntieSocial, on the other hand, brought her wheel... and didn't take it out at all. Score one for my precognition.
I like to play Count the Schacts with this picture

I did, however, find a few sad bags of orphaned fleece that desperately needed a home. I mean really! How can a kind-hearted spinner be expected to just leave roving like this:
8 oz. of spring green cormo from Sue Reuser

and this:
8 oz. of burgundy roving from Sue Reuser

out on the street to who-knows-what fate?

I also am going to split a beautiful white ewe fleece from Sue up at the Cormo Sheep Farm with AuntieSocial and another friend. We dropped off the huge 6-pound fleece with Sherri of Morro Bay with a request that she just wash it and keep it in lock formation so that we can try combing. Aija, I can see you grinning through the magic of the internet! And I may be developing a serious love affair with cormo fleeces. I spent a lovely quarter of an hour flipping through Sue's lock book - the book in which she keeps a lock of each sheep's fleece for identification purposes - and came to rest on a beautiful milky chocolate lock that I just couldn't keep my eyes off of. Then I looked at the sheep's name, and of course it was the amazing Henna whose fleece, for any interested parties (::coughcough::), has already been sold this year and will not be at the Monterey Auction. However, there will be a couple of other ones there, and I will be thinking very hard about saving money to make one of them mineminemine.

In addition to the stunning dyed cormo from Sue, I got an education and 2 ounces of Pygora from Hollyhock Hollows Farm. But let me back up.

One would think that the first thing a fiber person would do when encountering an unfamiliar chunk of fiber is to run it under her chin or perhaps on her cheek to feel its softness. One would generally be wrong. The first thing said fiber person does with a new fiber is smell it. This seems crazy, I know, but barnyard animals each have a distinctive smell, and it can often help identify things about the animal that the eye or skin cannot. Therefore, the first thing I did when I encountered a plastic salad dish of Pygora was to smell it, after which I promptly exclaimed, "it doesn't smell like sheep!" And the ever helpful lades at the Pygora booth informed me that no, pygora is actually a goat. I am so s-m-r-t it hurts sometimes.

By the way, the easiest way to aurally distinguish between goats and sheep is that the former says, "maaaa" and the latter says, "baaa." Thus is the Encyclopedia Britannica still useful.

So I learned about the three grades of pygora (A, B, and C), and came home with two ounces of fiber so soft that even ManCandy - who has learned all the appropriate phrases for when I come home loaded with wool (for the record they are: "ooo, what nice colors!," "can I feel it?," and "ooo, squishy/soft/pretty!") - exclaimed at how lovely it was.

It looks a little like a fuzzy pet rock here, but trust me, it's like
heaven to touch, I just want to hold it so much.

There was another acquisition at the winery, but I can't talk about it yet - I'm going to be selfish and keep it to myself for just a bit longer. But trust me, you'll hear about it soon!

In anticipation of the spinning day, I cast on for a Moderne Baby Blanket from Mason Dixon Knitting. I don't own the book because frankly I find the patterns inside to be unappetizing, but I do like the rustic color block look of the baby blanket, and I also like the appeal of large swathes of garter stitch for brainless knitting. I'm on block four of ten, and much like a circular shawl it keeps getting bigger with every change, so I'll be working on this one for awhile.

So this year was only a leetle more restrained at the Winery than last year; instead of 2 half-fleeces I ended up with 1/3 of a fleece plus a 18 ounces of pin-drafted roving and a bottle of delicious port. Hurrah for wine and knitting!

05 June, 2009

Knittin' and Spinnin' and Wishin' and Hopin'

Well, not so much with the wishin' and hopin'. But there has been knittin' and spinnin'! And also apostrophes bother me, so we'll go back to using the proper gerund, thankyouverymuch.

Let's see. I have now been in the Black Bunny Fiber Club for lo, these many months, and I've been enjoying myself greatly. However, I have yet to spin up any of Carol's delightful and personalized rovings; something had to be done! And which better roving to choose than the first one:
Begonia, 100% superfine Peruvian merino

I split it up into 4 equal parts, intending to make (what else but) lace. However, I found some amazing sparkly mylar thread at Joann's that threw off my entire game. Instead of thin lace singles, I tried to make chubby, fluffy singles. Then I plied them with the mylar and got this:
Begonia yarn 353 yds. total

Isn't it fun! I've never plied singles with thread of any kind before; I rather like it. I think this lot may become a simple feather-and-fan scarf for Yours Truly at some point - that is, once I've finished cooing over the sparkles.

closeup of the shiny!

This is only half of the roving, but I'm calling it done because I think I may make fluffy 2-ply out of the other 2 bits I have left, and thus have 2 different style yarns in the same colorway - something I've never done before.

I've been working away like a busy bee at the Honeybee Stole from Knitspot:
I'm on repeat 7 of 10 for this part of the pattern, and it's going fairly smoothly. I've finally learned to read the lace, which has helped the last few repeats move much more quickly. I'm still not certain if I'll get it done in time for my Very Awkward Conversation, but I'm enjoying working on it anyway. Here's the artsy shot:

Tomorrow is the annual spinning day at the Retzlaff Winery. This year I will take pictures with more than my cellphone! My friend AuntieSocial and I are planning to find another fleece to split this year; last year we both took half of a gorgeous charcoal grey named Topper and a white merino/corriedale cross named Steve. This year, if Steve's fleece is available again, I think that may be the one we bring home, but I'll keep you posted! Given that the student loans are going to come back to bite me soon, half of a fleece is all I can manage this year, so I'll have to make it a good one.

In the meantime, here are some cute kitty pictures that I just couldn't resist. They show off the boys' personalities to perfection.
Mr. Darcy loves you, and you, and you...

Panza the Dragon Kitty still hisses at the neighbors

And now I'm off to listen to Pride and Prejudice while I work on the Honeybee Stole!

02 June, 2009

Someone Bring Me A Harp

I am not fiercely political. I wish I were, but my sense of hopelessness often overwhelms my sense of indignation or annoyance with the Body Politica, and I tend to give up before I even begin. 


Dr. Tiller's murder disgusts me. When I have conversations with devout Christians who are near and dear to my heart, they have said over and over that people who kill other people in the name of God are apostate and are not, in fact, pursuing God's will. That such people are anathema and are simply sick in the same way that terrorists who identify themselves with Allah are also sick - the problem is not the Bible or the Koran, but the self-justification of the people who commit such crimes. And I believe those Christians, just as I believe my Muslim friends who say the same thing.  It is not the will of the Almighty, no matter which moniker we give such a being, that humans should hate and kill one another. 

But when a man is murdered in church for doing his legal job, and moreover a man who has been consistently demonized by people who call themselves Christians for helping women (and sometimes children - think of that, you mothers of daughters), I begin to question why the Christian "middles" and "liberals" don't begin policing their own. 

When do you get to say, "he does not read the Bible, he cannot be doing God's will" and call it good enough? Why can you say, "I am not that kind of Christian," and suddenly not be a part of such a group? True, you do not frequent the dark corners of the internet mentioned by Rachel Maddow last night. And you truly do not believe in your heart of hearts that these black sheep crazies should be doing what they have done. In this, we are the same. 

But for the love of God, get His house in order; none of us who are outside the doors can do it. 

01 June, 2009

Silence is Consent

I am reposting this from The Mudflats blog, which is where I usually get my daily dose of "WTF, Sarah Palin?!?" However, today The Mudflatter explains why I am not a part of the conservative movement, and why I have a very shaky relationship with religion. 


It’s hard not to comment on today’s news.  Killing in the name of pro-life.

Last year I attended a candlelight vigil at the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the memory of innocent people who were gunned down in their church at a Sunday morning children’s program.  They died not because of who they were, but for what they believed.  They were randomly targeted as symbols of liberalism in America.

Adkisson, [the shooter] who had served in the military, said “that because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement he would then target those that had voted them in office,” the search warrant states. Among the items seized from Adkisson’s house were three books: “The O’Reilly Factor,” by television commentator Bill O’Reilly; “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder,” by radio personality Michael Savage; and “Let Freedom Ring,” by political pundit Sean Hannity.


Memorial candles for the victims of the Tennessee Valley UU Church shootings.

It’s a lot to wrap your mind around.

This morning, a doctor and abortion provider was shot to death in front of his wife, in his church.  The suspect in this case, 51-year old Scott Roeder from Kansas, posted this two years ago on an anti-abortion website:

“Bless everyone for attending and praying in May to bring  justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp…”

I hear lots of conservative pundits talking about health care.  They don’t want government, and government beurocracies coming between people and their doctors.  But when it comes to matters of reproductive freedom, they want the government to do exactly that.

They talk about being pro-life, and they believe that a human is a human at the moment of conception.  But if that human grows up, and strays from the path of a good life, and is convicted of a horrible crime, they believe the government should put him to death.

They don’t want the government intruding into their lives, and telling them they can or can’t own a gun.   They don’t want the government  in their house making laws that tell them what to do.  But they want laws taking rights away from people because of what they do in their bedrooms, and whom they choose to love.

Jesus was tortured to death for fear of what he might do.  But the religious right doesn’t seem to mind if people are tortured, even those who may not have done anything yet.  Think of what they might do.  They might go after innocent people.  They may come after us, in our homes, in our churches, just for the way we think.  Just for what we believe.  Just because we love our freedoms.  But when one of their followers comes into a church on a Sunday morning, and kills people in the name of conservative values, there is an awkward silence.  Right wing pundits, and those who need the political support of the conservative “base” are squeamishly non-commital in their opinions about these acts of domestic terrorism.

They like to talk about the constitution.   But when people who don’t think like they do use the first amendment to speak up, they are demonized.  They are called unpatriotic.  They are called ungodly, and immoral.  They are targeted.

And when does the first amendment cross the line and become incitement to violence?  How many more killings like this can we expect in the future?  In the last year, three people are dead, and six others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds, shot  in churches in the name of God, for being who they are, and doing nothing that violated the law.

I am not saying that all conservatives condone these acts.  I’m hoping with all my heart that the vast majority see this for what it is - the work of deeply disturbed individuals that do not reflect Christian values, or conservative values.   But the fact remains that the media has power and influence, and when it is used to fan the flames of hatred, to instill fear, to put people in the middle of a big red bullseye, things like this will happen, and we, as a collective citizenry should not tolerate it.  It is incitement.   And it’s been used for a very long time to divide and mobilize people for political purpose and religious power.

“Why don’t Muslim leaders speak out against terrorism?”   We hear that all the time.  “Silence is consent,” they say.  “If they really felt it was wrong, somebody would say something.”  We’re told that since nobody is denouncing and rejecting these acts of terrorism, it must be condoned.  And we don’t want any wesk-tea, carefully worded evasions.  We need outright condemnation of terrorist acts; acts that are perpetrated to instill fear, to terrorize a group who holds an idealogy they don’t like.  So, where are the right-wing conservative pundits?  What do they think about this?  Silence is consent, right?

[Update]  To see a compilation by Brad Friedman of the alarming reaction on conservative blogs, clickHERE.