Wednesday, April 30, 2008


While many of my lovely internet and RL friends were traveling eastwards to Webs and the site of the Yarn Harlot book signing and talk, - and that means you Briley! - I was (once again) preparing for a future that seems all too possible....A World Without Yarn.

Yes, I'm convinced that in the not-too-distant future, the time will come when all sheep, llamas, alpacas, angora bunnies, and buffalo, cotton plants, bamboo, and seaweed, not mention Martha's Chows, will be extinct and no yarn will be available anywhere any more.

The time to act is Now people! Gather ye rosebuds (erm, skeins) while ye may! You don't want to be wandering the streets ten years from now trying to buy a cheap and possibly sketchy skein adulterated with low-grade acrylic from some tranch-coated seller in the basement of the local library, do you? Come on! That kind of stuff could kill you or even turn your brain to mush so that you don't know a KKS2tog from a trcr3 in bl.

Take my advice and follow my lead. Look for a sale at your LYS and spend everything you can spare from the weekly budget on the good stuff. Eat rice for a month if you have to, or repair the roof yourself with rubber cement, but dont let good yarn go. Get it now, before the Apocalyptic Trench Coat Rebellion.

This is the damage I did at the Elegant Ewe 10th Anniversary Sale:


Starting upper left:
Elizabeth Lavold Bamboucle in Sea Blue
Seacoast Handpaints Sock Yarn in New Year's, Silver & Grey, and Fire & Coal
Blue Sky Alpacas 100% Cotton in Bluebell Blue and Natural
100% Italian Angora - several random balls in silver and black
Silk & Wool in Rose Petal Pink (I'll have to edit this post because I don't remember what yarn this is)
Two skeins of Manos Silky Wool in the Wildflower colours
One random ball of Waterlily Merino in Green
and in the middle of the pile, a beautiful Mother-of-Pearl Shawl clasp.

ahhh, Gorgeous. Compelling. Inspiring. Way too indulgent. {{{sigh}}}

At least I'm prepared for the future.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

an armchair traveler - Irish Sea

My order from the Three Irish Girls arrived yesterday and it is beautiful beyond belief! As you all know by this point, I'm a fan of watery, ocean-y colours: greens, blues, green-blue, seafoam, marine with a little bit of seashell tints thrown in. I can appreciate other colours and even love to use them when I'm creating for other people, but the water is what I love best.

The ladies at Three Irish Girls have nailed it. Completely. Here is their new colourway, Irish Sea, which they devised based on my description of what I like best:


The lighter skein on the bottom is Cormac, one of their special monthly colourways. It coordinates beautifully, don't you think?

I ordered three different types of yarn because this was my first experience with the Three Irish Girls and I wanted to know what the types were like to the touch. I need to touch yarn in person to know if I really like it, and ordering variety for small projects when I'm starting out with an online company is very useful.


On the left top you see Adorn, their sock or fingering weight yarn. It is wool with a touch of nylon and a whopping 430 yards - enough for a lace shoulderette shawl or some pretty tall knee-socks. Adorn takes the dye in a more saturated way, so you can expect the colours to be just a bit deeper. This is often the case with sock yarns, in my experience. My skein of Adorn looks quite complex with pale, medium and deep seafoam, light blue, light and deep teal, and medium and deep marine blue. Quite beautiful!

To the right in the photo is the most elegant Wexford Merino Silk (silk 60% and merino 40%). This yarn is similar in hand to the new Manos Silk & Wool. It's very soft to the touch - definitely an 'against the skin' yarn - and in a single ply. This yarn took the dye in a more subtle way, with very pale and medium seafoam colours and very pale teals and blues. I can't wait to use this yarn. I got two skeins of 240 yards each - it should be enough for a summer bolero or shrug.

The Cormac skein is Galenas Merino - 100% merino wool in single ply and 220 yards. It is very very light greens and very very light blues. Galenas Merino is soft the way cotton is soft - almost fluffy. It has a lightness, and in the single ply will blend beautifully. I'm not sure what I'll make with this yardage. I had originally thought I'd use this for a small Bainbridge Scarf, and maybe I'll still do that, even though it's not winter weather any more. In the Northeast, winter is never very far away, even in the midst of Spring!

You can tell I think, that I love my oceany yarns from the Three Irish Girls so much. Their customer service was excellent, even after I complained that I didn't like my first choice of bright chartreuse colours and returned them. Sharon contacted me and offered to dye a colourway that was to my specifications and you see what a precise, artistic and inspired job she did.

It is my dream to go to Ireland someday. When I'm knitting with these, I will be an armchair traveler in earnest, dreaming of the Irish Sea...


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Retro Knits - review

While at the bookstore wiht my bf, to pick up as many episodes of Battlestar Galactica as I could find, I also picked up a whole bucket-full of Squee. Yes, gentle readers, I'm talking about a new knitting book called Retro Knits...


The full title is Retro Knits: Cool Vintage Patterns for Men, Women, and Children from the 1900s to 1970, edited by Jean Lampe. It starts, rightly, with Fleisher Manuals and travels appropriately through Minerva, Monarch, Beehive, and Spinnerin - to name just a few of the fine yarn manufacturers who put out consistently good pattern books.

Ms. Lampe addresses vintage sizing, yarn substtutions, and needle sizing in the introduction - all issues that keep knitters new to vintage patterns from taking the plunge. This is my way of saying that if you've always wanted to try a lovely old pattern but couldn't figure out of the size 12 as listed would fit a child or an automobile when you got done, this is a good book to start with!

The pattern choices are - for me - just quirky enough to be wearable and still look vintage. She includes vests, shrugs, boleros, slip-on and sports sweaters, and a lovely "negligee" which is a loose-fitting sweater with amazing diamond-shaped belled sleeves.

You can see a few of the pages and photos of the patterns at Barnes and Nobles' website - which, incidently, has the book at a good discount. (Use the slider at the bottom, rather than the linked list at the side to view the retro photos in the beginning few pages) Scrolling down this same page will give you the entire table of contents, as well as the entire introduction with the useful information I described above.

My only disappointments with this volume are that the 30's are done so little justice and the 40's chapter focuses so much on men's styles. Retro Knits includes only 4 patterns from the 1930's - one of those is a baby's helmet hat and another is the classic Brooks Brothers style cardigan. My own collection of vintage knitting booklets includes an entire shelf of originals from the 30's and I can attest that this was an imaginative and extravagant time for style. So many beautiful body-conscious sweaters and knitted blouses, as well as delicate and frilly knitted underthings and evening wear appeared in pattern books from this era, it is a shame to have this decade given such short shrift. There is more in the chapter on the 1940's but again, women's blouses in this time period were so lovely I would have likes to see more representative patterns. There are 2 or 3 good examples; I just wished for more - like those in the Jack Frost, Acorn Yarns, Sunlight Yarns and Fleisher's and Minerva booklets from the 30's and 40's.

These are small complaints, compared to the treasures I did find in this book though, with its more than 40 patterns. I want to cast on immediately for the Bunny Hugger Cardigan and the Woman's Mohair Sweater with Hood (minus the bobbles, thanks all the same), the Halter Top, and the Men's Waistcoat. It's a good thing my stash is healthy enough for spontaneous startitis!


I really hope that Ms Lampe is working on another book of vintage, this time called Retro Crochet. That would be another really good idea!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the fiber fairy visits....

A little Fiber Fairy came to my house to play
She opened up the windows
and chased the gloom away...

In other words, I got some wonderful gifts in the post from a new Ravelry friend!


This tea set is from her personal collection of Lu-Ray California china. I found this info about the china on some internet sites:

"The Lu-Ray Pastel line was introduced in the fall of 1938 and it was continued with minor changes until 1962. The Lu-Ray name did come from the company’s lead salesman having recently visiting the Lu-Ray Caverns located in Lu-Ray, Virginia. The four original pastel colors were named Windsor Blue, Surf Green, Persian Cream, and Sharon Pink. The Persian Cream is actually a soft yellow color. Since Martha Stewart recently featured Lu-Ray in April of 1996 the demand for and value of Lu-Ray has skyrocketed up and the location of Lu-Ray has become nearly impossible."

I'm very honored to have a tea set in this wonderful Surf Green!

New yarn has also made its way into my cosy home by way of this gracious person... Here is Posh Yarns Eva - a cashmere and silk blend in sock weight.


These gorgeous greens remind me of the water lily leaves on a pond where I used to canoe - so serene, so deep and liquid. The yarn is both smooth and soft and you can't help but stroke it - the cat is very jealous! I love this yarn very much and will definitely make something fo me with it - a lace neck scarf or special stockings, I'm not sure.

These next two skeins were a totally unexpected bonus from her generous heart! They are from Hoobody fibers, a company I've never heard of, but I can tell you it is one of the very softest, most beautifully dyed, and smoothly spun yarns I've ever seen! If this yarn were available anywhere near me, my budget would be in constant danger!


This is a lace-weight yarn in the colours of waterlily blossoms! It is destined to be a lace shawl. I love it love it love it. In fact, I kept it right beside me, with the sock yarn, so that I could gaze happily at it every few minutes! Don't you love yarns from companies you've never had before? I just want to collect every yarn ever made. seriously.

A yarn habit like this needs serious and determined stash-busting, and so every chance I get I buy patterns, hoping they will bond with the yarns and make a nice FO family. My recent aquisitions are A Fine Fleece and Noro Joy .


Since I'm very interested (read that as obsessed) with vests right now, I think this may be my first project from A Fine Fleece:


Possibly. Maybe.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I've been Red and I've been Blue....

Brodie is the dark-haired guy in my Ravelry Projects page - the one who wears the Grackle, Grackle hat and the Argyley Scarf. Brodie's cousin Ben made a knitting video. You should see this. Everyone should see this. I think it should be in the theatre. The other one on Ben's page - the film noir - has Brodie in it... He plays the mysterious stranger...

Blood, Sweat, & Wool

"These are modern classics that tell the truth about American life today"
~Squeezat Kumcrut, Cutfilm Magazine

"Anyone with a sheep will want to keep it away from the Mad Hasko and his demon clippers. His madness rivals Sweeny Todd!"
~Eliza Fullthimble, Ewe&Me Yarns, Olympia, WA

"Thank you so much for sharing these with me. They have inspired me to make a scarf."


Thursday, April 17, 2008

a time to talk...or, the good that has come from the internets

A Time to Talk
by Robert Lee Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, 'What is it?'
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

I sat at an educational meeting yesterday, while people who had learned their ABCs in earlier decades discussed how different were the ways that young people learned these days and I thought immediately of my multi-layered life and my friends flung far and wide around this earth.

In an evening's time I can learn a new technique for knitting in six colours, celebrate a friend's birthday in Germany, discuss teaching with an international group of educators, obtain (for free!) an ancient needlework pattern, comfort a friend and be comforted by one, meet several new people who may become friends, listen to, view, and share thoughts on music and art, trade tea and recipes, join in on a group meditation, and go shopping. My life is not "get up, go to work, come home, watch TV..." Instead, like so many of us, my life has become a world-wide open life because of growing up learning to use the internets in a safe, multi-layered, intricate, and interactive way.

Okay. I could have just said... "I'm on Ravelry."

I'm so happy about all the opportunities that knowing my way around the internets has brought me, not the least of which are the people I've met. My New England state is small. But my world is huge and getting bigger every day.

One of my new friends from Canada sent me a "Happy International Crochet Month" gift:


Isn't it wonderful? It's hand made from wood and hand-painted in the cutest way! You cannot imagine how handy this is for the countless second-hand crochet hooks that I collect that don't have the size on them, either because they are so old that they were never marked, or because they are so old that any marks that were there have long since worn off! Thank you Melanie! I'll bet people will want to know where you got this, so they can have one too. :)

And speaking of vintage crochet hooks makes me think of those booklets I picked up at the charity shop...

They are all interesting, but a most rare one is the Red Cross Charity Knitting Pamphlet in the upper left corner. This one-page flyer is for a simple "Brooks-type Sweater", meaning the 40's NY Brooks Brother's shop that popularized the crew-neck saddle shoulder pullover. This simple knitted sweater of Shetland wool was considered by the Red Cross in WWII to be perfect for war refugees from toddler on up through adults, because it was durable, warm, the Shetland fiber made it water resistant (they say), and there were no buttons to pop off. I do have other Red Cross Pamphlets of this same type for children's things and socks, and they are like a window to another age. You can see in the illustrative photo, a cart of war refugee children being tended by a Red Cross nurse, presumably as they are transported to a new shelter.

A couple of years ago, my friend Nad in Germany sent me a WWII German crochet hook made of bright red plastic. Like in America, all metals for needles and hooks were being diverted to the military, so tools began to be made from other materials. I want to use that great red vintage crochet hook to make something genuine from the same era!

And just a note on vintage patterns: Knit on the Net's newly updated book of vintage design A Stitch in Time, is scheduled to be available in September of 2008!! You can read about it by clicking on the title.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Talks about Common Things

Common Things bk

Today brought some lovely treasures from the charity shops, not least among them a little paper-covered booklet called Talks About Common Things, The Teacher's Helper, Vol. III, June, 1897. This little monthly bulletin contains useful facts about such subject as Cotton, Wool, Silk, Flax, Leather, Furs, Feathers, Tea, Coffee, Chocolate, Rice, Salt, Sugar, Bread Grains, Cloves, Pepper, Wood, Cork, Glass, Sponge, Ivory, Bricks, India Rubber, Tobacco, and Paper. In addition, there are blackboard outlines, objects to aid in teaching, and test questions...

Some blue and white embroidered tea napkins hopped into my basket too!


So let's share a cup of tea (or coffee or chocolate) and delve into this antique volume of teacherly information, shall we? The section on Wool is quaint and interesting...

wool page

From what source obtained. - The term wool is applied to the fleece of common sheep, such as are found in the mountainous regions of many countries, also to the silky covering of the llama and alpaca, and the fine hair of the Cashmere goat. The llama and alpaca are natives of Peru, and the goat is found in the hilly portions of Tibet and Tartary.
We will first consider the process of changing the covering of common sheep into a useful article of commerce.

The first step. - The first ting to do, is to wash the sheep. In their wandering over the hills, thorns and thistles, and quantities of dust gather in their fleece.

The washing - The sheep are driven into a shallow stream on a warm day in June or July, and thouroughly washed, a process to which they strongly object. The sheep are then allowed to run around in a clean place until their fleece is dry.

The sheering - The fleece is then cut off with large shears.

Appearance of fleece - When examined closely, it is found that this fleece is composed of hairs of different lengths, each hair somewhat curly, and having uneven edges. The irregularity of the edges of these fibers is one of the chief reasons why wool is such an important material of manufacture, The little rough projections which you will find on wool fibres, if you examine then, through a microscope, cause these fibres to attach themselves to each other very firmly.

The sorting - The fleece is carefully sorted, the long hairs being separated from the short ones. Hairs of various lengths are found on a single sheep. The fleece is then cleansed again, for the first washing is not sufficient to remove all impurities.

The wool-comber - Next, to straighten the hairs, and lay them all in the same directions, an iron comb is used, called a wool-comber. It has sharp pointed teeth.

Manufacture - The wool fibres are then spun and woven into cloth, the same kind of machinery being used as in the manufacture of cotton cloth.

Yarn and worsted - Some of the wool is not woven, but after being spun into threads, several threads are twisted to make yarn, which is used for making stockings. When the threads are twisted very firmly, worsted is made, from which so many beautiful fancy articles are fashioned.

The cloth - Woolen cloth as it comes from the loom is very soft and flexible. It is sometimes colored before being woven, but usually is dyed after being made into cloth. Woolen cloth is especially adapted for making clothing to be worn in cold weather.

Where manufactured - France and England manufacture a large quantity of woolen cloth every year. In the New England section of our own country are many mills which produce a very fine grade of goods.

The Llama - This animal is somewhat like a camel in shape, only it has no hump. It is sometimes called the Peruvian camel. Its hair is long and silky and is much used for fringes and ornaments.

The Cashmere Goat - This goat is so called because its hair was first made into beautiful shawls in the city of Cashmere, in India. They are now made also in some parts of France. The outer hair of the animal is stiff and coarse, while under this is a layer of fine silky fleece. The latter is used for the shawls. These shawls are elaborate in design and coloring, and are very expensive.

The Alpaca - This is a smaller animal than the llama, and has a long neck and handsome head. Its wool is long and glossy. The material made of it bears the name alpaca, and retains the silky gloss, particular to the hair of the animal.

Early history of wool - The manufacture of wool into cloth dates back to a very early period in the history of the world. From the Bible we learn of the flocks of sheep which constituted the chief wealth of the patriarchs of olden time. The Hebrews, Greeks, Egyptians and Romans all used clothing woven from this material. Their garments were loose and flowing, and they were particular about the fineness and beauty of the material of which they were made.


That is the end of the lesson! It almost makes me wish I could have been a student of that classroom in the 1800's - although I must say, the section on The wool-comber is quite scary, don't you think? All those "sharp pointed teeth" and no explanation of whether a wool-comber was a person or a thing! I wonder how many children had nightmares of wool-combers hiding under the bed waiting to chomp down with thier big sharp teeth, LOL!

The introduction says that these useful books were prepared by "active, prominent and successful" teachers for their teaching collegues. If I were this teacher, using this lesson, I would bring knitting or crochet into class and let the students see and feel the different kinds of fibers and what they looked like made up.

Thrift store shopping yielded a handful of knitting and crochet booklets, including one on crocheted church laces. Imagine a time when women spend months making lace for the altar of their local parish! I also found a crochet booklet called Dolls and Dolls, for making clothes for the old-fashioned Ginny Dolls and other small fashion dolls that were popular before Barbie came on the scene. I already have this booklet, so I'll be looking for someone to give it to, who would actually use it.

My trip included a stop at a brand new Health Food Store, where I found two new types of tea. One - in teabags only - with cucumber! I love to try unusual teas, and as long as they don't have hibiscus or chamomile in them, am pretty open to all types and flavours. One of my favorites has got to be the Treasures of the Incas tea that a new friend in Canada sent me as a gift. It is a mix of tea and herbs and actually has pieces of carrot in it! This seems to give the tea a rich mellow flavour with no bitterness, as well as having health properties.

Well, all this talk of tea has made me very aware that it's time for my morning unflavoured Assam, I think, and English muffins with apricot jam...

tea naps close

Monday, April 7, 2008

emo means potato in Japanese


Today I received my first ever order from an indie company that is new to me. They have a lovely website with pictures of to-die-for colourways and pet-able fibers like Silk and Silk and Merino and Sock.... I tried three different yarns in four different colourways. Due to their misprint of my zip code, the order took exactly one month to arrive.

This is what I ordered: in both the Sock and the Silk and Merino:
This is what I received:

Every skein was a disappointment. Where their website photos had shown subtle, artful combinations of harmonious colours, the skeins themselves were garish, clashing, opposing dyes.

There is no phone number on the website so I began the laborious, embarassing, and difficult task of putting my disappointment and dissatisfaction into words in an email without expressing just how sad and how angry I felt. It was clear that their reply to my clumsy emo email had taken an enormous effort to be professional and gracious, but at least the attempt was there. Of course "differences in monitor calibration" were cited as the culprit. I was offered the choice of replacing the yarn with something else more to my taste (but how can I do that when nothing on the website is as it seems?) or returning the yarn for a refund.

When I was in my 20's I worked as an illustrator for one of the well known NY publishers. I remember the cardinal rule of illustration: consistency of representation. If one of the characters was introduced as half lion, half rose yesterday, it darn better look like a half lion, half rose character today - unless the change of representation was justified by the story.

This, in my book, applies to yarn dying too. If you change your dye-bath or add a fourth colour where before there were only three, or decide to intensify the tones to the point that they become a different colour-set... then frackin change the photos on your website! please. I could just cry. In fact - pardon my emo - but I really think I will.

Edited to Add: The yarn company owner has emailed me twice over-night and is expressing great patience. She's offered to replace the yarn and is being extremely nice in trying to figure out what colours and tones I actually like (sea-greams, sea-foam, light teal, dark teal, aqua, marine blue, deep marine blue....) She said she would even dye yarn up special to meet my wishes - over and above service I think! So, I will post the good outcome when it happens - it will probably take a month to complete this if new dying does happen - and then I'll let you know the name of the company and sing their praises.

Also - someone from Slough, UK visited my blog today! How exciting! Shades of "The Office" indeed... ;)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Home Comforts

Tonight's post is about home comforts in all their forms: warmth, sustenance, and art (if I can call my needlework an art)...

homecomforts oven

When I was young, I lived with an elderly great aunt, the younger sister of my grandmother, and her (much) younger husband. My great aunt came from a quieter age - she was 80 to 90 when I lived with her, passing away when I was in my teens. She lived on a beautiful estate with rolling lawns that touched the water on one side, and encompassed an old forest on the other. She had a big barn and kept chickens and loved each one, even the sickly picked-on ones. My job was to feed them and to gather the eggs each day. She had a small garden and a large stand of raspberry bushes. She made the best raspberry jelly in the entire world - storing it like captured rubies in clear glasses topped with parafin wax.

Auntie had a wonderful old stove that I think had been her mother-in-law's - and since it worked so well, she saw no reason to replace it. While homes around her graduated to gas stoves and then electric, she continued to cook marvelously on a combination wood and oil stove, with pressure water heater. This is what I learned to cook on. For small baking or in summer, when she didn't want to heat the house with a strong wood fire in the oven, a tin box with shelves was placed on top of the stove. The temperature of the actual oven was calculated by sticking your flat hand inside (not touching the sides of course) and testing how warm the heat felt on your hand - if it was a "slow" oven (250 - 300 degrees) or a "moderate" oven (325 - 375), or a "fast" oven (400 - 475). I'm still quite good at this and can tell the temperature of my Glenwood Gas Range by the feel. There is no comfort like the warmth of a wood stove in the kitchen (especially when potatoes are cooking in a pan on top)...

From the Home Comfort Cookbook, 1864:

homecomforts book

"To keep a cake fresh for several weeks, take it from the oven and, while still hot, pack it completely in brown sugar."

"Broken bits of licorice sprinkled about pantry shelves, will banish red ants."

"The lid of a teapot should always be left so that the air may get in. This prevents mustiness."

"Have in your kitchen a cheap office stool to sit on when ironing or washing dishes; this will prevent backache and tired feet."

New England Tart

Prepare and bake a crust of plain or flake paste as for pie. Use 2 cups cold dry apple-sauce, or fresh apple-sauce cooked with as little water as possible; press through a sieve before measuring; add 2 cups cream, 3 beaten egg yolks, and mix, adding 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and salt; add 1 cup sugar, more or less, to properly sweeten; spread in paste shell, and bake filling in moderate oven; when partially cooled, cover with meringue made of the 3 egg whites and granulated sugar, and brown top in oven.

Maple Butter Tea Sandwiches

Prepare a filling by creaming one cup light brown sugar with one or two tablespoons butter and further reducing to an easily-spreading mixture with maple syrup. Spread on thinly sliced brown bread and cut into shapes with a tin biscuit cutter or a sugared glass rim.

Pear Omelet

For each omelet, beat 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons milk until combined, and season with salt and pepper; have a teaspoon melted butter or fat in hot frying pan; pour in eggs and gently shake pan to spread mixture to size and distribute thin portion while cooking; just as top is becoming well set, lay a half pear that has been previously canned in sugar syrup on one half of omelet, folding other half over it. When browned on bottom, serve on hot plate. Other fruits may be substituted.


I found more comfort this week curling up on the couch with my hot water bottle to soothe my aching belly. I finished a cover for the bottle yesterday, and it will be traveling in the post to my sister soon. Making it gave me many pleasant hours.

Reverse the Curse
by UnravelingSophia
C 2008 All Rights Reserved


This pattern can now be found on ravelry:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

such a sense of humour

okay, so that was totally an April Fools Day joke. Was it effective? .

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Copyright Laws Revised for Needlework

US copyright laws are set to change tomorrow as new legislation is passed that will change the way written material including published needlework patterns are protected. Specific mention of knitting and crochet is now in the legislation, which was crafted by a legislator in California.

For a full list of changes to the current law, go HERE.