Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice Delights

5.5 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp ginger 
1/2 tsp nutmeg 
1 cup sugar (or more or less if desired) 
1 cup candied orange peel and/or dried apricots (or that dried fruit mix they sell for fruitcake) 
.5 cup coarsely chopped almonds 
1 cup melted, salted butter 
2 cups scalded milk 
1 tbsp yeast 
1 tin of almond paste 
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
(I use a standing mixer, so my technique isn’t exactly standard.) Mix dry ingredients, sugar, and yeast in large bowl while the milk is scalding and the butter is melting. When the temp drops to about 130, pour it into the dry ingredients and mix, mix, mix. Add the fruit and nuts and keep mixing. If the dough is slightly sticky, add a bit more flour and keep mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl; turn out onto a floured surface and knead about ten or fifteen times before returning the dough to an oiled bowl to rest. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for an hour in a warm place. When the dough has doubled, punch down; repeat. When the dough has risen a second time, punch it down again, knead it a few times and divide it into however many loaves you plan to make. Divide the marchpane into the same number of pieces and roll into a cylinder or rope. Shape the dough around the marchpane, pinching the seam and tucking it under; after the dough has been shaped, let the loaves rest on buttered baking sheet (covered with a towel) while the oven heats to 350.. about 35 minutes or so. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes and remove from oven. Move to cooling rack and let the bread rest until it’s cool, then roll it in confectioner’s sugar (or just sprinkle if you feel like being a bit more conservative with the sweetness :P), shake gently to get rid of excess.
Happy Solstice, kids. =^.^=

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


When all is said and done, and people are pains in the fanny, there is much satisfaction to be derived from the fact that yes, dammit, I'm good at what I do and I can knit them under the table. Case in point.. I have now finished another object on my list of holiday gifts and intend to crow about it.
1. For Rasputin, there is half a pair of ____. The other will be completed as time permits, which hopefully means before the self-imposed deadline of New Year's Eve.
2. For Heather, there is a ____. I'm thrilled with the way it turned out.
3. For Rasputin's mum, there is also a pair of _____. They're heavier than I was expecting, which is blamed on the fact that I didn't check the yarn label before I started knitting. Oh, well.. they'll be just fine for those long, cold New England winters.

I still have a ways to go yet, but.. yeah.. I'm feeling accomplished. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, you pompous prat.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

For your listening pleasure we present...

Suggested Samhain playlist:
From Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, the excerpt "The Little Hut On Chicken's Legs"
From Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, the fifth movement "Songe d'une nuit de sabbat"
Saint-Saƫns' Danse Macabre
From Mozart's Don Giovanni, the aria "Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m'invitasti!"
Mussorgsky's Night On Bald Mountain

Blessed be.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Little Pink Socks

It's taken me seven months to finish these, mostly due to an inordinate amount of dawdling. Here at long last are the socks I started for the Snow White and Rose Red-along.
A while ago, Rachael asked if I had any favorite sock yarns. I was left scratching my head and pleading the fifth because I felt my experience in the realm of socks was inadequate to allow me to answer the question properly. In the interim, I've gained a little more experience with different types of yarn, so I can definitely say that I'm really liking the merino/bamboo blend I used for the Wasabi Peas. It handles well and has beautiful stitch definition, as well as a little bit of a shimmer from the bamboo. I'm guessing it'll wear pretty well, but the recipient will have to answer that for me when I pester her for an update. My second choice--though definitely not because it's a lesser yarn, I assure you--would probably be the Black Bunny Fibers BFL. Amazingly soft and squishy, and with equally amazing stitch definition. And.. it tickles. 
I still need to do some more research.. um.. knitting... especially with the Malabrigo Sock and Dream In Color Smooshy lurking in my stash. But for some reason, I'm having a terrible time coming up with a pattern worthy of my beloved skein of Butter Peeps. ;)

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Another WIP defeated. Still three left to finish and then it's onward to other things. Here's Voltaire in all his green glory. I found out, much to my chagrin, that 220 yards of Cascade is only half a scarf; the rest is Handpaintedyarn.com Colonia. Yum.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Candide, ou L'Optimiste

I got the autumn issue of Interweave Knits yesterday and can't decide whether I'm thrilled or disappointed. The majority of the patterns in it are sweaters, with the odd sprinkling of hats and one or two pairs of socks. Most of the sweaters don't really do anything for me, but there are a couple I might someday decide to try, like the pullover with the leafy lace insets in the sleeves and neckline. The downside is that I'll probably have to modify it somehow to make it a v-neck, or in the very least make some minor changes so that it's not the rolled, semi-turtleneck that the pattern is originally for.
I've been fairly productive recently. My list of WIPs has shrunk by three projects, so that now I've got a scarf, two shawls, and two pairs of socks to finish before the board is completely cleared. The scarf is making me want to go upstairs and see what books by Voltaire we have hiding in the study/studio/library. I seem to have miscalculated somewhere, because I'm halfway through the scarf and have run out of yarn. Zounds.. Looks like I get to start perusing KnitPicks.. again.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

September Song

Wow. It's been entirely too long since my last post. There's been quite a bit going on: knitting, cheesemaking, more knitting, work... flimsy excuses all, I know, but that's the way it goes.

It's cooler today, which is a welcome change after a summer of high temperatures and humidity, and very little rain. The wind, however, is less welcome since it's making the hackberry trees throw branches and bits of branches all over the house--one surprised me last night when I came home from grocery shopping by whacking me on the head. I have a nice bruise on the bridge of my nose where it hit my spectacles.. ow. Could have been worse, though, if the chunk of wood had been any bigger. As I'm writing this, I hear sirens, which makes me wonder if something serious has been blown over or there are power lines down on the other side of town.
Last night was also cheese night. The cheese is under 15 pounds of flour so that some of the remaining whey gets squeezed out. Should be a nice batch of cheese with a gallon of goat's milk and a pint of heavy cream. The cream gives it a silkier texture almost like really firm cream cheese, and the flavor of the goat's milk makes it.. well.. it's got that sort of chevre tang. Yum. I might make bagels this evening just to have a good vehicle for the cheese.
The gray scarf is done. It doesn't really need blocking, but I'm still going to throw it in the wash after I weave in the loose ends. The cat--surprise!--insisted on lying on my lap or on the yarn, or biting the yarn and slobbering on it, and I'm guessing the person who commissioned it probably doesn't want kitty drool on it. Ick.
Spinning has been going a bit slower recently, mostly because my time has been taken up elsewhere. The tension peg for my spinning wheel is still MIA, probably because it got sucked up into the vacuum.. which distresses me greatly. It's getting to the time of year when it's cool enough to sit outside and spin, though I can do that with a spindle until our little gray cat interferes.. she loves to come and give the dangling spindle a good smack, then run away and glare at it, which she repeats a few more times before I'm forced to shoo her away. I've got several nekkid spindles, which is unusual.. especially since I've got all this lovely wool to work with. At the moment, I'm working my way through the EKF Sock Batts, the merino/tencel roving, and Sally's gorgeous BFL. I really should finish the Artisan Acre BFL, too, it's so gorgeous.. sigh. Too many choices...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

Yarn. With something to show the scale. I finally wound up my TdF project today--what there is of it. I think if I'd been cycling in the race, I would probably be the cyclist whose support team lost the map, fell down a manhole, and wound up wandering around the Court of Miracles at midnight.
I still have about half the wool left to spin, but that shouldn't take too long if I'm attentive and make a feeble attempt at project monogamy. I'm very pleased with the way this came out. The yarn is remarkably consistent, so it's destined to be plied and knit into a pair of striped mitts if there ends up being enough of it by the time I finish the rest of the wool.
Another package of wool arrived today, so I'm officially going on a fiber-free diet until October. Corgi Hill Farm. Again. =^.^= Merino and cashmere blend in the Red Queen colorway. I seem to be shifting away from my usual blues and greens and gravitating to stronger reds, for some reason. This is definitely worth it, though.

Note to self:  Stop dawdling and get a niddy-noddy! Your projects will thank you for it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spider Silk

The other part of my TDF project isn't going quite as well as I'd hoped. Of the two ounces I've got, I've spun less than a quarter... but Florenz was very cooperative and gave it his best effort. The brown yarn is KnitPicks Palette, so you can sort of get an idea of scale if you look at the embiggened version of the picture.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Allez... SPIN!

Like Hannibal and the intrepid cyclists, I took on the Alps today for the Team Tale Spin challenge. The roving is superwash BFL in Liquid Amber from Artisan Acre; the spindle is my IST Wood Emporium baby in tulipwood and walnut.
The fairy tale I chose was Vasilisa the Beautiful. The story is that of Vasilissa's visit to Baba Yaga; the colors of the roving fit perfectly with the various fiery motifs sprinkled throughout the story... from the fire Vasilissa is sent to fetch, to the second horseman, to the glow of the skull Baba Yaga sends back home with Vasilissa... and the skull's reaction to the wicked stepmother.
As usual, I forgot to use something to show the scale, but you get the idea. ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fleur de Fleece

Over the weekend, I finally got started on my TdF spinning. Which was awkward because I had to keep migrating from one room to another to avoid hordes of guests at the party I went to. It's so hard avoiding people at parties, especially when you're doing something peculiar like sitting on a barstool and using a drop spindle.. I was good, though, and didn't get too prickly when they asked questions.
This is my first attempt at spinning silk with any real consistency. Florenz has been performing well. He's a little heavier than most of my other spindles, but numerous people have said that it's possible to spin fine yarn on heavy spindles--Mrs. Dragonfly sure proved that with the sewing thread she spun as a test before she and Mr. Dragonfly sent Florenz on his way to my mailbox. I haven't done a WPI test yet, either, but un-fluffed, it looks like it should be fairly close between lace weight and fingering weights. Still not sure if I want to spin it in two parts, then ply it with itself, or wind it into a ball and then chain ply it to make something more substantial. Either way, knitting anything with yarn that fine would take ages, even on biggish needles. Unfortunately, I didn't think to include a penny for scale this time, but you get the idea.
Here's the silk in its unspun form. It's very soft and just a little bit fly-away, so whatever I'm wearing ends up with a slight dusting of silk fibers.
The colors are (as you can see from the above picture) blending to produce something closer to coral.. which isn't quite what I was aiming for. It would be tragic to over-dye it, I think, so I'll just leave it as it is and  entertain suggestions for projects when I figure out how many yards I've got when it's all spun up. Corgi Hill Farm is... I need to stop looking at her Etsy shop. Really, I do. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Peppery Paprikash

Today was the first day of TdF. Fail. I went to work this morning and fumed, then came home and continued to fume. The net result of all the fuming was that I wound off the rest of the first Werefox batt and now have.. three spindles in a state of dishabille. Scandal.
A couple days ago, my IST Wood Emporium spindle arrived and was promptly draped in red Wensleydale. My first experience with a true long-wool is essentially this: because the staples are so long, you can draft until you're practically blue in the face and the single will refuse to drift apart. And you can spin really, really, really fine yarn consisting of almost minuscule amounts of fiber. It's insane. KnittySpin carried an article on this very subject a while back and I'm pleased to see that what I thought was hairiness is normal behavior for long-wools like Wensleydale. No pictures yet, unfortunately, because I wound off the small amount of yarn and am getting ready to actually start my TdF project tomorrow. 
One thing about Wensleydale, thought, is that it's not exactly soft. It's incredibly lustrous and has that.. sort of weird, fuzzy halo thing goin' on, but it's probably not going to be well suited to something you'd wear next to the skin. I've been thinking about a lace project.. I'm probably nuts to consider it, but Veil of Isis looks like it would be perfect for this. Assuming I get through TdF. 
Tomorrow, I'm off to go bumping along a mountain road.. and by the time I reach the end of said mountain road, I'll probably be so rattled at having nearly fallen into the numerous chuck holes that I won't be in any shape to do much spinning. I somehow doubt the fearless cyclists who compete in the non-woolly version of this event ever have to worry about being swallowed by chuck holes or chased by deer.. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Guess who's come back to our woods? The little ones are starting to fledge, so if I listen carefully when I'm outside at night, I can hear the insistent query of "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee?" Warms the cockles of my heart, it does.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Victory Garden

One Wasabi Pea on a bed of lettuce. I'm extremely pleased with it, even if I'm winding up a little bit late. For the Snow White, Rose Red knit-along, here's the first of Urdda's socks. As Freyalyn suggests, maybe I'll just concentrate on finishing the second sock so I have one less project to worry about before TdF starts. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tour de Fleece

our de Fleece is just around the corner, so I'm going to give it a try this year under the banner of Team Tale Spinners. I'm warming up slowly with Florenz, but I have a couple empty spindles to take up the slack when he gets a full tummy of mulberry silk. The other possibility, though the amount is rather daunting, is the gorgeous merino/camel/tussah blend I got--also from Corgi Hill Farm. For now, though, my master plan is to spin this stuff and find a truly amazing scarf pattern to use it with. Pictures forthcoming... but I swear it's getting really hard to wait for Tour de Fleece. My fingers keep twitching toward the silk, but I'm trying. Really, I am. Really. Promise.

Friday, June 4, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours

Certainly true today. Not only did we have a cloudburst, but the post office had three parcels for me today. I'm so spoiled.. And very lucky.
1. Package No. 1: My Dragonfly Workshop spindle. It's so amazingly nifty it needed a name, so I've dubbed it Florenz after Florenz Ziegfeld. Bloodwood whorl and holly shaft, weighing in at just about 1.5 oz. Mrs. Dragonfly left her test leaders on it and, I kid you not, they're literally fine enough to be used as sewing thread. I can't emphasize this enough: The Dragonfly Workshop is utterly and absolutely awesome. (Florenz is wearing a penny for scale and has a nice little tuft of BFL/silk fluff from Corgi Hill Farm.)
2. Package No. 2: Fiber. From Corgi Hill. I want to wrap myself in it and snuggle. *siiiiiigh* Totally spoiled. Yup. Merino/camel/tussah. *siiiiiiigh* And it makes me think of Rachael's "Modo vernant omnia" because it's green like chrysoprase.
3. And last, but certainly not least, Package No. 3: A book. Emma, I hope you didn't punish your husband too severely for forgetting the package was under the papers on his desk! It arrived safely and I'm planning to start reading it tonight. 
As a slight sidenote, the Folklore and Fairy Tales sisters have mentioned Raymond Feist on several occasions; his novel Faerietale was among the titles they talked about, and much to my annoyance, the library didn't have a copy. One of them (Emma, you're a peach) very kindly offered to send me her very own copy, and here it is after an epic journey from under a pile of papers on a desk in Canada. This is my first attempt at reading Raymond Feist. I totally blame my Fairy Tale sisters for my deliquency at the library... and for the length of my "Books I Must Read" list.

And, on yet another detour, Erin, I hope you and your new husband will be very happy together. Felicitations, congratulations, and many celebratory sparkling-cider-bubbly toasts on the occasion of your nuptials. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fireflies and other omens

While I was driving to work yesterday morning, I saw a chipmunk go tearing across the road with its little tail held high. I took it to be a good sign--I'm always looking for some sort of good omen before I actually arrive at work. I'm not really sure what a chipmunk might mean, but the day wasn't bad.
This morning, I saw a kingfisher zoom across the yard in the direction of the river. I'm not working today, but the presence of the kingfisher does indeed seem like a good sign. Combined with the arrival of fireflies who entertain us with their little bio-luminescent bums, the summer should be off to a marvelous start.
I've got fiber coming in the mail. More Corgi Hill fiber, to be exact. AnneMarie had a sale a little while ago and was kind enough to hold on to some of the merino/camel/silk for me. If I can, I'll spin it into lace or fingering weight yarn for a scarf or shawl. The fiber is a mix of greens and white that she called "Leeks", so I'll have to find a pattern that's appropriately earthy. Any suggestions, my knitterly friends? Or should I wait until the yarn is spun before I solicit ideas... hm... 
I've got a couple spindles on the way, too. One is coming all the way from the Isle of Wight, from the IST workshop, and the other is coming from Mr. Dragonfly, who was kind enough to do another custom job for me: a square bloodwood whorl with a holly shaft. I think I need a bigger jar, but this should be it for a while. My collection is extensive enough to have a lot of bases covered: the Corgi Hill Werefox batts are still going, then there's the Ashland Bay merino/tencel blend, and then there's Sally's BFL. And, gasp, there's one spindle that's quite nekkid, but not for lack of anything to spin since my fiber basket overfloweth.
Knitting has been a slow process since I started slaying zombies for Umbrella Corp. I have two pairs of socks in progress--a pair of very pink Wasabi Peas and a pair of green, leafy Midsummer Night's Dreams with Liberty's Yarns' Kaguya and Pagewood Farm's Denali--and I'm almost finished with my sweater vest. I'm a little stumped on how and where to put the Umbrella logo, especially since the chart I've got is so huge. It needs to be smaller and a little more discreet, I think, so I guess it's back to the drawing board for that part of it. In the meantime, though, I'll work on picking up stitches around the armholes--it's easier to do if you slip the first stitch of every row, but you have to be careful to adjust the number to make the 2x2 ribbing work.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bad BP! Bad! Bad!

I'm saddened and angered by recent events caused by the laxity of a certain oil company. They're irresponsible and shortsighted, and should be ashamed of themselves. According to a number of news sources, the oil has now begun to reach as far as Key West, Florida; the ecological ramifications are horrendous. 

I will no longer buy gas from British Petroleum stations and encourage you to do likewise. Boycott BP!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fire Night

It feels like forever since I last posted anything here. Things have been dreadfully hectic since I've taken a post with the Umbrella Corporation--I jokingly refer to my erstwhile employer in this way and sometimes catch myself about to tell people that I work for that organization when the usual stupid "What are you doing now?" question comes up. My InfernalNet buddies already know this joke, though, and the punchline--of course--is that I kill zombies for a living. Fortunately, however, my duties as a low-ranking zombie slayer don't take up all my time, so I'm still able to do things like knit (whee!) and spin (hoo-hah!) and read.
I finally finished the Whirlpool socks, so that's one less WIP to wrestle with. For some reason, the toes of socks feel like they take an age; I feel the same way about sweater sleeves: You knit and knit and knit, and after all that time and effort, you've got.. half an inch. I have two pairs of socks in progress, but one of them requires circular needles because there's so much moving of stitches back and forth now that I've reached the gusset; late last night, I started a pair of these using the Pagewood Farms sock yarn I got from Ellen a few months ago. So far I've only been able to finish the toe of the first sock and do the first six rows of the foot, but I anticipate a relatively swift victory if I can manage to knit while I'm sleeping or working. Alas, I still have the Forest Path to finish, and right now I just don't feel like fighting the intricacies of entrelac and lace.
I missed the first day of Maryland Sheep and Wool Fest. I also missed the local Morris Dancers' troupe and most of the May Day festivities. I will, however, still wish everyone a gloriously happy Beltaine and hope you get up to some mischief. ;-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I’m furious at the vet. Of course we expected them to do a bunch of tests… but if the dog is falling down in front of you because her legs won’t hold her and you still claim you’re uncomfortable with euthanasia without trying drugs, what kind of that say about you? The dog was at the vet all day, apparently with neither food nor water; when I went to fetch her after three phone calls with inconclusive answers, she was weak, terrified, and barely able to stand up. When I got her to the car, she tried twice to get in on her own and fell both times because her hind legs wouldn’t push to get her in the rest of the way. And this was in full view of the front desk behind glass doors, with a vet looking on. I went back in and demanded that someone come give me a hand getting the dog into the car because, hello, she’s falling down!
So, after doing a test to prove that she didn’t have Lyme disease--which we already pretty much knew, the vet announced that x-rays are required to determine whether or not she has arthritis. Oh, and we need to pull some of her teeth. But first, let’s put her on some anti-inflammatory/analgesic medication to see if we can get her comfortable. Oh, and by the way, she’s lived well beyond the average life expectancy of a Great Dane, so every day that she’s a live you should really be thankful for. The subtext is probably “So why, you fool, are you asking me if the treatment for arthritis is going to extend her life, let alone give her any quality of life, when she could keel over by the time you finish getting her in the front door of your house?” And, of course, they have to protect themselves from lawsuits.
I’m hurt and frustrated. I’ve spent the entire day in a state of anxiety, fear, sorrow, and dim hope. I don’t want to lose my dog, but I don’t want her to suffer lingering pain, either. She’s never been “just a dog”. She’s my friend and sidekick, she’s been a rock, and she’s a member of the family. She made a place for herself in my heart and it hurts me terribly to see her so unhappy.
Poor baby. She ate some ground beef and drank about a gallon of water, and now she’s asleep

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Confound you!" snapped the fox. "Give me back my ball!" The man ignored its pleas till finally it said tearfully, "All right, you've got the ball, but you don't know how to keep it. It won't be any good to you. For me, it's a terrible loss. I tell you, if you don't give it back, I'll be your enemy forever. If you do give it back though, I'll stick to you like a protector god." - 12th-century Japanese folktale.
Ball of foxie yarn. No, I didn't go a-raiding and snitch a kitsune's hoshi-no-tama. It really needs to be skeined, soaked, and whacked against a solid suface, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. I'm planning to leave it unplied and just knit with it pretty much as is, but in order to do the shawl I still need to spin the other batt. All this has to wait until I get a niddy-noddy, because I don't see myself winding off four ounces of yarn on a tissue box or cookie sheet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Foxie, Foxie..

I'm 1.4 oz into the Werefox batts and I know exactly what I'm going to do with the yarn. It's begging to be a Shipwreck Shawl. A Shipwreck Shawl knit for a folkloric creature whose reputation precedes it. You'd think, given the nautical nature imparted by its name, I'd be knitting it for Scylla or Charibdis, or maybe for Amphitrite, but the yarn really doesn't fit any of them.
I guess I could really go in any number of directions with the wool. The brown and red could be vaguely autumnal, so it could just as easily adopt a forest-y name, but I think I'll stick with the obvious and let it keep its name while giving it a slight change of locale by pulling the tail--or tails--of the mischevious kitsune. I can't think of a better example of foxie naughtiness than Tamamo-no-mae... even if she didn't find herself being shipwrecked.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Some amphibious creature has spawned in the little goldfish pond behind our house. The past couple of days have been cool and rainy, and in the wee hours of the night, there have been some very croaky sounds coming from the pond. I was just out there looking for evidence of frogs or toads, but of the adults there was no sign. There were, however, enormous masses of gelatinous eggs; they've obviously been fertilized because there are little... things... visible to the naked eye, and they look like they're well on their way to producing another generation of some amphibian or other.

Hell, yeah. We have amphibians. And we're proud of it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I started doing yarn reviews a while ago, but never really got up a good head of steam. Now, however, I'm concentrating on reviewing yarn and fiber from indie dyers, and I've started a blog over on Wordpress for that very purpose. So far, I've only done two reviews, but I have plenty of things lined up for the next few months, which will likely be done once a month to keep me from burning out or running out of people. :-p I'm trying to plan ahead and alternate yarn and spinning fiber. The list so far is as follows:
April: Liberty's Yarn Kaguya
May: Twisted Fiber Art Roving Lively
June: Serendipitous Ewe Chance Sock
July: Enchanted Knoll Farm Superwash Batts
August: CraftsMeow Ice Cream Sundae

Just in case any indie dyers happen to read this, if you're interested in having your yarn or fiber reviewed, feel free to send me an e-mail or a message through Ravelry. Or leave me a comment here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Full of Surprises

This arrived today from Minnesota. It was cleverly disguised as a bottle of single malt Scottish whiskey, but since it didn't slosh when I shook the tin, I figured the contents weren't whiskey after all. Hardly a disappointment, I assure you! So, from the Dragonfly Workshop, I'm now the very lucky (and very thrilled) owner of a curly koa and walnut spindle. And I now have a tool worthy of spinning my Corgi Hill Farm batts. Having the proper equipment makes all the difference--I adore my other spindles, and they all have special projects associated with them, but the Corgi Hill batts needed the right vehicle. Mr. and Mrs. Dragonfly very kindly included some samples of fiber for me to play with--some baby llama, which I've never met before, and some superfine merino. O.O I'm absolutely floored by the care and kindness with which they treat their clients. It's a lovely spindle and it spins beautifully. And it's mine, mine, mine, all mine! :P

Saturday, February 27, 2010

re:View Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock

Few people are able to take the experience garnered from helping their children with a craft project and turn it into a full-fledged business venture. Black Bunny Fiber’s Carol Sulcoski, however, did exactly that. After experimenting with Kool Aid, Ms. Sulcoski switched to professional dyes and took her friends’ suggestion by posting her hand dyed yarn on Etsy. From there, she moved to her own website where she—with some assistance from bunny Charcoal, after which her business is named—continues to dye and sell yarn and spinning fiber, including wool from endangered breeds which she sometimes finds at fiber shows.

Ms. Sulcoski’s approach to dyeing produces a wide array of colorways ranging from the more subtly shaded Algae and Grape Goulash to the bold variegation of How Now and Paper Parasol, so even those who prefer a the calmest color scheme will likely find something to love. In either case, the colors are a richly saturated visual treat. How Now caught my attention and, over the holidays, someone was kind enough to give me a skein of Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock yarn in that very colorway.

I've never actually giggled while winding yarn because it was so soft it tickled my fingers. Blue-Faced Leicester certainly falls into that category. BFL, according to the Blue-Faced Leicester Union website, is classified as a longwool breed. This means that, typically, the wool has a longer staple length—between three and six inches per strand—and micron count of about 26. In layman’s terms, the lower the micron count, the finer the wool, and the finer the wool, the softer the end product is likely to be, which is exactly why the yarn tickled my fingers when I wound it up. And that’s also why the finished yarn is such a delight to knit with.

That the yarn is soft has already been established. While not as tightly spun as some sock yarns, it’s still spun tightly enough to have a slightly bouncy texture and—joy!—lack of splittiness when confronted by sharp, pointy DPNs. There’s a subtle sheen that shows up in low light and is probably impossible to photograph, but it only adds to the experience by enhancing the visual appeal. Even finding a pattern to suit the wild unusual color combination was less of a challenge because, perhaps not by coincidence, Ms. Sulcoski also happens to have provided a solution in the form of the book Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn, to which she and a number of well known sock knitters contributed patterns. My hank of How Now is slowly turning into a pair of Whirlpool Socks, and I’m very pleased with the results.

Black Bunny Fiber's BFL sock yarn: soft, shimmery, splashed with saturated colors. It’s hard not to develop a soft spot for it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

The first time I knit something with my own handspun, the yarn was fairly inconsistent in terms of thickness and wpi. The Beltaine Hat turned into a Beltaine Bag, and it's still waiting for me to sew the lining in place and actually knit a handle. Sigh.
Maybe I've gotten more practice and enough muscle memory, or maybe it's that I have more control with a spindle than I do with the wheel, but the yarn was consistent enough not to have the same gauge problems as my previous handspun project. The scarflette is finished, and it's a lot brighter than I'm accustomed to--I'm a slightly more somber, cool color person, but I'm trying to branch out into.. um.. happier... colors. I appear to have succeeded beyond my wildest aspirations. O.o

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Socially Climbing Vines

The unexpected can be oddly pleasant. I finished my Strangling Vines last night, dunked it, and pinned it to the ironing board; it's amazing how much the yarn relaxed and softened in the process. Not only did the yarn relax, but by the time the scarf was dry enough to photograph, I found out that its blocked length exceeds my height by about eight inches. O.o
Anyway... here's the finished, blocked, almost completely dry scarf. The colors are pretty accurate and the lace pattern shows fairly well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Red Hot Pokers

They're not the prettiest flowers, but they work as yarn. It took me about a week to ply all the handspun using the Navajo plying method, and today I dip-dyed it with a mix of KoolAid and Wilton paste. I'm pretty proud of it. Now, assuming it dries in time, and I get my other Ravelympics project finished, this will magically turn into a Pearl-Barred Scallop Scarf. Or, in the very least, a scarflette.. I have no idea how much there is in yardage, but it's roughly 1.8 oz of even rougher fingering-to-heavy-fingering-weight yarn.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When It Freezes Over...

Yesterday was rotten. I left for the grocery store at about 11 because the forecast called for more snow; when I got back at about 11:30, the power company was very kindly blocking the street. Our street is never more than one and a half lanes under the best of conditions due to parked cars taking up the other half of the other lane, so with the remaining snow having been pushed into huge heaps by the plow, we're reduced to one lane--Gods forbid that you should meet a car coming in the opposite direction when it's like this, because one or the other of you will end up having to back allllll the way to the nearest intersection in order to let the other pass. And Gods forbid that any emergency services should need to get through..
"Twenty minutes," said the young man who was directing traffic at the intersection.
I thought I'd go get a cup of coffee, linger for twenty minutes, and come home. I was wrong. Got back to the entrance to our street and saw a blue VW Beetle on the other side of the power company truck; some poor college student was trying to get home or to work or to someplace other than a one-lane-dead-end street. The young man who was directing traffic said the Blue Beetle had been waiting for about twenty minutes, and when he asked his colleagues if they would let me by, the response was a snappish "No!"
So off I went again, but not for another cup of coffee. I called all my friends who lived locally and all of them were either at work or not at home, so I couldn't seek refuge. I could have gone to the university library, but since I don't have a parking sticker, I wouldn't have been able to park on campus--forget metered parking! With the snow, it's nearly impossible to find a spot, and I didn't feel like jousting for one with a student desperate to get to class. I could also have gone to any of the shops or restaurants in the business district, but again, I probably wouldn't have been able to find a place to park. So for the next twenty minutes, I drove aimlessly around the town and when I finally felt like making another attempt to reach my domicile, I was surprised to see a police cruiser commanding the power company truck to move.
When I got home, mom was in quite a state and told me that she needed to be taken to the doctor PDQ. So off we went...
The moral of the story is this: The municipal government is utterly unprepared and ill-equipped to cope with emergencies of any kind. The administrators seem incapable of coordinating with emergency services or the utility companies to even prepare for any possible disasters, which is the exact opposite of the way it should be. Of course, if you're a merchant who has a shop in the business district, chances are the ambulance will be able to get to you even if hell freezes over, never mind that the little people who actually live here might have fallen off the cliff into the frigid waters of the Potomac River, or fallen down the stairs and broken both legs, or suffered a coronary or a stroke due to the frustration and powerlessness that results from the inadequacies of the town's administrators.

On to happier topics, sort of. Since I spent part of my day yesterday waiting for mom to come out of the doctor's office, I got a fair bit done on one of my Ravelympics projects. Strangling Vines is a nice, easily memorized pattern of yarn-overs and decreases, so I didn't actually have to take the pattern with me. It's a nice pattern, but the yarn I chose probably wasn't the best option among all the things I had in my stash. Earthly Hues does gorgeous work with plant dyes, and I hoped that the pattern would do the yarn justice--and the other way around. The Foxfire colorway is a mix of autumnal browns and reds that are knitting up into a lazily zig-zagging pooled effect that everyone seems to like but me!
Silly me. I decided to spin a bunch of white yarn, ply it, dye it, then knit it for my second project. So far I've plied about half the yarn using the Navajo plying technique in the second video I posted; the spindle shaft is filled to the point that the combined weight of the yarn and spindle keeps pulling the yarn through the hook so the spindle slides down. After I get the yarn plied, then I get to skein it. And then I get to dye it. And then I get to wait until it dries... and then either reskein it or just wind it into a ball before I use it. *sigh!* At least I've picked a pattern and have a vague idea of what colors I want to use, so I'm heading in the right direction. I think...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Frozen Wasteland

Everyone around here is sick of snow. There were even reports of people suffering extreme cases of cabin fever who, in the throes of the mania resulting lengthy confinement due to bad weather, threatened the snowplowmen with injury if their roads weren't plowed right this minute. That, however, was in the city. Some of the news articles about snow-related silliness were cause for much hilarity, like the fellow who wore dress pants while using an oar from a rubber raft to dig out his car. O.o
Here at Chez Duchesse, sanity has endured. Mom's baked cookies (twice!), I've been trying desperately to finish spinning the yarn for one of my Ravelympics projects, and knitting like a madwoman. I've spent more time watching Murder, She Wrote than I care to admit, and I'm ready for the first bit of green to reveal itself and proclaim the coming of Spring.
Even the snow seems ready for winter to be over.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow, snow, go away!

I'm sick of snow. We got a hefty 27 or 30 inches last week which, according to Yahoo exceedes D.C.-area snowfall mentioned in Thomas Jefferson's journals. The bad news is that we're due to get more snow over the next few days; the National Weather Service claims it's supposed to be between 10 and 20 inches.
I think I'm ready for Spring. NOW.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Grand Plie

Here's another Navajo plying video. This isn't ply-on-the-fly.. it's the real thing. With a drop spindle. Fascinating. O.O

For some reason, the embed isn't working quite right, but you should be able to find it on google if it continues to misbehave. Thanks, Emmaknits for sharing this with me. :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I always fail miserably at making resolutions, though last year I think I did manage to do more yoga and eat more fruits and vegetables; the WIPs sure didn't go quite as well as I thought they would, though.
This year, however, I'm still plugging away at the WIPs--all of them are left from last year--and my resolutions stand thus:
1. I resolve to be more vitriolic and vituperative. (tee-hee)
2. I resolve to.. well, this one's private.
3. I resolve to actually FINISH a few projects.
4. I resolve to at least try to be more aggressive about a certain subject which seems to get certain people in a lather because I still haven't succeeded in doing what they feel is the most important thing under the sun. I blame their ethics, not mine, because I'm perfectly happy doing what I'm doing and that's all there is to it. After all, I'm not committing felonies or defrauding the government or behaving like a hoyden, thank you very much. (Was that convoluted enough for you, you unmitigated toads? You know who you are.)

I don't really think I'll succeed in Resolutions 2 or 4, but I'm quite ready to dish out a good dose of vitriolic vituperation. ;)