flurry of wool

While much of the rest of the country was experiencing Extreme White Christmas Weather, here on the island we just got the bitter cold weather and some frozen rain. It rarely snows here, and when it does the accumulation is nothing compared to the Alaskan and Maine winters I grew accustomed to in the past years.

So I created my own “flurry” of sorts – I’ve had a cold and haven’t felt much like leaving my favorite armchair (unless it was to settle on my favorite sofa…) so knits have been flying off the needles and I’d love to share with you.

First up is the pair of socks I made in the knitting design class at Folk School. The name of the class was “Danish Grandmother Socks and More,” and indeed one of the patterns generously shared was originally passed down by memory through a line of Danish women, the most recent of which was Hanne, an exchange student at the school. Our teacher, Martha, used it as an example of how to fit your gauge and your body measurements to a pattern. (Most of the class was like that, and while it’s one thing to read it in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books, it’s entirely another to actually do it in a classroom setting. Very freeing!)

Hanne's Grandmother's Socks, Mountain Colors Bearfoot, "Alpine"

I knit these socks for Ignacio (The Beau, or “Novio,” as it were…) and was I quite pleased with the outcome. I was not pleased, however, to finish the second sock and discover that I’d knitted the leg a full inch longer than the first. Martha was thrilled to use me as a subject of demonstration, and we performed surgery: cut and unraveled the long-ish sock in the middle of the leg, then kitchner-ed the two sides back together. I’d considered myself quite good at kitchner-stitch, but doing it in the round on 60 stitches was a hair-raising challenge. The fix was ultimately successful, and the recipient was none the wiser.

Ravelry link here

In fact, he’s already oh-so-subtly requested another pair of wool socks, finding that wool is indeed warmer than cotton in winter. Ah yes, my worldwide wool-conversion plot continues…

Of course, I had to make myself a pair of Christmas socks first. It’s been awhile since I had a new pair, and though my sock collection is sufficient, there are darns in nearly every foot.

Ravelry link here

I knitted these using one skein of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock (in Cedar) and the leftovers of some yarn I used for another pair years ago (it’s the magenta yarn, Rellana Flotte Socke 4 fach.) The color combination was an unexpected whim, but I really like the way it turned out.

Then I spun some yarn, real lace-weight yarn…

Hello Yarn, "Frosted Forest;" 50/50 merino/soysilk; 465 yds/2 oz

… then received another not-so-subtle hint from Mother Nature that new wool hats were in order, as the temperatures plunged into the teens.

For the Novio: “Turn a Square” pattern, leftover yarns; Raveled here

For me: “Felicity”, handspun yarn dyed by All Spun Up

Raveled here

Last, but certainly not least… I have finally been bitten by the crochet bug.

What’s that??? Didn’t I always swear I was strictly a two-needle kind of girl?

While I was at the Folk School, my roommate Renee (who, incidentally, was a swap partner of mine years ago… and was not there taking knitting classes, though she’s a fiber artist of many persuasions… and yes, we were randomly assigned to share a room. Weird, huh?) Anyway, Renee was making some of the most interestingly-shaped items I’d seen. Crochet potholders, done on the diagonal in single crochet.

Raveled here

After watching these things take shape so quickly, I started paying closer attention and received a quick tutorial and was also gifted with a ball of dishcloth cotton. The lessons stuck, and I can now say I’m hooked (pun intended, hahahahahaha!) I’ve used up both balls of cotton I had, and will be getting more next time I leave the island. I’ve got my heart set on learning enough to make a hexagonal granny-square (granny-hex??) blanket like this one

So that catches you up with things around here. Christmas was a low-key event, which was exactly what I wanted and needed, and from here the winter proceeds. Hibernation and creativity shall ensue.

All for now.

John C. Campbell Folk School

This post is overdue, and regrettably short: I arrived home to a whirlwind of holiday activity and have now succumbed to a cold. Bleh.

I have found it hard to write about my experience at the John C. Campbell Folk School, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps because  it really seems like a world apart, so different from normal life that I find it difficult to access the same feelings now that I’m “back in the real world.”

If I had to pick one word to describe it, I would use “Nourishing.

Everything about the experience was perfect and wonderful and just what I needed. The natural environment, rustic and rural (I always find the mountains to be soothing to my soul.) The people, instructors and students alike (how often do you find yourself sharing space, 24 hours a day, with 150 people whose only goal each day is to be intensely creative??) The general atmosphere of exploration, curiosity, and openness…

Before I signed up for classes, I did a lot of research online, particularly looking for photos of the Folk School. I was surprised to find there weren’t all that many, relative to the number of people who seemed to attend classes. When I was there I found out why: there simply wasn’t time to be toting around a camera, snapping shots of everything! In the same light, it was (refreshingly) rare to see anyone there using a cell phone. I made a conscious effort to take a few, and in lieu of pages of words, which would probably not tell everything anyway, I have made a flickr set where you can get a taste of my week in pictures and a few words.

I cannot claim authorship for this quote, but it rings true for me:

“I always knew I marched to the beat of a different drum. I came to the Folk School and found the rest of the band.”

All for now.

quickie post, quickie pattern update

Hi all!!!

I’m back on the island after a fantastic time at the John C. Campbell Folk School (where I did not find time to post, I was enjoying myself far too much…) I will be posting photos and stories in the next couple days.

It was brought to my attention over on a Ravelry forum that the pattern I wrote a couple years ago for a sweater ornament was unavailable, or rather, that no one knew it had moved from Blogger to WordPress. Oops!

I’ve updated the Ravelry link and wanted to let you know it’s still available through the archives I moved to this site. I’m quite flattered that folks are still enjoying that li’l ol’ thing! I may have to make up a few more of them myself…

Tee-tiny Raglan pattern, available here, for free!

Happy knitting! All for now.

stellarjay

Several years ago, in a small yarn shop in Homer, Alaska, I found myself standing in front of overflowing baskets of handspun yarn, wishing I could afford enough of it to knit a whole sweater.

Being the sensible young lady that I am, I saved up my money and bought… a book on spinning and a spindle. Then I bought a wheel. Then I acquired an immense amount of wool in a rainbow of colors, and though I have knit many things with my handspun yarn, that handspun sweater didn’t materialize quite as quickly as I might have expected.

May I present to you…

Stellarjay, my very first adult-sized sweater knit all in my own handspun.

The fiber is “Blueberry Patch” Targhee wool, dyed by Susan’s Spinning Bunny, whose fibers are consistantly beautiful and always leave me wanting more.

I spun the wool a looooong time ago, in another lifetime when I was living in Maine. I started with a pound of fiber, which became 1890 yards of dk-ish weight yarn, and have left just over 4 oz. I knit the sweater hem-up on size 5 needles, did the sleeves then joined for a seamless raglan sweater. The v-neck worked out just the way I wanted, and I’m thrilled with the complete garment overall. I wore it to work and the very first customer in the shop complemented me (“Cute sweater!”) so I’m considering the whole thing to be a great success.

I could have spent $150 on handspun that day in the yarn shop; I’m pretty happy with the way things have worked out instead.

Tomorrow I leave for the mountains, where I hear there are rumors of snow-flurries…

All for now.

(apologies for the not-so-stellar photos, they were the best I could do between rain showers, work, and nightfall. Perhaps more detailed shots from my vacation…)

photo no go

The weather did not cooperate to allow me photos of my new sweater today, but it is completed and I will try again tomorrow.

I’m busy tonight packing for a trip – that’s right, I’m going on vacation! It will be the first time in over a year-and-a-half that I have spent more than one night off the island. For those who don’t know, the island I live on is about one mile wide and thirteen miles long; the cozy size is both a blessing and a curse, as you might imagine. I’m ready for some time away.

I will be leaving Thursday morning to attend classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in western North Carolina. I’ve heard such fantastic things about the school, both the atmosphere and the instructors (and the food!) and have been wanting to check it out for nearly a decade. Now seems to be the perfect time.

I will be taking a spindle-spinning course over the weekend, to hone my skills and correct some of my self-taught idiosyncrasies, and then a week-long knitting workshop. If my hands don’t fall off from all the activity, I hope to keep you all updated here on the blog.

Queries to you this evening: is it strange that the first things I packed (and re-packed, multiple times) are my yarns, fibers, needles, and spindles? And how much yarn is really too much to take when one is planning on doing little more than knitting for a week straight?

Until tomorrow, all for now.

nearly finished

Last year I started knitting a sweater, my first from all-my-own handspun (in adult size, anyway.) To make it more interesting, I decided to design it myself as I went along.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were some snags along the way, and I had to rip back from the first neckline all the way to the underarms. The sweater was then shoved into a bag and forgotten put in time out.

I pulled it out again a few weeks ago and slowly started work on the first sleeve… then on the second sleeve… then joined in the round for raglan decreases. Work picked up again and I had to leave the sweater untouched for a few days.

Today I came home from work on my lunch break to find:

Looks like the dang sweater is determined to be finished, even if it has to knit itself!

(Wouldn’t that be nice??? Hopefully I will have finished photos for you tomorrow ♥)

All for now.

hello again

Hello to anyone reading… it’s Loribird, and yes, I’m still alive…

Life has kept me pretty busy in the past months, adjusting to many changes and working my little bird-tail off. (Not kidding about that; I spent a good part of the summer doing 60 – 80 hour weeks at my three – count ’em, three – jobs.) The winter off-season has arrived on my island and I have time to start creating again.

It’s not my style to reminisce too much, and I hardly know where to begin anyway, so I’ll just cut to the chase and show you what I’ve made most recently. (And please do forgive the lack of details about patterns, yarn, etc. I’m just learning to use WordPress properly…)

Lacy Baktus; handspun EKF fiber, "Harvest Wild Card" batts

Lacy Baktus (ravelry link), done up in some of my own handspun, from Happy Hooves sock batts created by the ever-lovely Josette of Enchanted Knoll Farm. I used the better portion of the yarn for a pair of socks, and was thrilled that this pattern allowed me to use up every last bit of the remainder.

Next up is a scarf I knit, a real act of love on my part since I don’t usually enjoy the endless knitting required for scarf patterns. Two or three feet of patterning without any shaping is more than plenty enough for me, thankyouverymuch, and with most scarves that’s only the halfway point… but I had a special request, and nothing else would do but a scarf in the classic style, and so it was.

Irish Hiking Scarf; O-Wool Classic, color "Sumac"

I knit up an Irish Hiking Scarf (still a free pattern, I see. Hooray!) in the now-discontinued O-Wool Classic Aran, color Sumac. It took around 2.5 skeins to make a scarf about five feet in length. The intended recipient, my newish-boyfriend (five months now, my first real foray into dating since the divorce) was fascinated by the process and thrilled with the result, so the effort was worth it.

Not to mention, he looks pretty good in red. I might be a bit biased, of course.

So there you go: a bit of an update, leaving plenty of things to the imagination I’m certain, but a start nonetheless… Most importantly, I’ve figured out how to post photos and make links in WordPress. Expect to see more of me around here, I miss my blog friends!

All for now.

back again

Surprise!

Here I am again… I believe I could win the Most Sporadic Blogger award this year. Anyone who is active on Ravelry might have noticed that I haven’t been entirely absent, though my knitting and spinning are at a low.  And it’s been long enough since I’ve posted that Blogger went and gave their posting-format a makeover without my notice. Sheesh.
Anywho, onward…
I finished a pair of socks and gifted them to a friend.

They’re knit from some hand-dyed merino I received in a swap and spun up ages ago, when I lived in Maine. They came out well, and according to the recipient, are “the most comfortable socks EVER! It’s like I’m not wearing socks at all, but my feet are warm.” Fine praise indeed.

I worked quite a bit on my handspun sweater, and finished it nearly to the neckline before I decided I could no longer ignore the fact that it really didn’t fit the way I wanted, so I ripped it out to the mid-torso (about where it was in my last post) and put it in time out. I think I’m about ready to work on it again…

I wish I had lots of earth-shatteringly exciting news to report. Really, it’s been daily life that’s been keeping me busy lately. The normalcy has been comforting.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my dear friend Carol, who had a baby in December. Both she and her husband have been friends of mine for a long time, close enough that they are like family. (We call each other “psudo-siblings.”) Their son Thomas is my unofficial “nephew” and has been part of my near-daily routine since his first week home.

BSJ knit by Auntie Loribird, of course

Though it would appear he’s always sleeping, that’s hardly true that; for the first few months it’s been easier to take Wee Monkey’s photo when he’s slumbering peacefully.
Thomas’ mother is a photographer (in the interest of full disclosure, the photos above are hers) and she’s been teaching me a few things over the winter. I have acquired a new fancy-pants camera and will be playing with that in the months (and hopefully years!) to come. I have a usb cord on order; once it gets here I can start posting the results of my new hobby.

On the subject of hobbies, I’ve re-disovered and re- taken up running.
If the idea of taking yourself out for an hour-long jog on the warm, sunny beach sounds nice, you have an idea of how I feel on a good day and how I could become addicted; if you can imagine 15mph winds at 31 degrees F, clouds looming with imminent rain, and still imagine running with enjoyment for 6 miles (even after said rain begins to fall,) then you know something of my winter. (And if you think I’m out of my mind, you’re certainly not alone!)
I’ve always enjoyed running, and did it competitively in high school (cross country.) I wasn’t the best, but I was far from the worst, so I kept up the practice into my adult life.
The past few years (during my marriage) were the least physically-active of my life, so returning to an athletic lifestyle has not been entirely easy. I’ve noticed that my most joy comes from distance, loooong distance, rather than quick 5K races like we did in school. I’m planning to run a marathon or half-marathon next November, and I’m finding that training for it is both less difficult and more enjoyable than I expected. There is rarely a day when I don’t look forward to my next run. I’ve spent the past couple weeks dealing with a hip injury, unrelated to running but it’s kept me inactive; I’m amazed at how much I miss it. Hopefully I will be back out on the trail again by next weekend. You can definitely expect to hear more on this subject in the future – hope you don’t mind!

That’s all for now; I’ll do my best to keep you updated – for REAL this time!

Oh hai!

Ha! Bet you thought it would be another few months until you heard a peep from me again! Not so!

I’ve been very busy getting my life back together – working two or three jobs to build up a savings, finding a new place to live… I spent the first months here crashing in the attic of my father’s summer house, and while I was grateful for the help, it was hardly a permanent solution.

Housing here on the island is a premium commodity; to find a good year-round rental takes time and connections. I finally moved into a beautiful house, probably as nice as any I’ve ever lived in, with a good friend who makes an ideal roommate. There is plenty of space, hardwood floors and huge windows overlooking the marsh, and an ample fenced yard for Rudy. The house is in a great neighborhood, set back a ways from the village, so there is little traffic and noise in the summer when the tourists are here. All of this at a price I can afford easily even in the off-season; we’re renting from an old friend who decided to put her house up for use by year-round residents rather than cashing in on the seasonal weekly-rental. I am feeling extraordinarily blessed.

As my new life becomes more settled, I am finding time to create again.

“Gypsy”
superwash merino roving dyed by Enchanted Knoll Farm
4.23 oz., 600 yards light-fingering weight

Here in the south, winters are not as harsh as in Alaska or Maine (understatement of the year!) I have had little need for heavy gloves and sweaters, though warm things in lightweight yarn and patterns are certainly usable during the fall and winter months.

I knit myself a pair of ‘Toast’ mitts to warm my wrists and hands while walking and riding my bike.

The pattern is as simple as can be, just a stockinette tube knit to lenth. I opted for no thumb-holes so they really are more like wrist-warmers than fingerless gloves. They’re great for morning coffee as well.

Toast mitts,” pattern by Leslie Friend (ravelry link)
1 skein (200 yds) Peruvian Link 100% superfine alpaca

Then I decided a nice cowl to go with them would make me happy. I was right.

Pretty Thing,” pattern by the Yarn Harlot
Partial skein of Peruvian Link 100% superfine alpaca

This was another great pattern, and fun to knit. I found the chart really easy to follow, and in fact the pattern was easy to memorize after a few repeats. I will probably be making a few more in the same pattern, as I get a lot of complements on it.

On a whim the other night, I started a project that has been in the works (at least in my imagination) for nearly five years.

When I lived in Alaska, my friend Kari owned the local yarn shop and she carried some handspun yarn. I fell in love with it, with the shifting colors and slightly-nubby texture, and wanted to knit myself a sweater from it. I couldn’t justify the $150 price tag for the yarn, so I did the next logical thing: I started to teach myself to spin.

Numerous drop spindles led to the purchase of a wheel; many skeins of handspun yarn, pounds of various fibers, handspun shawls, hats, socks, and gloves later, and I still hadn’t knit up a sweater of handspun. Last autumn I did spin a pound of Targhee wool (from Susan’s Spinning Bunny, in her “Blueberry Patch” colorway.) I finally pulled it off the shelf and am knitting in into a self-designed (read: making it up as I go) pullover.


So far I’m calling it a success! (Though in retrospect, buying the handspun yarn probably would have been the more economical choice… Luckily I’m more into being experience-rich than financially-wealthy.)

All for now, and I promise there really will be more soon!

dog days

Hey there, Rudy-dog here.
Just wanted to let you all know that me and mom are alive and well and things are good here.

Mom works a lot, but we’ve got a great new house and some nice friends who like to pet me and give me treats. Now that winter is here, there is more time for walking, and I get to go on a long walk every day.

My favorite place is near the water, I can run without my leash. There are birds to chase and sticks to chew, and sometimes even dead fish to roll in. Dog heaven!

I’m pretty sure Mom is happier too, now that she has time to do stuff besides work. She’s been trying out some photography, and spending a lot of time with one of our friends who is having a baby.

I’m supposed to tell you that she’s been knitting again, and is dusting off the spinning wheel as well. She promises to tell you about it in a few days, since she’ll have some time off the next couple weeks. She says we’re staying here in our new house and making dinner for all our friends here on the island. We even have a tree, it’s inside the house, can you believe it!

Yeah, life is pretty good. Just wanted to let you know!
Bark at ya later!