Thursday, September 27, 2007


Here's a photo-heavy post of the goings-on here. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I am trying hard to get all my knitting designs up at Ravelry, but what's this database like?
The professor went on a butterfly collecting jaunt. He went to a biological preserve nearby. He was in a field, and fell into a 3 foot deep sinkhole. He is ok. That is a real sinkhole, but Ravelry is a metaphoric one! You could fall in and never get out. If you've wandered over here from Ravelry, say hello in the comments, by the way!

This is some handspun I've worked up recently. The turquoise is lofty worsted weight Romney-cross (?I think? or Cotswold?)--250 yards and the burgundy and blue is fingering to sportsweight Cotswold. I offer the close ups so that those of us who need a little yarn fix can check it out!

I spun the first full skein of Finn lamb wool, roughly sportsweight. I talked about this in a post in August. It's good that I'm teasing each lock of wool--there are some bits of lamb fleece that are tippy. This means they break off and could cause pilling. By teasing each lock, I pull off any tippy bits and make this come alive. I was hoping to knit this into Selbuvotter mittens but now I'm wondering if the texture will look good in that complicated a pattern. I'm not giving up the texture of this, it's luminous.

On the knitting front, Thermal is cruising along and is very enjoyable. I love the yarn--it's a machine-washable fingering weight yarn called Merino Bambino, and I bought it in Australia in 2004. It's made by Cleckheaton, but sadly not imported to the USA. I had to mail order 5 extra skeins from Oz to be sure I had enough. I may have to adjust the bust area of the pattern an inch or two--I think I sadly underestimated, uhh, those parts. I'd knitted several inches before I took out the tape measure (this design fits very snugly) and remembered my actual measurements. Oops. No way I'm ripping out that many stitches. I like knitting...but not that much.

What makes life interesting? Lots of spice...tangibly good touches, smells and tastes. We've still got very warm temperatures here, and I may have to wait until we start going to fiber festivals again in October to see and smell the spiciness of Autumn leaves. In the meanwhile, a dinner guest brought us these zinnias, and I couldn't resist shooting a still life of dining room autumn shades. (nope, still haven't framed my sister-in-law's painting, but I still love it!)

In the real spices department, I depend on mail order and Kalustyans for the things I just can't get here. This is: Ras El Hanout (Morrocan spice mixture that is great for tagines and couscous), Za'atar (thyme, sesame seeds and other spices, perfect for salad dressings, roast chicken or homemade breads)-I like the Lebanese kind, but there are many different blends, Aleppo Pepper (not as spicy as cayenne) and Sumac. (lemony astringent red powder, great for fattoush or other salads.)

Oddly, this place also sells my favorite soap. This is dense, pure olive oil soap that doesn't cause my sensitive skin to have any allergic reactions. I bought it the first time when I was at college and 13+ years later? This is still the only soap that never causes me problems. Plus? $6.99 for a kilo. You can't beat the price, and it smells good.

I think it's little things that make life good...and spicy, right?!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I'm on Ravelry now! (non-knitters, this is an enormously interesting site for knitters, crocheters,and their designer friends.) My username is-no surprise here- JoanneSeiff. It may be quite some time before I get all my projects up on the site, but I'm diving in...and I'll be in the deep end of the pool soon.

I'll get back to posting some knitting and spinning stuff here soon. Just as soon as I get out of the water...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Safe? Not so much.

Right after September 11th, I remember people saying "I don't feel safe anymore." At the time, I realized that I'd never felt entirely safe-as a woman, or as a non-Christian. I'd had enough run-ins with hate. It's not easy to eradicate.

I've been struggling with what to put on my blog in light of some of the local news. Why? Well, maybe it's that I feel a little isolated. I can't quite figure out a positive way to celebrate right now. We're putting up our sukkah (scroll back to the October 10th entry for more about last year's holiday) and getting ready to invite people over to celebrate harvest. We're now putting it up in the back yard, partly because it's easier to cope with the dogs inside the fence, and partly because of this. Or to put it more plainly, Hate Groups Re-Emerge in Kentucky. It's probably not safe to put this up in a more public place.

Meanwhile, the local university, usually seen as a bastion of safety for a variety of viewpoints, feels significantly less safe to me. I feel more scared about the professor's work there. That's because there's going to be a protest on campus--asking that students be allowed to carry guns on campus, because they think it will make campus safer. Really? This alarms me! Read more about it here. The real question, in the comments made on a variety of forums, is this. How many people are carrying concealed weapons anyway, even though the university has a no-gun policy?

I just finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver's audiobook, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I want to celebrate its message. Her family's year of local food growing and eating is a love song to the meaning of rural America and my home state, Virginia. It does a great job of discussing how we can lessen our fossil fuel dependency and eat better while doing it. It draws on many things I wish I could do in terms of raising my own food brings me to sense of nostalgia for something I've never experienced. However, the conclusion I draw at this point is a sad one. I don't see myself living safely or happily in a rural environment right now. In fact, I don't feel safe right here in town.

I caught a bit of this program, The Story of Anti-Semitism in America, as the professor listened to it over streaming audio while he was working at home. The program concludes by saying that "Anti-Semitism in America gradually declined and finally ended after the World War II, with Al Gore's selection of Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his running mate in 2000." The professor and I just didn't understand the conclusion. Maybe that's true in some big cities, but I wonder, have these folks ever been to Kentucky?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

revealing what's rare

Sally the dog rarely lets loose and relaxes around strangers. Yet, she's learned the routine around here, and nearly every evening, she sits at attention on the living room couch, waiting for me to sit next to her. Next, she grunts and groans and lets me cuddle her and rub her ears and belly...true dog pleasures. Then we settle in to knit for an hour or two, along with a chance to talk or listen to an audiobook or watch a DVD for the evening. Since it's such a rare sight, this is the first time I've caught exactly this pose on camera. To the right, you can see Harry, sound asleep and ignoring her!

My life lately has been whirlwind of book stuff. I'm getting sent absolutely gorgeous pieces of knitting, crochet, rughooking, and other fiber arts from the book contributors. I'm working daily on all these submissions and their details. At the same time, I'm trying to remember to take breaks to knit and spin for my own sanity. Working all the time can't be good for me, either...I need time on the couch with Sally, too!

Unfortunately, I can't vent about all this work stuff here, although sometimes I'm tempted. I try to make a clear distinction between my professional responsibilities and what's public. I've learned one thing that I think I can say here though. Since becoming a freelancer, I've always tried to turn things in early or on time, and to follow through on my commitments. It's my nature, and I believe it's the right thing to do. Some editors have loved it, and others have actually told me to resubmit my work at the deadline; they don't want to see it or even keep track of it a month or 6 weeks before it's due!

The professional advice everywhere says "Turn things in on time!" "Do what you say you're going to do!" and "Double check to make sure you've submitted everything!" I now know that my habits are not standard or even all that common, and that the advice is repeated so often because, well, not everyone does that. Illness of a family member or the contributor aside (and yes, I believe that is an entirely reasonable excuse for a delay)... Apparently most creative souls take deadlines as gentle suggestions. Huh. Some of them don't even tell me things will be late. As my dad says sometimes, "Well. Who'd have thunk it!?" I'm just grateful for those who did what they said they would do, and those who told me what was up. It's apparently rare.

I promised the alpaca owner, the one who owns Danny and Gatsby, mentioned in the last post, that I'd send her a keepsake from her animals' fiber. I kept a small poof of fleece from each animal when I sent the rest to the processor. I teased out the fibers with my fingers and spun and plied it. I washed the skein and turned the water brown with dust and dirt. (remember, Alpacas love to roll in dust!) Then I knitted up this little change purse. The gingery color is Gatsby; I seemed to save more of his fleece. Danny's was the finer red brown on the back.

This is now winging its to California in the mail. It was a fun and quick little diversion, easy to do. (knit a long rectangular strip, fold, stitch closed. crochet a loop for the button. Sew on the button....and it's done.)

My third bit of "uncommon" is the arrival of my new carpet sweeper. Gary the mailman delivered it today! Yup, you read that right. Carpet Sweeper...and Yes, I know the name of my mail man, too. Both the professor and I have bad allergies and with four darkhaired mammals in the house, there's a lot of shedding here. We know we should clean the floors more often. Yet vacuuming is loud, scares the dogs and often puffs up dust in the air and the long cord is such a pain. The broom? Quiet but doesn't do such a good job. For substantially less cost than a fancy vacuum or roomba, we could try an old fashioned approach. I'm looking forward to trying it out. The floof in the corners is getting deep!

Monday, September 17, 2007

the skirting

Have I mentioned that the temperatures have dropped to a pleasant 50-80 degrees F? No rain to speak of, still a bad drought, but I mention this because it was ideal weather for skirting time.

Skirting is when you unwrap a fleece and get rid of the stinky bits, the places where the fibers are too short or might be damaged, that sort of thing. I always do this outside, usually equipped with a large old sheet and a trash bag or two. Folks on farms usually mulch with the wool they won't spin, but since I live in town and my dogs find this too tasty, mine is thrown out.

First, I started with the alpaca fleeces. Alpaca, you say? Well yes. A kind lady from California who has two pet alpacas found me on the internet. She sent me her fleeces as a present, since she doesn't spin. I sent her postage, and will send little bits of the fiber, spun up, as a present in return. Doing this sort of thing is sometimes a risk since you don't know what the fiber will be like. However, I'm always grateful for presents and find that many times, folks have lovely fiber on their hands, but since they aren't spinners, knitters, or fiber artists themselves, they don't want to deal with it. They have pets, and those pets need to be shorn to be healthy. The fiber is useless to them, and they don't wan to fuss with marketing it, even if it sells in some places for $2-6 an ounce.

First up were "Danny's" fleeces. I think I was sent the "blanket" (this is the best part of an alpaca for spinning) from two years' from Danny. Either that, or he was huge.
This fiber was fine and a rich, mauve reddish brown. Almost pink, in parts, but Danny had a problem. Like a lot of alpacas, Danny likes to roll in dust, hay and straw. His fleece was full of the stuff. I hope it can be picked out, but there was a lot of vegetable matter in it. Alpacas are often subjected to a blow dryer treatment before shearing to blow this stuff out of a fleece. Danny needed that time in a salon!

Next was Gatsby's blanket. Slightly more hairy, a bright gingery color, and relatively clean. Gatsby probably doesn't roll too much!

Finally, I unrolled the mixed breed fine wool fleece I got at the TN State Fair Fleece Auction. It is perhaps a Merino or Rambouillet cross. A good shearer will wrap up a fleece like a sleeping bag, and when you unroll it, some fine wools will hold together very well and the fleece will look just like a pelt. (Again, shearing is like getting a hair cut. No one was hurt in this endeavor!)

Here's what it looked like, close up. There were bits of corn and hay in this fleece, it wasn't spotless. It was big though, which is standard for this type of sheep!

Once I'd cleaned things up around the edges, (sheep's tail end, belly and legs) I packaged up the alpaca and wool into one big box and sent it off to be processed at a carding mill. I'm hoping to have two blends:
The Danny Alpaca/Wool blend
The Gatsby Alpaca/Wool blend

It was roughly 16 lbs of fiber, according to the post office scale. Once the fine wool has been washed and rid of lanolin and dirt, it will be halved in size, at perhaps 5-6 lbs. Alpaca doesn't lose much weight in washing, although getting rid of all that dust and hay might be nice. In the end, I'm guessing perhaps 11 pounds of finished roving. While I don't do this from "start to finish" at home (16 lbs is just too much washing and carding for me!) I really enjoy choosing my fiber right from the raw fleece and getting my hands in it. I also like meeting the sheep to say thank you!

Last but not least, ribby shell #2. I knitted this in two weeks. The dark blue is Greek cotton, the lighter blue and white is Madil Eden Bamboo.

The Fair

So much has happened since my last post that I am dividing things up. We went to the state fair for the fleece auction and spinning competition. Even though we live in Kentucky, we live closer to the TN State Fair, and I must say, this year's fleece show was stunning. It's worth a trip to Nashville to see this event. No, it's not quite as amazing as the Black Sheep Gathering fleece show in Oregon, but probably as close as one can get in Tennessee, and far less expensive. (special fleecey photos saved for other articles and things, sorry!)

There were over 230 fleeces, with a huge range of sheep breeds and styles. Every color of fleece under the rainbow, and a really impressive competition for shepherds who raise wool sheep. (as opposed to "meat sheep") While many breeds are truly dual purpose, these shows are often divided up in this way, so it's the rare breeder who wins both meat and fleece oriented competition.

While shooting photos in the sheep barn, I stepped outside for a minute and caught a gorgeous array of Jersey cows. I'm an enormous fan of milk and cream, and Jerseys are some of the best producers. I had to stop and admire "the girls."

There were a fair number of personable meat sheep as well. This one seems like it's saying "Hiya! How are you?" Amidst the dusty sheep bedding, the large fans, loud fair music, and well, a distinctly poopy sheep smell, it was nice to have a quiet visit with a friendly ewe or two!

The professor struggled with some bad allergies while we were at this event,and even a bloody nose. We suffer a great deal for fiber in this family, but he seems to be no worse for wear.

In the end, we shot some great photos for the book, and I was drafted at the last minute to fill out the field for the spindle spinning competition. (most yarn produced in 10 minutes.) I tied for first place and won a set of single tine Indigo Hound wool combs! Wow! I do happen to own wool combs, so if someone is thinking of buying some, drop me an email, ok? I may just have what you're looking for... :)

Bet you're wondering what I bought? Only one fleece. Yes, I was incredibly restrained. A very big dark brown fine wool handspinning fleece came home with me for $10. More on that in the next post...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

apple of my eye

It's traditional to have apples and honey for a sweet new year...and I've already told you about how my husband (the professor) and I go apple-picking every year. My refrigerator is still full of Michigan apples (ok, so I haven't canned those!) and I've been cranking out the apple chocolate chip cake, the baked apples in dinnertime frittatas, (good sweetness with potatoes, onions, eggplant, and the usual egg, cheese and milk topping) and other delights. In lieu of an apple photo--since we in a Biologist's household love genetic diversity and heirlooms of all varieties... here are at least a thousand words at All About Apples.

About spinning, well, a single (or singles) means...a single ply. If you look at knitting yarn, or the twine at the hardware store, it's made up of several plies of thread/yarn. Some knitting yarn, like Lopi-style yarn, is only one ply. All handspun is done one ply at a time, and usually today's knitters like handspun that is 2 or 3 ply. That's because all the possible bumpiness or unevenness is halved in a 2 ply. If you double the yarn, you'll end up with all that texture evening itself out, and a more consistent fabric.

Back when I learned to spin (approximately 1985, I guess), spinners and knitters were still pretty into lumpy thick singles even though the back to nature 70's were over. For years, I spun single ply knitting yarn. Some technically minded folks insist that this will skew in knitting. Perhaps it does. However, I made literally dozens of pairs of mittens during college for friends and for myself, several sweaters, and many other things out of single ply. I still have a lot of it, and it kept me warm. I don't even think I'm more lopsided than most, even after years of wearing supposedly skewed knitting! This is why, every now and again, after months of 2 ply, I return to spinning 1 ply yarns, just for fun. All the knitters who love Malabrigo and Manos yarns now available will know what I mean--knitting this yarn is fun!

Mrs. J asked in the comments if I could recommend more reading about spinning. Anything on Spin-Off's "Getting Started" page will be a help. There are many websites, books, DVD's, and other spinning materials out there. Go for it! Dive in! Connect with your artsy side and your ancestors! Become a spinner! (ok, conversion spasm is now over, sorry...)

The second half of this week will be busy. Last year, the holidays and the spinning event and fleece auction at the Tennessee State Fair were not quite all at once. This year, it all happens this week. So, I will be parted from you, loyal blog readers, for a few days as I am busy, both celebrating and writing up another event for my book. I feel lucky to have all your suggestions (horse ear plugs! who knew?) and lovely warm comments. Please feel free to say hey. According to my map on the side of the blog, approximately 60 of you are reading a day. Wow! I'd love to hear from more of you, and someday, even to meet y'all. In the meanwhile, have some apples dipped in honey. Celebrate life's sweetness with me, through cyberspace.
PS: Ramadan Mubarak to my Muslim friends!

Monday, September 10, 2007

the dyeing

Yup, dy(e)ing comes right after the cannons post! Thanks, by the way, for all your suggestions and sympathy regarding Sally the dog and the scary loud noises. The best idea came from my uncle, modified by the professor. Pointer-sized ear muffs that deaden the sound. When those are produced commercially, y'all just let me know! I'm sure Sally will love wearing them! (hah!)

I've also heard from loyal readers that on Macs, some fonts are harder to read than others. I will try to remember that, but sometimes I alternate fonts to give my eyes a rest since I look at Times Roman all day long. (it's standard for my work stuff.)
Another informal tutorial:
On to the dyeing. I dyed some yarn. First, I weighed it. I had 8 oz of Icelandic singles, and 8 oz of bulky weight Romney-cross singles. I was aiming here for uneven yarn. Handspun's texture can make it very nice to work with-and it's not perfect because it's not from a machine. I can make perfect, but I usually just buy that in machinemade yarn.

Next, I immersed my yarn in a soapy water mixture. I used an old canning pot for this, because I am saving some of my Gray Water for our garden in this pot, since we've had such a bad drought. When the pot is full, I dump it on the garden and start again.

Next, I popped the 8 oz skeins into the dye, which is technically for 1 lb of material. I wanted rich and dark colors. I boosted absorption with 1 cup of white vinegar in each dyebath.

While it simmered, I ate lunch. Yes, in the same little kitchen. Many dyeing manuals prohibit things like this, saying to watch out for poisons in dye, etc. This is entirely true. It is one of the reasons why I don't dye with the more poisonious mordants (copper sulfate, for instance) or things that might spill and contaminate anything else. I generally enjoy these little solid packets of dye that dissolve in water and produce strong color without fuss. I do not use the water from the dyeing for my garden! For entertainment of the foodies who don't dye handspun, I ate:
leftover pasta, zebra and oxheart tomatoes, cucumbers from the farmer's market, marinated artichoke hearts and kalamata olives, along with a topping of fancy tinned tuna and a sprinkling of olive oil and lime juice.

It was good.

Next, I checked my pots, and to my complete surprise, the garnet red yarn's dye water ran completely clear. (this doesn't always happen.)

The mahogany dye wasn't clear, but the yarn was about the right shade. I took out the skeins of yarn, rinsed them, and spun them in the spin-cycle of the washing machine before hanging them up to dry.

I saved the rest of the mahogany dye and threw in a couple ounces each of white Romney cross roving and white alpaca. The colors I got there were stunning, but the photo just doesn't show it. The roving came out a deep brownish mauve, and the alpaca is a pinkish mauve, like the color of a gray-pink blossom. As you can see in this photo, I just can't catch those mauves well with my camera--I tried. I even adjusted the colors, but didn't work out!

Counter clockwise from bottom left--alpaca, Romney roving, Mahogany Icelandic singles, and Garnet Romney singles.

As you can see, dyeing isn't rocket science. We have enough science going on here that I'm very casual about my dyeing. Yes, I have special pots and a special wooden spoon just for dyeing. I wear an old flannel shirt of the professor's as a smock so I don't spill on my clothes. I put down newspaper or magazines to cover the counters so I don't spill dye and mark up the kitchen permanently. Otherwise? It's a fun afternoon of experimentation with vibrant color and vinegar odors in the kitchen.

PS: The follow up news about hate in our neighborhood is this:Leaders dismayed by recent signs of hatred Stream of graffiti aimed at Hispanics, Bosnians highlights cultural tensions felt across America

I'd like to celebrate the start of 5768 (the Jewish New Year) with a big sign in our yard that says "Hate is NOT an American Value..." but even the sign would draw negative attention. Please, everybody? Love your neighbors...and remember, unless you're a full-blooded native American? Your family were immigrants once, too. I know I may be preaching to the choir here but Oy. This scary and unkind stuff makes me so sad.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

the cannons! the cannons!

Ribby shell #2? I'm knitting, and knitting more (10 inches done) & have concluded that 100% bamboo is not for me again. No- Elasticity- At- All. Fingers and wrist are ouchy. That is all.

Now, on to the important stuff. It is autumn in this collegetown. We live within walking distance to the university. These people will persist in having football games most Saturday afternoons. Then they have to score points (damn them) and-they fire the cannons. Cannons, you say? Well, I've never actually witnessed them, having never been at a local football game, but yes, that's what I hear that they are. Now, I don't really care about the football (although gosh knows this university could spend more on uhh, education, and less on sport) but the cannons rattle our world. They make us miserable.

Poor Sally, high-strung hunting dog that she is, cannot stand the cannons. Something in her first year of life, before we got her, says that she must be very nervous around white men of a certain medium height, wearing ball caps. She hates big trucks with growly engines. And, she barks and starts and freaks out when the cannons do their thing. Frankly, I can't blame her. (about the trucks and the cannons, that is, I know some nice medium sized men with ball caps, although thank goodness the professor isn't one of them.) I'm actually relieved when we meet nice men (who don't fit this description) on our walks who stop to pet our nervous girl. Sally just really hates specific triggers. Otherwise, she does not discriminate. There's some serious trauma in her mysterious past.

Autumn is also the time the professor needs to do lots of fieldwork, so he's off ontrips. This leaves me lots of time to answer some questions. I can't figure out how to find peoples' emails while using blogger/blogspot, so I'll do this here...

Katie, I've checked out my website pattern page in Safari. It works mostly, except that many people block pop-ups, and the photo enlargements then don't work. I think you have to temporarily allow pop-ups to try that feature. I'm sorry about that. I couldn't figure this out on my own, but this is what my fabulous webdesigner says! The Bacchus in the Bath accessories link should be dead because I have to reformat that to sell on my blog. I hope to get to that. Someday. (still recovering from the last two pattern formats!)

All of you who guessed that the spindle in the last post was a knitting needle and an apple? You're right! Ding ding ding. Fire the cannons! (not.) It occurred to me that I learned to spin as a kid on rudimentary spindles. Think--a potato and a stick. No kidding. Believe it or not, you can do a lot with these inexpensive and imperfect tools. I'm just as big an admirer of the fancy exotic wood handturned spindle as the next person, but they can be pricey. If you want to bring spinning to the masses? Give me an apple or a potato. Any day.

Savvy spinners will bring up CD spindles, because some proclaim them great for beginners. You know, I think they just aren't the best tool. Worse than your average apple and knitting needle, and I don't usually have handy grommets and a hook to make said spindle. I've dowels because when I've taught introductory spinning classes, I've made many more permanent spindles for beginners with a toy wooden wheel as suggested by Connie Delany in her marvelous book, Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert. What I concluded? A capable spinner can make do with nearly any spindle or wheel. She/he won't get all hysterical about adjusting it,or make excuses about how it spins. A good spinner will settle right down and make practically anything work and do the best yarn possible in the situation. That said, I have a hard time with those CD spindles, so if I can't use them, I sure as heck can't recommend them to beginners. Maybe that's just me.

In October, 2001, printed in many U.S. newspapers,there was an AP photo of an Afghan woman in a refugee camp in Quetta, Pakistan. I still have the clipping. That woman, a spinner, is surrounded by children and many other stressed women. Wrapped around her left arm is a lot of roving and a long even yarn connects to a rapidly spinning huge ball of yarn. It looks like she has a very primitive X, the base of a Turkish spindle, and the ball of yarn itself is most of her spindle. When I looked at the clipping again, I saw two other blurs of roving on other arms. I wish no women anywhere had to be in refugee camps, in such dire circumstances.

If any of us had to be in a refugee camp? And we were spinners? I'd want us all to reassure ourselves by doing something calming and familiar, to know how to make that spindle, with a stone or two sticks or whatever. My husband's aunt learned how to knit with bits of wire and unravelled yarn in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany after WWII. Knitting and spinning can keep us all just a little more sane in very bad situations. The cannons seem to be done (I hope) for the night. Has anyone ever taught a bird dog to spin?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

the creativity burst

Thank you, thank you, for your kind thoughts about my sweaty self and the tank top. The second ribby shell progresses apace, but I've been reminded again that bamboo yarn is very inelastic, so I break up the knitting time with special finger stretches to relieve soreness! (it better be great to wear!)
Some people are inspired to great works of creative genius by nature, literature or art. I think all those things are inspirational, don't get me wrong. Sadly, what seems to spur me on to my most creative moments is boredom. Yes, boredom. I have to be just on the edge of completely losing it. Whenever my grandmother (now 91 and still sharp about these issues!) would find me at this point, complaining of being bored, she'd suggest that I go bang my head against the wall and yell "Bravo! Bravo!" Needless to say, from early on, I found out that my family didn't have patience for the word bored. I learned to keep myself busy and not to say THAT WORD.

When I've gone through busy periods, stress or lots of non-stimulating work, I lose all energy for creative stuff. It just doesn't flow. I also find that even when I have plenty of time to think up articles or designs or fiction, sometimes the muse just doesn't come by. Instead, I do laundry, take walks,spin yarn for sale, garden (when there's no drought) or write to deadlines without (gasp!) the muse. 'Cause, when you're paid to write for a deadline, you write anyway.

Lately I've been cranking out "how-to" project sections for my book. These photos are hints! (guess away in the coments!) Due to the professor's early morning wake up schedule, I've been writing my drafts by 10 AM. Then, I have the rest of the day to fill, but I'm loopy or useless from 2-3 hours of solid writing and the 5:30 AM wake-up.

Since the knitting needles are busy with someone else's pattern, I cooked. On Tuesday night, I made ricotta basil gnocchi with a fresh vegetable sauce. Let me describe that: I adapted a Cooks Illustrated Magazine recipe for ricotta gnocchi. I'd refer to the recipe, but I changed it. For instance, when they said: 2 slices of white sandwich bread made into toasted bread crumbs(which doesn't exist in my "from scratch" whole wheat household just now) I substituted matzo meal, leftover from Passover. It worked well! I used the food processor and didn't do the blending by hand. It worked well...(maybe I've got the Italian Jewish thing going on? I'd be honored to walk in the footprints of Primo Levi..)

Then, I sauteed onions and garlic in a lot of olive oil, threw in chopped red peppers, tomatoes, basil, a tablespoon of capers and a bunch of marinated artichoke hearts into a fresh sauce. No recipe for that. I used my common sense and shut off the burner after I cooked the onions and garlic. I combined the gnocchi and sauce, served it with salad, this fabulous NY state wine, and a leftover peach nut shortbread tart that I'd made up a couple of days before. We invited our favorite Norwegian Bachelor Biologist (not farmer) friend over. We swooned. It was that good.

Creativity oozes out when you least expect it!

PS: As a complete downer, check out this scary news happening in my neck of the woods. Owensboro is only an hour away from where I live. (I'm avoiding any words that might draw attention to these bad and intolerant folks in my blog.) Read the article, it's short...Having these people "watching over my neighborhood as I sleep" scares the poop --and the creativity--right out of me.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

scarf cowl, bug finger puppets and more

Doug the Dragonfly and his bug finger puppet friends, Manny the Mosquito, Buck the Butterfly, Luna Moth, Carl the Caterpillar and Lacey the Ladybug are all available for sale as a pdf downloadable knitting pattern here!

The scarf cowl is now online again, for free, here:

Back to our regularly scheduled program: knitting and other fibery stuff. (Hey, a yarn spinner tells stories of all kinds, right?) Here's the Ribby Shell, all completed:

This is my favorite part...the ribbing which seems very flattering! What, you want to see the whole thing? Here it is. I did the flat paneled version of the pattern, so as not to wear overly clinging knitting. I also lack the expression of that model in the pattern photo but hey, there are some things I just can't knit!

I'm not thrilled with this photo of myself. I was uhh, gently glowing and by myself, so it's the best photo I've got. I liked this top so much that it's already been worn and is being washed. I have started to knit this all over again in more stash yarn. Repetition can be soothing, and I love producing something likely to be dang useful even in hot weather.
The specs: Chic Knit's Ribby Shell, knit with a Greek cotton yarn that seems a lot like Tahki Cotton Classic (purchased in Crete with a Greek label, so who knows) on #3 and 4's. It took about 3 weeks, but I was knitting other things too. The next version of this tank will use both that cotton and some bamboo yarn I have around. I'm also beginning to think about knitting with wool again. It will get cool. Someday.
Ehh, what about designing, you ask? I did 5 book projects this summer. I am on a break.