Monday, June 30, 2008

Yarn Shops in Grand Junction

Last week, we drove to Deer Valley, Utah (near Salt Lake City) to visit friends. I enjoyed checking out the sights along the way, and the yarn shops in Grand Junction on the way back.
The first thing I noticed was that the Wyoming and Utah mountains are about two months behind the Colorado mountains, spring-wise. They've had a long, cold winter and have just broken out into spring. I found this pretty little bunch of flowers at a campground when we drove through Wyoming on the way over.
There's a rest stop in Wyoming on I-80, somewhere between Rawlins and Green River, and it is filled with prairie dogs. It turned out to be a great place to stop, especially for those traveling with children.
K and I have been fascinated with prairie dogs since we first saw them in Colorado, but we've never been able to get close to any of them. These at the rest stop will come right up to you, probably because the people with children were feeding them.
We stopped at Green River to visit Flaming Gorge. The next photo is of Firehole Canyon there.
We returned by way of Grand Junction, and I took the opportunity to check out the yarn shops there. I often visit Mapmuse and pick out a yarn shop or two to visit on any trip I take. Unfortunately for my yarn budget, I feel obligated to purchase something when I step through the doors.
I was somewhat relieved to find that the first shop we came to was on summer hours and was closed that day. It is called Tangle and is in a small wood-framed house a block off the main highway. Now that I've looked at their website, I'm disappointed I didn't get to go in. They might have been the best of all.
From there, it was just a few blocks to the Needle Cottage. It is located in the very cute and picturesque downtown Grand Junction. K pointed out that they must do a big wedding business there, since there are shops for bridal dresses and tuxedos alongside the usual restaurants and small shops--perhaps people come over from Utah to get married?
The Needle Cottage is small, but has a nice selection of basic yarn, along with 'art' yarns. As you would guess from the name, they also sell tapestry yarn. (I am ignorant of the product, so I could be wrong about the yarn type.) I got an impression that this shop was reorganizing, since there was someone there who seemed to be discussing purchasing some of the furnishings. I hope they're not closing.
The third shop, The Yarn Store, was on the outskirts of town in a strip mall. This one was full of yarn basics, and many crocheted samples. There was knitting, too, but since I thought that most of the yarn I saw was readily available on line, I was able to control my urge to buy.
I did find some Cascade Indulgence on the sale rack at the Needle Cottage. I wasn't sure why I should get it, but I can never pass up a sale. There was only 5 balls; it's dk weight, so there wasn't enough for a sweater. However, I really liked the color. Once I picked it up I realized that it was so soft I couldn't pass it up. Once I got home with it, I was relieved to find that it was perfect for one of the patterns in my queue--the Gathered Scarf. Even though I have other projects waiting to be finished, I couldn't resist celebrating this fortuitous matching of yarn and pattern by casting on.

Now that I have, this new project, like the new girl in fifth grade (you know, the one that looks like Abigal Breslin in the Kitt Kittredge movie) is occupying all my time. I have to force myself to pick up my nearly-finished Monkey sock, or the back of the Sideways Cardi. Just like all the fifth graders, I would much rather be spending time with the new girl.
She's just so pretty and nice, and considering the facts: I can knit this scarf at twice the speed of the socks; the pattern changes every six rows, so even though I'm knitting plain stockinette or garter, I'm not bored; the new girl wins every time. It is simply going to be a darn nice scarf. I hope I have enough left for a hat in the same stitch pattern.
I can just see that curling edge would make a cute brim.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Leaf Lace Bamboo Top, Hand Knit

It's the height of the spring thaw in the Colorado mountains. The days are warm and the snow is melting away and rushing down the rivers. Pretend for a while that you are sitting with me on the balcony of the Boathouse Cantina which hangs over the rushing waters of the Arkansas. You can sip your favorite drink, enjoy the cool breezes and the sunlight filtering through the trees, and listen to me as I blather along in great detail about my new summer sweater. While you listen and look at the details I point out, it is possible that the soothing sound of the river may distract you. That's ok. I realize sweater details are boring.

I bought the yarn on half-price sale last spring. It is Alchemy Bamboo, which retails for big $$. What I bought has 150 yards to the hank. (What they sell now has 136 yards to the hank.) I bought 6 hanks of the color I liked best; there were only a few color choices left. The color is Persimmon (05f), but there is no dyelot. There's some variations in color in each hank, and distinct variation between hanks. I think these color imperfections will become less obvious with each wash. I got a lot of bleeding whenever I washed this yarn. There was no problem with the dye coming off on my needles. However, I mostly used size 4 Crystal Palace ebony circulars which would not show discoloration since they are black. I did use Brittany birch and Clover bamboo needles for the flat pieces, but they did not discolor either. Dyelot or no, the hanks were different shades. I hoped that a long soak would blend the color and eliminate the obvious lines where I joined a new hank.

No such luck. You can see in this photo (maybe) that there is a line of darker color at the top of my bustline. I'm hoping it will fade out, but I have no idea what to expect, actually.
That's the yarn and needles. Now for the pattern. I originally bought this yarn for the Lace Nightie in the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits. However, I thought the backless nightie was too revealing and planned to knit a more modest version. As I looked at finished versions of the nightie (Rav link), I decided that it wouldn't do. I searched Ravelry and selected two possibilities: the Pintuck Tee(Rav link) and Rosalind. I loved the lace in Rosalind, but prefered the simplicity of the tee, thinking that the empire waist and exposed midriff of Rosalind were not age-appropriate for me.
I began swatching, knowing the swatches would help me decide. The first thing I learned was that Rosalind's purl dot pattern did not show up well in the bamboo. Rosalind is a cotton knit, and the tee is bamboo. I knit the sleeves for Rosalind, planning to meld the two patterns somehow.

I cast on for the tee, starting with six rows of garter stitch instead of the ribbing at the bottom. (Ugh-ribbing, ribbing is very tiring for this English-style knitter). Then I began the short rows that shape the curved hemline. "That's different", I thought, using short rows instead of increases, and it lets you keep knitting in the round. The short rows are more visible in the smooth bamboo than they would be in a fuzzier yarn, but they work well enough. The waist shaping is placed along two lines in the middle of the shirt rather than at the side seams, and provides a nice detail in the plain stockinette of the front. I cruised along, decreasing and then increasing while knitting plain stockinette in the round. Then I reached the point where I should bind off for the armholes. I had made notes about the sleeves because I knew the armsyce had to match the sleeve cap. However, the tee instructions called for short rows to shape the armsyce. I was a bit baffled, but I knit on through, knowing that if the armsyce was the right size, the shaping in the drapey bamboo would be a minor point.

The back was easy, then came the front. This time the armhole short rows were combined with more short rows to shape the bib inset. I was so distracted by the short rows, I didn't give a thought to the bib placement. It is too high for my taste. I just didn't realize it at the time.
Next, I picked up stitches to knit each side of the bib. I wanted to use the same lace pattern I used for the sleeves, which required charting each half and then altering it to fit the bottom curve of the bib. I was knitting the first half, finishing up the sixth leaf, when I began to wonder how the neckline was shaped. All I had on my lap was my chart--I hadn't looked at the pattern for a while. I decided to check and, !suprise!-- more short rows, starting about 20 rows back from where I was. I frogged back, grateful there was a way to end the leaves at the point the pattern called for short rows. I'm glad the yarn frogs well.
The rest was easy. I joined the shoulders with a three-needle bind-off and tried it on. It was way too tight, so I soaked it and hoped for a blocking miracle. If you have heard that bamboo stretches a lot--it's true.
I executed a sewing miracle, and made the sleeves fit the armholes. They were close, I just had to ease the sleeve into it a little. If you heard that bamboo yarn is clingy, well, as you see, that is absolutely true. This yarn would be perfect for a sexy nightie. If feels as though it will make a very cool and comfortable summer tee. However, I think I might be reaching for a shirt to wear over it when I leave the house.
At this moment, however, my fingers are itching for my Crystal Palace dpns. I cast on for those Monkey socks, at long last, using more of that brown Koigu I had stashed. Along with it, I'm knitting and loving the Sideways cardi in Pakucho cotton. I'm so glad I decided to use the sage color. It will make a great Fall sweater.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Knitted Apron Named Flo

I've finished the apron I was knitting, using the Flo pattern from the Spring 2007 issue of Knitscene. I used Pakucho cotton in cream and blue Sugar 'n Cream cotton, mixing in some ecru Peaches 'n Creme to even out the weight of the feather and fan border. On size 8 needles, the skirt of this apron doubled as a great big swatch for the cardigan I plan to knit with Pakucho. The gauge is 18 st x 24 rows/4" in the skirt of the apron.

That's a little large, gauge-wise, for the apron. It is big. I thought it would be gathered by the tulle ties at the waist, but the gathers just make me look thick-waisted; they are out.

For cotton yarn, the Pakucho is pleasant to knit. It isn't too heavy, even with this much fabric.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My last cat

Long ago and far away, I lived with two cats. One cat was MY cat. He was a cat I chose from the home of true cat lovers. These people were so protective of their cats, they brought them out slowly, one by one, over the course of a half-hour or so I spent at their house, chatting about cats and trying to pick one from their latest litter. Each cat they brought out was more beautiful than the last, each more special. I was amazed. They were very protective, but less so as they came to realize that I was a cat lover. I can't blame them for being careful.

As we sat and talked about the cats, the kittens played about me. One, however, did not play. He stayed far away, finally hiding in the bookcase on top of the books, below the bottom of the second to last shelf. I pried him out, and cuddled the little bundle of fur. He looked at me, not scared, not shivering, just cautious. I chose this cat. He wasn't particularly pretty, just a plain grey tabby, but I knew he hid because he was more intelligent. I hoped it meant he was self-reliant and would make a good '0nly' cat.

I was wrong.

This cat was everything I wanted my cat to be. He was tiny and cute at first, and grew into a big beautiful tabby that knew my mind and mood. He also knew what he wanted and was quick to exert his demands. He heard every word I said, and seemed to understand most of them. He was there when I came home from work, he was there when I awoke. He ate what I gave him and did what he was told. He was all I wanted him to be, except he was not happy. My 'only' cat was too needy, too demanding of my attention. He spoke volumes to me, in his own special language of meows and mews and growls and grumbles that told me he was lonely. His demands began to wear upon me, torn as I was between family and job and cat. Time told, and I realized I needed another cat.

About that time, I found the tenants on my farm harboring a litter of stray kittens that had outgrown the cute stage. There were four black cats, basically unloved and uncaring. However, the fifth kitten had something in its favor. It was a perfect Russian Blue look-a-like. Russian Blues are my favorites, so I took this kitten home to my cat. Although he was not as verbose or as intelligent or as refined as my cat, the kitten adapted. He found a house with only one other cat, and he was happy. He provided the company my cat needed.

Their companionship went on for years. My cat was happy with me and the kitten. The kitten was happy eating and enjoying living with my cat. I never became close with the kitten; he was just my cat's cat. The kitten was happy roaming the neighborhood and eating as much as possible. He grew big. He ate at home, he ate at the neighbors. He grew fat. Several neighbors fed him regularly and thought of him as their cat. He wasn't, though, because he always came home to his real master, my cat.

Eventually, the time came for me to move back to my farm. To my surprise, just before I left, one neighbor asked if he could have the (now big) kitten.

I could see that he truly wanted Big Kitten, and understood how hard it was for him to ask for it, especially when he said that his wife hated cats and opposed the adoption. Nonetheless, I reluctantly explained that I was afraid my cat would be heartbroken without Big Kitten. I couldn't see any other way, and I took both cats with me when I moved.

It is a nice farm. The tenants had left, and the two cats and I set up our territories there. The move was an adjustment for the cats, and they were never were quite as home there as I was. Eventually, the change in locale, the outdoor environment, and age took its toll on my cat. I was sad at the parting, and still miss him today. Nothing can quite fill the void left by this cat, who so understood me. Overall though, since I am realistic and have lived with countless cats before, I could not deny it was time. Once he was gone, however, Big Kitten, now grown into a large, always hungry, not too bright, but beautiful, animal, disappeared. Weeks went by while I looked for him without success. Then one day he appeared. I thought that once again he had found a friendly neighbor to 'adopt' him, so I decided to change his collar, as this would be a visible sign that he belonged to someone. It worked. The next day one of my neighbors came by and asked if I had a cat. I said I had a gray one, but he had been missing for a while. She then informed me that the Big Kitten had eaten her rabbit and several of her chickens.

I took the reprobate back to the city, to the home of a friend who lived two blocks away from my old house. He seemed to adjust well. One evening, after he had been back in the city for a week, I was sitting with the Big Kitten at my feet in the yard of my friend's home. Big Kitten suddenly jumped up, as though he had remembered something he forgot to do, and walked away into the woods at the back of the property. He never came back.

Two weeks later, I got a call from another friend. He told me that he knew where Big Kitten was. My old neighbor, who had asked for the kitten two years before, had him. This man was excited at their reunion. Especially, as he explained to our mutual friend, since the cat had walked over 50 miles from a farm in the country, through the huge city, to find him. My friend heard the story, and realized it might be my big kitten that had performed this amazing feat. He had called me to see if it could possibly be true.

I hated to tell him that Big Kitten had only walked two blocks. Even though this cat didn't walk for miles to make it home to the one person who truly loved him, it amazes me still that he found his way back from my friend's house to my old neighbor's house. All the time he was with me, I thought he was dumb. I was so wrong. He had the sense to know where he was wanted.

I told my old neighbor he could keep the cat. A few days later, I went by his house to see Big Kitten. He acted as though didn't know me, and hissed and ran away.

Or maybe he did know me, all too well.

I wonder just how much cats do know, and think much more of them than I used to. I'll never adopt a cat lightly again. So far, that was my last cat.

A true story for your Sunday reading.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One Year Ago

One year ago today, I posted the first entry in this blog. I wrote about my trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, proudly displaying this photo of my yarn haul, and posing the question:
"Will I knit this yarn, or just store it away?"
One year has passed, during which I knit over 25 garments, using around 15,000 yards of yarn. How much of the MDSW yarn did I use? Less than 1,000 yards. The bulk of it is still sitting in the closet. I'm not complaining--yarn in the closet is a good thing, and this is very good yarn.
What I knit is on the bottom row (pure coincidence). From left to right--The rose Permaquid from The Fibre Company made a lovely neckwrap and hat, combined with a ball of Jaeger Merino Chunky. It was gifted and well-received. The lilac Brooks Farm Duet became a wrap that I have never worn. I'm afraid it is too small for a wrap, and has a construction that makes it look strange as a scarf. I'd frog it, but I don't think the Duet would frog well. On the positive side, the pattern is my own, so I could actually sell this wrap/scarf. I used just one hank of the red Chroma dk (also The Fibre Company) in my entrelac scarf and hat, also gifted and well-received. I didn't plan to use the Chroma in that project, but I wanted something softer to mix with the Noro Silk Garden I was expected to use in the entrelac class I took. I have no idea what I'll do with the other two hanks.
Reviewing these few projects and comparing them to what I bought leads one (well, me, for sure, and you, probably) to wonder, "Why?" Why did I buy this yarn? Of course, if you've ever been to a large fiber fest, you know the answer. I knew about the yarn-buying fever that overtakes the usual attendee, and I had a plan. I brought a list of patterns and yarn requirements with me. One of the vendors even told me that I was much more organized than her average customer. I had a plan, but I haven't followed through on the plan. The two big sweater sized lots, the blue and the dark brown, were supposed to be a pullover and a cardigan, respectively. At least that was my plan, but it doesn't explain why I bought glass buttons for a pullover. (!?)
I decided not to use the blue yarn for my Bubble Pullover; it is too scratchy and is the wrong gauge once it is washed. Now that doesn't mean I didn't follow through there, not really. I just bought more yarn and knit the Bubble Pullover with that. The dark brown yarn is ready to be knit. I have selected a pattern, I have swatched, I have considered, I am waiting...waiting to finish what I've decided to knit in the meantime.
Let's just say I had a plan, and the plan has changed. It's my plan, after all. My plan, my hobby, my knitting. I love it, and I'm happy with what I'm doing. If I jump from project to project, change my mind, get rid of yarn I don't want, buy yarn I want, and keep yarn I never use, no one really notices, unless I tell them. In other words, no fuss, no worry, and, unless I starve small children and pets to pay for yarn, or engage other illegal or immoral yarn activities, no consequences that I can see.
It's been a great year. I've enjoyed this little trip down my lane of knitting memories. I'm looking forward to another year. I have a plan, but really, who knows where that plan will go? There will be unexpected events, I'm sure.
Speaking of the unexpected, have you seen the buzz about weaving? I've been making a first-class, low-class effort to ignore it, consistently criticizing everything I've seen posted. I look, I think, "Oh, that's ugly; I'd never wear that; Warping that loom looks like a real chore."...those kind of thoughts, But then, here's the first description of a weaving project to actually make me consider it seriously. Bonus: there's a knit pattern in there, too. (If you're a Cast-on listener, you probably have already seen this.)
There was a loom for sale at the stash sale last weekend. I was tempted, but so was someone else, so I backed away. It's lurking, though, the temptation is lurking. In the meantime, I've got lots of knitting projects planned, and about 25,000 yards of yarn to knit.

Knit a Prism (socks)

Ah, socks, nice hand-knitted socks for me. This is a very welcome, warm and wonderful thing, considering that the overnight temperature here last night was below freezing. (No kidding, in fact right now the temp is 52). I was cold when I went out to take these photos yesterday evening, but my feet were warm. (Before you think I have an oddly-shaped left foot, I should tell you that I'm lifting my heel out of the shoe to show you the pink heel flap and the gusset.
I used three colorways for these socks, alternating two of them and using the third for the heel flap and the toe. My only disappointment is that the two colorways I used were too close together. They mix into an overall brown.
But really, these socks couldn't have been better timed. The day I was finishing the foot on the second sock, I felt something cold on my heel. I looked down and saw a huge hole in the heel of my only pair of brown socks--my much loved and much worn machine-made socks. Now I have a replacement and I will see how long a hand-knit slip-stitch heel lasts.
I wasn't particulary pleased with the slip-stitch heel flap. It is very thick and cushy, and thus it seems as though it will be more durable. However, the slipped stitches pull the heel in a bit, making the sock fit tightly around my ankle. I had to add a few stitches when I picked up around the flap. I usually add stitches at the corners, and knit them together to avoid holes. This time I had to leave them in to keep the instep from stretching out.

Sock details:

Prism pattern + Koigu KPPPM yarn + size 1 Crystal Palace dpns. The only modifications I made were to add one stitch between each slipped stitch, requiring 65 stitches in total, then increasing to 68 after the heel flap. I added the stitch between to space out the slipped stitches, after having seen this modification on Ravelry.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mad, fiber-feeding frenzy

Saturday started out as a great day, just a bit windy. My neighbor's tree has leafed out. Later, it will be a just a little green tree, but now it is a spring traffic-stopper on our corner. The pretty morning was the beginning of a good day.
The local fiber guild's annual stash sale was a big success, at least for me. I sold almost everything I brought! I'm so surprised and pleased. My stash is cleaned out, and I am expecting to come out ahead, even after I deduct what I spent at the sale.
Of course, I bought more yarn. There were bargains--some dk weight cotton, a hank of bulky wool in a gorgeous soft brown, and my splurge of the day, two hanks of silk/wool blend, hand-dyed in the colors of softly worn blue jeans.
The guild president (the same temptress who sells the luscious better-than-cashmere alpaca) had a bin full of yarn. I had located a couple of pattern possibilities for the hank of Goosebump yarn I bought from her at the Pagosa Springs fiber fest. The Eye of Partridge shawl pattern makes a small neckscarf-type shawl, and would give the soft alpaca some shape. If the yarn is too bulky for that pattern, I might try the Sunray (Rav link). In my scarf-pattern browsing, I've been admiring the various examples of Veronik Avery's Lace Ribbon Scarf on the 'net, and had decided I needed to buy yarn for it. Funny how one project inspires another...
I dug around in the sale bin until I found this potentially compatible yarn for the lace ribbon. I think there's about 400 yards. I'm going to swatch and see if works out. I might also swatch for the gathered scarf before I decide, even though the gathered scarf takes more yarn.
A nice lightweight scarf would be a good travel project, and would be a break from sock-knitting. I don't have any real traveling planned, just a day-trip or two. The rafting fest is this week, starting Thursday and going through the weekend. The weather prediction is for cool and sunny. Nice weather for knitting and watching rafts paddle by, I hope. Last year's festival was fun, according to my blog entry.
The river is clearing up a bit, which makes it prettier, although still high and swift.
However, spring is truly here in the Colorado mountains. The deer are leaving town for the hills, and the mountain passes are opening. Proof abounds, especially in my yard, where my columbines have bloomed. Last year, when we first bought this house, the flower beds were filled with odd (to me) plants. I wasn't sure what was a weed and what was worth keeping. After a visit to the local garden club, I found out that I had a lot of columbine plants. I eagerly waited to find out what color they were, but was disappointed. They never bloomed. This year, after last's summer's sprinkling and fertilizing, and this past winter's heavy snow, they have all bloomed beautifully. I'd say they are the state flower, the lavender blue columbine. I think I have some other colors, but they haven't bloomed yet.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"No take pictures!"

Ok, not all knitting today; it's Sunday, and I have a story for you. If you want the knitting, skip to the end.
Several years ago, K and I drove through New Mexico on a rather informal winery tour. We meandered through the state, taking frequent detours to visit small local wineries. Near the end of our trip, our route took us off the interstate onto a narrow road that wound along a small stream. There were a few farms, then a small town. We drove past what looked like the oldest adobe building we had ever seen. I was so intrigued by the structure, we had to stop and go back.
There were bars on the windows (the windows are on the side), and at the time there was a poster tacked to the door. The poster announced a benefit for the local volunteer fire department. I thought perhaps the building had formerly been the local jail, figuring that a poster about a public event indicated that it was a public building. It made sense--I've seen abandoned jails in small towns before.

After reading the poster, and looking around a bit, I took a picture of K standing on the front step. As we were about to walk back to the car, the door suddenly opened and a small man stood there. He looked angry. "You take picture?" he asked. We stared at him. I'm sure our mouths were open. After all, the last thing I expected was that someone would come out of what I thought was an abandoned building.

"NO TAKE PICTURES!" he declared, waving his arms as though to shoo us away. At that, we turned and walked, rather rapidly, to the car, and left. Once underway, an exchanged glance was all it took to reduce us to giddy laughter. I felt bad about intruding on his privacy, but our intrusion was completely unintended. In fact, I felt a little triumphant that I had what I knew was a good photo, and one that would be a conversation piece for us. My camera was a good one, and that photo would be a winner.

I just didn't count on the karma.

We drove on to the winery, and then headed home. I hadn't finished the roll of film in the camera (Yes, film--I told you this was several years ago), so I put it aside, planning on getting it developed as soon as I took the rest of the photos. In a couple of days, when a friend asked to borrow the camera for a special event, I was happy to oblige, eager to use up the film so that I could get the photos developed.

My friend's event was a public one, with a wide variety of people present. She used up the roll of film, then put the camera in her backpack and put the backpack down. When she came back to get it, the camera was missing. My camera had been stolen. There's that karma thing. My good camera was gone, and I had lost my photo of K in front of the adobe house. It was as though the little man had reached across the states and snatched back the picture of his house. For years, we talked about going back there. We thought we knew where it was, but even though we drove through New Mexico a couple of times since, we never found it...

Until this last trip, when we drove to Pagosa Springs from Texas. As we left the interstate to head north, I began to feel as though I was watching a movie I'd seen before. I saw a sign advertising a winery ahead. K said he remembered the road, and thought we would see the house soon. Eagerly we peered around every turn, and at last we came to it. We drove back and forth in front of the house, afraid to stop. What if we disturbed the man again? That would be horrible. But we wanted a photo. On the third pass, we parked the car and took a little look around. No one was in sight. We cautiously approached and saw that there was a padlock on the front door. Either the little man was away, and the padlock was his way of locking the old door, or he hadn't been at home for some time. I took this photo, but that's all. I didn't dare take one of K on the doorstep again. I could still hear the angry "No take pictures!" from years before.
We left, continuing on our way to Pagosa. Around another bend in the road, K spotted this coyote. Somehow, this scene matched the desolation of the unoccupied adobe house.