Monday, October 31, 2011

Hooker me... demonstrating at the farmer's market

I'll be demonstrating traditional rug hooking Saturday, November 5th from 11am-3pm at the Union Square Farmer's Market (the big one!). It's part of the program called Urban Homesteading. Other's will be spinning (including friends of mine, one of whom will be using my wheel) and knitting. There will also be canning experts, mushroom growers, sandal making, quilting and a lot more.

From the market's FB page,

"Come join us for our Homesteading Fair! An exposition of heirloom skills -- from canning to spinning wool -- come learn from a wonderful array of experts whose knowledge and skills are a perfect compliment to the season as we prepare for cooler months ahead."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Knit wise... the baby blanket is finished

Just finished tying the front and back together. It has turned out a pretty little quilt and I'm well pleased by it. The dimenstions are slightly over 36"x36". It was worth taking the time to knit the backing; makes it all the more special. I took a few chances and I think they paid off. I wish I could explain how lovely it feels to hold... When I was a child we called quilts and duvets "puffs", "I need a puff for my bed" was commonly heard about the house in the late fall. That's what this baby blanket feels like: A puff. :) Gotta ship it off asap. I have a hunch they're going to need it pronto. (See last photo)

The front. I decided to have the ties in the back because I did not want to destroy the impressionistic feel of the Noro front.

The back with the ties in place.

The edge on the front side. It shows how I picked up and knit along the perpendicular knitting, and picked up and knit plus knit through the back of the picked up stitch along the parallel stitches. There is only 1 or 2 rows of knitting before the purl row which turns the knitting onto the backside.

Based on the weather we're having here in NYC I think they in Vermont will make good use of this puff soon. I snapped this picture out my front window early this afternoon! It's October 29!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soap... second batch: a new recipe

I made soap over the weekend -- trying out a new recipe. The last soap I made was Oatmeal and I've really been enjoying it. Feels very nice to the skin. I don't ever want to go back to commercial "soaps" if I can help it. From what I've read they aren't really soap anyway, they're detergents made with petroleum products. Ugh.

[Climbing off my soap box now...]

Sorry for the bad pun, I couldn't help it.

The recipe I made on Saturday is called Nicolle's Basic Soap and I found it on a site called Soapnuts. It contains more varied oils than the oatmeal soap I made last time including castor oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil and palm oil.

Different oils contribute different properties to a soap. Some oils contribute to the softness of the soap, some to rampant lather, some to hardness, etc. From what I read, the trick in devising recipes is to find a combination that results in a soap with the properties you like, along with determining the correct amount of lye to "saponify" the oils. Too much or too little lye is a recipe for disaster.

Saponification is the chemical process which oil & lye undergo to create soap. It's like magic! Who would think these substances would make soap when stirred together under the right conditions?

There are several on-line charts listing the soap making properties of several oils. There are also some "lye calculators" which will calculate the amount of lye needed to saponify a certain amount of a certain type of oil. I imagine these calculators depend on data reaped from centuries of soap making.

I have heard that olive oil takes longer to achieve the state called "trace" than other oils and indeed it took me a while of stirring before I felt ready to pour. Even at that I'd really only reached a faint trace. But it worked. The soap is now unmolded and sitting to cure for the next 4 weeks.

The unmolding was a problem. I put the molded soap in the freezer for 30 minutes thinking that was long enough. Apparently, it wasn't. I had a real hard time getting them to budge from their molds and a few came out with a nick or two. Next time I will know to grease the molds before hand. Live and learn. After struggling too long I decided to put them back in the freezer for a while. That did the trick. They popped right out after that.

I think my future soap making will involve the use of a large rectangular mold to make one large bar which will then be cut into slices. But I'll have to think of a way to spice it up a bit. Rectangular soap is so common! ;)

I divided my batch into three and put lavendar buds in one portion, sweet orange essential oil with some ground up cloves (not enough--I'll learn--eventually) in another, and grapefruit essential oil in the third. About 2 lbs. in all.

Saturday's soap:

Knit wise... a sneak peak...

The knitting on the baby blanket is done. The back was an undertaking but it was really good practice for my continental style knitting. Continental sure goes fast. I am by default an English style knitter but for large expanses I like the economy of movement in continental style. I'm thinking that one of these days I'll practice some continental purling so I can get more rounded in that respect.

I am very happy with the way it's turning out. I had to increase the rate of decreases for the last 20 or 30 rounds. It would have ended up puckered otherwise. I also, half by accident, decided to duplicate stitch embroider the little girl's name and birthdate on the back. It happened because I ran out of the burgandy color and didn't feel I could stop and wait till I could obtain some more (the store I purchased it at had only 2 skeins). So I decided to put in a strip of grey and as that was being manifest the idea of embroidery came to me. As it turns out, on my next visit to the yarn store the shelf had been restocked with burgandy. Charts for the letters were plucked out of Nicky Epstein's book, Cover Up.

I just took the blanket out of a Eucalan bath and it is pinned out to dry. Here's a look at the backing--all wet. I'll have complete pics in a few days. :) (Note: I blurred out the last name for privacy's sake.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fiber wise... The NY Sheep and Wool festival... a few more pictures

The previous post contains several pics of my trip to the festival and you can read about my trip in the post before that one.

Some alpacas:

A real beauty!:

Some begonias on the grounds:

Some fish:

Rug wool :) :

The fair closes at 5pm. My train back to the city leaves Rhinecliff at 6:51 so I had a bit of time to spend in downtown Rhinebeck which is just a few blocks from the fair grounds. I stopped for pizza before calling the taxi driver to take me back to the Amtrak station. Downtown Rhinebeck:

The famous Beekman Arms Inn in downtown Rhinebeck. The oldest Inn in the US, it has operated continuously since 1766:

As I was waiting on the platform for my train back to NYC, from the day's saturation of yarns and rovings, my world had become a blur of color:

Here is what I came home with:

A day to remember.

Fiber wise... The NY Sheep and Wool festival... pictures

These are my pics from the NY Sheep and Wool festival. My impressions are in the post previous to this one.

In the sheep barn... They are such lovely animals... Several breeds on display...

What a sweety:

A gorgeous sheep:

I love this color:

A beautiful autumn border next to one of the vendor buildings:

Rug hooking!:

Yours truly with someone I went to high school with. (I'm wearing my hand spun hat, the one that I spun all over the place! :) ):

Some roving to choose from. (Bet you can't pick just one! ;) ):

A pretty alpaca. They seem so self-assured :):

A part of the grounds where food may be had:

A pretty little sculpture amongst the plantings:

Some fiber:

The one looks utterly exhausted!:

Ever so lovely. So 'sheepish' aren't they? :)

This sheep is so beautiful. His (or her--I didn't check) face is a deep caramel color. Very much enjoyed my attention too:

This funny one hopped into the bin!:

The pumpkin carver is a bit of a fixture at the festival:

Some yarn:

An angora rabbit. They're not trained for photoshoots! Took me several tries to get this one:

Some items entered for judging:

More... gorgeous weaving!!:

More to come...

Fiber wise... The NY Sheep and Wool festival

I'm still riding high from my trip to the NY Sheep and Wool festival yesterday. It hit the spot--big time. It put me in touch with so many things I love and enjoy: The beautiful autumn country side--colorful leaves and earthy smells. The serenity of sheep and alpacas, and the excitement of so much fiber, roving and yarn! Craftsmen and women. Not to mention wheels, spindles, cards and drums! Food, lovely company, and exquisite handiwork.

There are several ways to get to the festival from NYC without a car. For one, there are several knitting groups around town that organize buses. I took a bus the first year I went to Rhinebeck. It was fun. Very well organized and very well run by Brooklyn General. They haven't sponsored a bus these past few years, to my disappointment. There is also Metro North rail road which offers a package deal to Poughkeepsie where a special bus awaits to whisk one to the Rhinebeck fair grounds. I took Amtrak. I like it because it's more comfortable than either a bus or Metro North and it stops in Rhinecliff, which is not very far from the fair grounds. It means arranging for a taxi to get from the train station to the festival and I learned from last year to arrange this in advance. I called on Friday and was put in touch with someone who would be at the station waiting for me. A little preparation ahead of time contributes quite a bit to peace of mind and goes a long way to making the trip a relaxing and enjoyable one.

The weather was to my liking--cool but not cold. There were a couple of passing showers, each about 2-minutes long. One was the perfect excuse to stop for an ice cream break. The other was near a roof, as I was enjoying lunch with a high school classmate which I met up with.

Personally, I felt the festival was better this year than last. I don't know how that can be since it's hard to imagine surpassing it at all, one year to the next. Maybe it's that I was more relaxed this year--this being my 3rd trip? Whatever the reason, I had a perfect day. Beautiful and fulfilling in many ways and on many levels.

The sheep were so beautiful I wanted to cry. Several of them enjoyed my attention and head rubs. A couple were a bit too shy. Something about a sheep just makes me want to get down and hug them. Perhaps because they give us so much. They're a blessing.

The samples of knitting and weaving I saw left me in awe. Does not knitting and weaving (and ALL craft) bestow great dignity on the human race? When I set my eyes on a piece of masterful craftsmanship something stirs very deep inside and leaves me speechless. Tears well up, a smile breaks forth, and a deep breath heightens an ecstasy of joy. Sigh.

It goes without saying: there was yarn and there was fiber. More than one can imagine in one place! So much fiber and yarn. Every imaginable color and color combination. Every imaginable preparation. Every imaginable (and some not pre-imagined!) weights.

And the people. Beautiful people... The fiber art crowd is a comfortable and pleasant crowd to be around. That is it.

The day did not pass without a few surpises... I got myself to several spindle vendors and reflexively ooh'd and aah'd over their goods. Yet--to my surprise--I wasn't moved to make a purchase! I did not feel a strong need for another spindle. Funny, because just Friday I had quite decided I'd get a new one. But when the moment came I realized that the spindles I own are suiting me well and that I'd much rather spend on fiber. Surprise! :) And I made a last minute decision yesterday morning to wear a hat which I hand spun.

I purchased some Spinner's Hill. I think it makes a very useful yarn and it's really enjoyable to spin. I also picked up some merino in hand painted roving form. Some wool for a rug. Some chocolate dipped maple walnut fudge--to die for--from Mapleland Farms. I'm glad I got their web address because I'm going to have to get more of this! Some taffy (love the stuff). A few hand made soaps and some special wooden dishes for hand made soap.

Made good progress on the baby blanket on the trip to and fro.

I got home last evening around 10ish feeling elated and wholly satisfied.

Pictures in next post...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fiber wise... NY Sheep & Wool Festival

I'm all set for tomorrow. I discovered that we have a Coinstar coin cash-in machine in my neighborhood not far from me. I walked over this afternoon with a little less than half of the dimes I've been saving and walked away with $45! That means I have about $100 in dimes sitting at home--not to mention all the nickels (and pennies!) I have. Looks like I'll be able to purchase that little something special at Rhinebeck after all. Happy.

The weather is not forecast to be very cool so the sweater will stay at home. Instead, I'll don one of my Anna Zilboorg fanciful hats. A beret I knit a few years ago...

I should have a full report of the festival when I return. See you then...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Knit wise... the herringbone raglan...

Maybe this picture will motivate me to lose a few pounds... I just ate dinner... oh well I'll have to wait till tomorrow to start dieting... darn. ;)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Knit wise... The herringbone raglan...

The NY Sheep and Wool festival is next weekend! Let joy be unconfined! :)

The knitting for this sweater was finished a while ago. It was interrupted several times. It was also almost entirely knit on the subway. I think I finished the sleeves a couple of weeks ago.

I am hoping to wear it to Rhinebeck next Saturday so this weekend is construction time. This evening I attached the front and back to each other and got one sleeve attached. Tomorrow I will attach the other sleeve, close the sleeves' undersides, and then knit the collar.

I'm very excited about the festival. Reserved an Amtrak ticket for next Saturday. My focus this year will be on 1) obtaining some wool for the harvest rug I started this summer, 2) obtaining some roving from Spinner's Hill, 3) visiting, hugging and enjoying the company of sheep, 4) fresh air and colorful leaves, 5) Ooohing and Aaahing over everything, 6) maybe picking up something a little special--maybe a spindle, don't know yet. Looking forward to it! :)

Knit wise... taking a break from the blanket

Last week I took a 2-day break from the blanket to knit another of Anna Zilboorg's fabulous hats. The pattern is called Egyptian and appears in her book, "45 Fine & Fanciful Hats to Knit" (1997, Lark Books). Great book.

I used my own colors. The yarn is Harrisville Designs' New England Highland. I seldom see Harrisville mentioned and personally I feel they might be under appreciated. It's a wonderfully woolen yarn in a wide range of gorgeous colors. It makes fantastic hats and any other winter outerwear garmets. I've used it for all my hats.

I just blocked the hat this afternoon after I got back from a quick trip to the local sewing supply store to pick up a length of boning which is used to open up the hat's plateau.

It certainly is quite fanciful and I'm not sure which occasions I will want to don it for, but I'm sure it will make a debut at some point... it's quite dramatic! :)

Knit wise... the baby blanket

Well good golly! Had trouble getting back into my account this evening. Finally figured out that I had to re-enable a bunch of cookies that I blocked last week. I don't let just any old web site store cookies on my computer and I do an occasional wipe-out of all cookies. I also reviewed my list of 'acceptable' sites last week and blocked many of them. Didn't realize a few of those sites were blogspot's and google's. As a developer I'm not keen on cookies. They violate the concept of stateless applications.


I've been keeping lots of company with knit and purl. Aren't they a lovely couple? I made up my mind to line the back of the baby blanket and decided to knit the backing. I picked up a soft merino wool for it. Softer than the Noro which makes up the front. It will be a toasty warm blanket... just what Vermont winters call for. The color is a deep burgandy, almost maroon. There is a lot of grey in the blanket and that was my first choice for the back, but for a baby blanket? I couldn't do grey. The sweet baby girl has entered this world--isn't it awesome? The miracle of birth. I would have liked to use magenta but it would have been too bright and would have fought with many of the other colors in the blanket. I think this maroon is a good marriage of grey and red. Can't show much more than this blob of blanket since it's on circulars while I knit the backing.

I picked up stitches along the four sides, picking up and knitting the groups of 7 stitches perpendicular to the edge -- and -- picking up and knitting plus also knitting into the back of the stiches parallel to the edge because they needed a little extra depth to create an even edge around the blanket. I think I knit 2 rounds before doing a round of knit followed by a round of purl to create the turn. Now I'm doing 4 mitered squares on each corner. Hoping I will end up in the center, but will keep my focus on the rate of decrease and make adjustments as necessary.

After I block it I will tie the back and front together at several points to help keep it a coherent whole.

The blob: