Friday, December 16, 2011

Putting the Term to Bed

My Christmas Card
Warning:  Limited fiber content!  Scroll down to skip the day job related blather.

When one works in education, the year is measured in semesters. Yes, there are months and weeks, but there are mid terms and summer sessions and other ways to mark the passing of time:  Registration, Drop/Add, Last Day to Withdraw. This term has been quite a challenge as I took on a Freshman seminar.  Many schools have this course:  A wide-ranging introduction to college and (in our case) the liberal arts, discussion of the summer reading assignment, etc. plus whatever content the instructor chooses.  Most professors use their area of expertise:  sociology, world religions, American history.  Others focus on study skills and time management.  The goal is the same:  to ensure that first year students make the transition from high school to college and know what support services are available to them.  They get out of their dorm rooms and become part of the college community:  taking classes, actually studying, going to different events on campus.

This year I was recruited late to teach this course - about a week before school started.  The students who registered for Section 21 were late registrants as well, for a number of reasons.  About 1/2 dozen lived far from campus and didn't attend any of the early registration events held during the summer.  Other students were recruited late to play on different sports teams; still others decided in August to go to college.  All in all, a very diverse group:  African-American & white, 3 times for men than women, about half from North Carolina, plus students from Florida, Pennsylvania, British Columbia, Oregon and a few more states.  Most students play a sport:  I had students athletes who swim, play soccer, football and baseball, run track. 

When I was deciding whether to take on this course, my colleagues gave me this advice:  It's a huge amount of work, but it is the most rewarding thing that you can do.  Well, they were right on both counts.  It was a colossal amount of work.  I had to pull together a new course with very little prep time.  I made my content analyzing primary sources - - it is my actual job. I was absolutely terrified of the advising component - I could ruin their lives! It is the busiest time of year for my 'real' job - in-school workshops for teachers as well as high season for Smoky Mountain Fibers.

Turns out, I loved the kids.  They were charming, energetic, bright, passionate about that they like.  Except for a few exceptions, they also had terrible study and time management skills, hated to read, were addicted to their phones.  In other words, they were 18 year olds, most away from home for the first time.  Again, with exceptions - they were excellent at factual recall, not so good with synthesizing what they learned.  Most of them got through high school without ever cracking a book.  They also found out the hard way that that wasn't going to cut it any more.  But the semester is over and the grades are in.  There were a few D's and a few F's and one young man whose wake up call came too late - so it's academic probation for him.

Will I teach it next year?  I doubt they'll ask me - I feel I made a mess of it.  On the other hand, I'll be at least a year smarter and would certainly benefit from this year's experience.  My colleagues insist that I'll be asked to do it again.  Warm body and all.  We shall see...

Requisite Fiber Content:   I am one hat and 4 days away from 50 Hats in 50 Days.  Actually since I have 2 hats and a pair of fingerless gloves on the needles, I'm about there.  I'll finish at least #50 this evening - a dark brown tweedy hand spun in my Trailside pattern.  I am looking forward to 2 weeks off to knit a few gifts, then stuff for me.  I'll also take a little trip, get some exercise, read some good books (or trash!), card wool for spinning, put the studio back together, and get a bit ahead on my Etsy shop that I have been letting run itself (see Freshman class above).  The list is making itself!

My relationship of the last 6 years ended amicably of late, so I am regaining some space in my house.  Although I'm a tiny bit lonely and the gourmet meals are no longer coming out of the kitchen, I'm enjoying cleaning out closets and dressers drawers.  My waistline will benefit from lighter and earlier dinners as well. My independent spirit is happy to be single again!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Close

  1. Almost to the end of 50 Hats in 50 Days.  Last evening I completed hat #44, an olive green Windy City.
  2. It's Friday afternoon and the weekend dyeing will be the many shades we call green:  bright, pale, grassy, mossy, turquoise, loden, chartreuse, and a few multi-tonals.
  3. The semester is coming to an end.  Though there are still some finals to give and grade and a few portfolios to review and a student video to tinker with and grant work to complete, I am putting this one to bed.
  4. It's nearly Christmas and that means I'll travel to Portland, OR to see my sister and her family whom I totally love.  I don't see them often enough so we hardly stop talking except to eat!  The kids will be bigger and the voices deeper.  Scary!
  5. I changed my Facebook page from 'In a relationship' to 'Single,' but then hid it. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Still Knitting

This is the time of year when I knit a lot of hats.  Although I try to knit throughout the year, it seems that it catches up with me about now.  Shops want hats, matching hat & scarf sets and this year, fingerless mitts.  I set a goal of 50 hats in 50 days but I slid a bit behind this week.  I shifted to a couple pair of fingerless mitts (aka texting mitts) that took longer to make than hats, but they are selling nicely at one of my customer-galleries, so I promised a few more pair.

My studio is a total disaster.  This is the view from the wide end of the ironing board.  Lots of yarns, grouped by color.  Some a re little bits and pieces; others are full (or nearly full) skeins.  As I get yarns matched up, they go into bags and the bags go into a tub.  Then I can grab a bag without thinking too much and knit a hat.  By the time I get to the bottom of the tub, I have forgotten what I put in and there are always a few nice surprises.

But this is the view from the other end of the ironing board.  It's a nice stack of hats in red, orange, pink, purple, and a wee touch of green.  There are even some naturals in there.  I made my hat tracking system even easier this year by using Google docs instead of Excel.  I can get to my spreadsheet from any computer and although it isn't totally fabulous, there is nothing that I wanted to do that I wasn't able to accomplish.

In the first 30 days of the challenge, I knit 36 hats and 2 pair of texting mitts.  Though not a world record by any means, (and I just admitted to slacking off), still this is acceptable progress.  I'll be calling a contra dance tonight, so I'll take a bit of knitting.  I have a preference for hats, mostly because circular knitting is easy and mindless.  I have one on the needles at about the 1/2 way point, but as it has a slightly fussy stitch pattern, I think I may need to cast on something simpler.  I'm talking about you, Windy City!

Monday, November 28, 2011

And a Rainbow Too!

Rainbow  - a fine view from the office
It was a lovely and quiet Thanksgiving at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers.  I went to a potluck dinner with friends - good food, fine company and decent conversation.  Best thing about a potluck at someone else's house is that you do not have any leftovers that you don't want.  I took home the remainder of my broccoli vinaigrette and a dollop of cranberry compote and that pretty much hit the spot.  I got a bit of exercise every day and contributed to the great pile of hats that is growing and then shrinking as they find their way to stores.  In the first 27 days of November, I have knit 35 hats, with another on the needles.  Sally at the Locally Grown Gallery also sold 2 pair of fingerless mitts and is clamoring more, so I shall shift my focus from hats to mitts.  But since I made the rules, I get to break them.  So a pair of mitts counts as one hat in the 50 Hats in 50 Days Hat-A-Thon.  At least so far.  Seems reasonable.

The best part of the Thanksgiving break was just that - a break.  As much as I love my work, a break is nice to, particularly when it is spent in creative work and goofing off a bit.  I've recently gotten interested in Monarch of the Glen, a BBC series that ended in 2005 but is still available on Netflix. With lovely scenery, charming characters, occasional country dances, sheep and hunky guys in kilts, it's an easy watch while knitting or spinning.

The rainbow that you see here was our reward for coming back to work.  Just a few week before the semester ends, so it's all over but the grading.  Grant work is all planning for next term and taking care of the financial reporting.  Looking forward to the next break!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Saturday Hike
Western North Carolina is a leaf lookers paradise.  I have a 20 minute commute  - both ways every weekday - to look at the leaves, the flowers, the clouds, the snow - whatever.  I love my drive - it gives me a chance to admire the beauty that I see around me every day.  But I really like to get out of the car to see my environment with out a windshield between us.

On Saturday my sweetie and I took a little walk through Gorges State Park and onto Forest Service land to bag a lovely waterfall.  Rainbow Falls is a 150 foot waterfall on the Horsepasture River in Jackson County, NC.  It's about a 3 mile roundtrip hike and although rated strenuous, we rather disagreed.  The trial to the base of the falls is not too well defined, so footing was a bit tricky.  Both the bottom and the top of the Falls are quite lovely.  The water was cold, but the sun was warm and only a bit breezy.

Always the negotiator, we took my car, but my sweetie drove so I could knit.  Hats of course. 1.7 hats, bringing the November total to 8.  A fine hike!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hat Season Returns

Last year at about this time, I realized that hat season was back and with it the need to have lots of hats available to my gallery customers.  At that time I challenged myself to knit 30 hats in 30 days.  I did - plus kept knitting untill I knit about 50 hats between early November and Christmas.  I'm hoping to do the same this year.

I spent a bit of time last weekend making up hat kits.  Matching yarns to patterns of my own design, I can now grab a bag and knit a hat. I got a headstart, having knit about 6 hats already this week.  So this weekend, I'll start a spreadsheet to log my production.  I brought a kit to work today - a pink & teal 'Show Off' hat.

If you are short on things to do, keep an eye on this site to track Hat-a-Thon 2011. I'l be posting my progress toward my new lofty goal - 50 Hats in 50 Days!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Was So Busy I Forgot to Blog

Yes, it's been a long time since last I blogged.  I haven't given up, life has just gotten in the way.  So a few random bits...

SAFF has come and gone in the loveliest way.  With a zillion changes that all kicked in a few weeks before our regional fiber festival, the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair has been put to bed for another year.  While everything wasn't perfect, it was really quite lovely.  The animals were there in full fleece - lots of sheep and llamas, a few angora goats, the charming alpacas.  The people were there too, most friendly, a few crazies, but pretty much everybody smiling and glowing to be with like-minded people and lots of yarn and fiber.  Thanks to everyone who came by my booth - I got to know a few people who I only 'knew' online before. 

I've been spinning and knitting regularly.  Yarn and hats have becoming and I have the trashed studio to prove it.  This morning I needed to find something to wear that did not require ironing as the ironging board is covered with yarn.  I had a booth at the Madison County (NC) Heritage Festival on a very chilly Saturday.

High on last weekend's agenda was to kit up yarn for hats - a very messy process that apparently involves pulling every skein of yarn out of the tub or drawer or basket that it resides in and grouping it with any possible related color, texture or weight, looking at it in several different light sources and then putting 2 or 3 or 4 yarns in a bag to be knit up at a later date.  Then I can just grab a bag and knit at hat.  I take a few to work for lunch hour knitting, so I can not work about thinking too much.

I really can only blame the blog silence on my day job.  Love my day job - I am very lucky to have a job that I like, but both halves of my work-self have been running on overdrive lately.  My grant work has been very busy as I have been working with a school district who has been selected to be a pilot school implementing the new Social Studies standards (for non-educators, I know this sounds like gibberish) in addition to the regular stuff I do.  My undergrad classes have also been kicking my bum.  As everyone who does grant-based work knows, your job is only as secure as your current funding.  Although it hasn't happened yet, I took on an additional class as a bit of job security in case this grant funding is reduced.  I love the classes and my students, but it's a struggle to keep all the balls in the air.  The main balls that have dropped are this blog and the garden.  I did plant some salad greens, but I've let nature take care of the rest.

But as midterm is behind us and most of my workshops are completed, so I can put a bit more energy into the fiber-y part of my life. Back to dyeing, back to the Etsy shop, back to the blog.  And I'm happy to be back!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sampson's Fleece

This weekend I attended my favorite part of the Mountain State Fair, the regional fair for Western North Carolina. Saturday was a busy day, but since the fleece show is the first order of the day, it fit quite nicely.  We got there while judging is still going on and I met up with Tami.  Tami runs the sheep show for SAFF and raises mostly Border Leicester sheep.    She had only entered a couple of fleeces, in the show but took a first & second in natural colored Border Leicester.  I took home Sampson's fleece, the blue ribbon winner.  It is soft and sweet in a lovely grey with brown tips.  It isn't very big - maybe 2 pounds and I already washed about half of it.  This will be my demo fleece at the Madison County Heritage Festival where I take my drum carder and let kids run the drum carder.

So what will I do with this not-very-big fleece? Well, I'm not sure.  My guess is that it will become yarn that will become hats that will go out in the universe.  In the mean time this will be my demo fleece at the Madison County Heritage Festival where I take my drum carder and let kids do a bit of carding.  It's a little Tom Sawyer-ish, but everybody enjoys it, including me.

In any case, I will happily wash, pick, card and spin this lovely fleece.  Thanks, Sampson and Tami!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sheep to Shawl

As the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) gets closer, we are still looking for some teams to compete in the Sheep to Shawl competition on Saturday, October 22, 2011.  A friendly competition, but there is a bit of money involved - - $100 to the winning team.  Just gather 6 like minded individuals to card and spin a bit of yarn and weave a beautiful shawl.  All in a day in front of a healthy number of fans in the delightfully rustic sales arena of the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center. 

All it takes is one weaver and a pre-warped loom, 4 spinners with their trusty wheels & carders (including one drum carder if you like),  and an educational liaison.  That's a fancy word for announcer.  That lucky person gets to tell the crowd what is going on as the fleece is sorted, picked, fluffed, carded, spun, plied? and woven.  It should be plenty of fun, but we need you to join us!

Does your guild, school, yarn shop or even Ravelry group have a team of 6 individuals ready to step up to the challenge of transforming a fleece - carding, spinning and weaving it - into a beautiful shawl in just a few hours?

If so, please contact me!!  I am the demonstration coordinator at this year's SAFF.  That means I have been working with vendors to do fiber demonstrations at their booths as well as setting up craft schools to have a presence at the  Drop in & Spin or Knit or Crochet (I call it Drop In & Whatever), Drop in and Weave with one of the regional guilds and of course, Sheep to Shawl.

Please mark your calendar to join us at SAFF.  In center stage at the Sheep to Shawl or around the edges, cheering on your favorite team!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coming Out of Hibernation

Only the blog has been hibernating.  I've been (in local parlance) covered up.  A few highlights...

Kitchen remodeling is mostly complete.  Cabinet knobs and a few minor issues remain (non-functional electrical outlets, but I am moving into my new kitchen and the rest of the house, but it's nearly done and I love it. 

The first picture is the view as you walk into the house.  The dining room wall is now green to better frame the mostly white kitchen and its orange accents.  Note the shiny wood floor.  There was oak flooring under those incredibly grungy tiles.  The best surprise of the project!

You'll also see new cabinets and appliances including the dishwasher (which I LOVE), a stove that heats up fast (the old extra slow stove has been moved to the (still non-functional) dye studio) and a counter-depth refrigerator with an icemaker.   I may not be in the 21st century, but I'm out of the 1950's!

Under-counter lighting, interesting tile work and a decent range hood make this a lovely kitchen.  It's not perfect, but on my budget, it's just fine. I now have a lazy Susan-equipped cabinet that gives me access to what was a wasted black hole, electrical outlets where I need them and a lovely space to work in.  There's more to it, but these are the best pictures.

Not having a kitchen for a month was annoying, but living on raw fruits & vegetables, yogurt, tomato sandwiches and roasted chicken from the grocery store left me 5 pounds lighter.  The garden was lovely and most of the produce was eaten raw, dehydrated or given away.  I spent a couple of quality hours last evening watering, weeding, picking beans and generally putting it back into shape for the cooler weather.  I need to shell about 3/4 of the 2 bags of Kentucky Wonder beans as they got WAY ahead of me.

On the fiber front, I finished and blocked 2 sweaters, made good progress on another, knit a few hats for the upcoming season and have spun a LOT!  I have gone to my spinning group most Wednesday evenings and have spun a good bit at home in the evening.  Not spending time cooking opens up time for spinning - a decent trade!

Because the kitchen stuff (and living & dining room stuff) had to go somewhere, the dye studio has been down.  After this weekend it will be back in force.  I have felting and spinning and knitting ideas and the right fiber colors are so important.  I need red!

The day job is also keeping me way too busy, but that's seldom blog fodder.  I think I'll keep it that way.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Random Monday

I've been doing a bunch of interesting stuff lately, but not exactly knitting-spinning-dyeing blog appropriate unless you have rather low standards.  Here are some random highlights...
  1. I am hosting a meeting at work and tomorrow I have a bunch of my colleagues coming from around the country.  It's hot as blue blazes, but it's hot everywhere, and I can't do much about the weather.  August is hot.
  2. The garden continues it's summer growth & I have to water it with city water, so the cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes & zucchini may be only a little cheaper than the organic ones at the neighborhood Whole Foods.
  3. My 1940's era kitchen is being remodeled (Yeah!) so I can't cook.  The zukes are being dehydrated into zucchini chips.  The green beans are being given away if they are too big to eat raw
  4. I will soon have a decent kitchen.  It is the last room that I have fixed up in my little 1920's house.  The electrician is there today.  Imagine: code!
  5. I have been trying to finish a sweater I started 2 years ago.  I picked up the button bands 2 weeks ago when I was staying in a hotel with the air conditioning set to minus 0.  I haven't quite gotten around to sewing them down
  6. Socks are smaller knitting projects to hold onto when it is hot out - and in.
  7. I have been spinning - a lovely wool silk blend that I plan to turn into a sweater.
  8. It might get finished in 2 years.
  9. Maybe 3, because I am spinning the yarn.
So obviously there is gardening, home improvement and professional work going on.  Oh and fiber.  Note to self:  Take some pictures.   Perhaps this is blog fodder after all.

Monday, July 18, 2011

When the Day's List Starts with '1. Make a List...' know the week is going to be busy!

Last week, I facilitated a Professional Development 'Institute' (the code word for week-long workshop) and this week I am co-facilitating another Professional Development Institute at a university a few hours from here.  So I have exactly one day in the office to prep.  By prep I mean figure out what I have to do, say and take to make myself come off as a knowledgeable professional grownup, instead of a babbling half-wit.  Of course I also have to figure out what knitting I need to bring, as well as SAFF work that stubbornly refuses to do itself.

Between these weeks, I attended the Friends & Fiberworks Summer Fiber Retreat as a teacher, student and general hanger-on.  It was so much fun - Thanks to Lisa and Friends for pulling off another rousing success!

I taught 3 sections of Crock-Pot Dyeing to a total of ten students.  Small classes (like the 2 students here) mean lots of individual attention, but still enough variation in the dyepots that everybody can vicariously experience lots of color-ways. 

A wonderful weekend, but the rest of the list calls!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ADD Travel Knitting

I took a little dutiful non-vacation last week.  You know the kind - hanging out with the older generation - talking, cooking, movin' kind of slow.  Add excessive time riding in the car.  Sounds like lots of knitting time to me.

And although it's the heat of the summer, those hats don't knit themselves.  So I spent some time in the stash, selecting yarns for my in-car and around-the-house knitting, figuring that I would knit at least a dozen hats.  I wound lots of balls of handspun and pulled yarns that I don't always grab because they are fairly small gauge.  But when you are stuck in the car and have limited choices, you will use the small yarns and needles.

Then I did something kind of naughty.  I grabbed some sock yarn.  Pretty blue & green self striping sock yarn.  Sock yarn is so very small and light and I might could reach my hat goal .  Besides, I like to knit socks - even when I am so finished with the sock of the month plan.  Six is enough.  Really!

Then some other yarn snuck into my tub.  Did I tell you about the killer fiber yard sale a few weeks back where I ended up with a newish Lendrum spinning wheel and a shopping bag full of yarn?  One of the yarns was 6 skeins of Peace Fleece worsted in an earthy greenish tweed called Grass Roots.  A sweater was already started and I was pretty sure that the pattern was Melissa Bare's Garter Yoke Cardi [rav link], but because my gauge didn't match the original gauge, I abandoned that idea.  Only 2 days into the trip I cast on for the Knitting Pure and Simple top down cardi #9725.  I've had this pattern for years, even have the yarn to knit it, but somehow it never knitted itself.  I knit most of the yoke, then put it aside because, I'M SUPPOSED TO BE KNITTING HATS, DARN IT!  Besides I seem to be a bit off gauge so need to make the yoke section longer and needed to refer to EZ or Barbara Walker (which I had in a suitcase pocket but didn't find until I got home).

There is so big reveal here - kind of a lame results show.  I ended up with...
  • Seven hats
  • About 40% of one sock -- most of the cuff.
  • About 80% of the raglan section of a top down cardi - probably about 22.7% of the sweater.  Sounds much more scientific that not quite 25%, eh?
Not bad for a 6 day stretch!  And now I have several yarns nicely staged for some quick hat knitting. Unless I sneak back to the sweater...or the sock!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June Socks - Done

Should I mention that I started the June socks in August. 2010?  They were stalled on the needles for a long time, but were recently taken out of the hibernation chamber and finished.  I dislike the yarn as much as ever.  It is Knit Picks long discontinued 'Dancing' in the colorway 'Jig' - a wool/cotton/lycra blend.   It splits, the pooling looks terrible, but I really do like the way they feel on my feet.  I am wearing their fraternal twins today.  I bought a healthy amount of the yarn when it first came out.  I have knit 3 pair and still have enough to knit another pair, but no time soon.

The blog has been rather quiet and I mostly have the day job to blame.  I have been preparing for 3 summer teacher workshops, and am finishing up workshop #1.  It is going well, but it does take a lot of energy.  But because tonight is spinning night, I'll pump some of it right back in.

I've also been having a fine time in the garden.  It has seldom looked better and we've had good rain lately.  The vegies, fruit and flowers all look good.  I'm still eating peas and blueberries, the summer squash are beginning to come in, the green beans are very tiny but I really need to pick and cook and eat kale.  Yum!

There has been other knitting, spinning and dyeing, but more about that later.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spinning Yarns

I've been on a spinning binge lately.  It seems to happen after a carding binge - and this time I have some nice batts to spin.  It's sort of like putting food in the freezer.  eventually you have to take it out and eat it.  The difference is that carded batts don't get freezer burn (though the white that you see here bit have sort of a basement-y smell before I washed it.  With plied skeins still on the bobbins and recent knitting aside, here it a bit of yarn that I made recently.

On the left is a big honkin' skein of a wool-mohair blend  from Bitsy Knits.  It's one of her custom carded rovings in a lovely blue-green color.  I don't have the label with me so I can't tell you the official name.  I got it in a gift exchange and finally got around to spinning it.  I didn't measure it, but it's big!  Just past that is a merino-alpaca blend that I carded myself a long while back and kind of forgot about.  When I was tidying up I found the box and though it was a bit musty smelling, it spun up fine and after a wee bath, it smells good too.

On the far right is one of 3 skeins of a Corriedale-like fiber from   Cherry Tree hill via Discontinued Brand Name Yarns.  The colorway is 'Irish Mist' but I am a bit tired of it, so I overdyed the last 6 ounces of the pound in blue, so the resulting roving is a lovely peacock blue-green.  Easy to spin, btw in case you have wondered about that roving.  I spin rather thick and it came out nicely squishy.

The deep blue is another overdye.  I spun it a while back - a natural grey carded with a medium blue wool and some angelina, but I didn't love it.  It was too grey with not enough blue to really pop, so into the dyepot it went.  I love it now - deep and heathery.  I rolled it into a ball this morning and brought it with me to knit at the SAFF board meeting tonight.  It is destined to become a Trailside hat.  I'll post pictures when I'm done.

I heard about a big destash yard sale over the weekend.  The flyer said there were 2 spinning wheels, 6 sowing [sic] machines and lots of yarn and fabric.  There was, indeed!  I was the first person there when she opened at 8 and bought a Lendrum double treadle (and a bunch of yarn!).  It's quite beautiful and it spins nicely, but by the size of the skeins above, you can see that I like fat yarn and BIG skeins.  So my trusty Louet S10 isn't going anywhere.  So far I've only spun 2 bobbins on the Lendrum & plied them on the Louet.  A nice combination, I think, particularly for smaller quantities.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Definitely Summer

There are a number of indicators that it's summer.  Well, it's hot out.  Today it may well hit 90 degrees F.  91 will break the record, but I'm ok if we fall short.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer in the US.  Thanks to the vets who keep us safe.  I really appreciate the men and women who died for what they believed in.

We cooked burgers on the grill.  I love burgers cooked outside with mayo and mustard and a slice of tomato, even if the tomatoes aren't very good yet.  We had a big salad, potato salad, sugar snap peas from the garden and peach shortcake.  It was wonderful!

My dyeing has slowed down a bit.  I dyed a good bit of roving for a fiber fair where my colleagues were vendors brought a lot of it back, so I'm caught up.  I am dyeing some colors I need - and washing and dyeing mohair locks.

I want to hang out in the basement - a clear sign of summer.  It's cool and dark and I can card fiber for later spinning.  I've also been doing a bit of de-cluttering again.   I'm hitting kitchenware, clothing and quilting fabric this time.

Knitting?  That too, is in summer slow-down mode.  A hat or 2 a week, I'll likely finish the June socks fairly soon, since they were recently pulled from the marination chamber.  I actually like to spin in the summer, so I'll have hand spun yarn come fall.  I finished 2 skeins last week and the recent carding will help in that department.

The garden is planted and weeded and mulched.  Not much to do except cut the grass every week or so, keep ahead of the weeds and pick the vegies and fruits as they ripen.  The peas and onions are pumping out, we are eating kale, the beans are climbing.  The poppies are beautiful, but I don't take any credit for that.  They simply grow and spread their seeds around.

One of the surest signs of summer is the mood on campus - pretty relaxed.  My day job is a 12-month staff gig at a small liberal arts college.  Although I am busy getting ready for my summer workshops for teachers, the overall place is a ghost town.  The faculty are gone, except when they are here to teach a class.

Summer time, and the livin' is easy!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

April Socks - Teal and Sparkly

Back in April I knit a pair of my all time favorite pattern, the blueberry waffle socks in Berroco Sox Metallic in the lovely teal colorway highlighted with lime green and purple, charmingly known as Acai.  probably.  the label was lost when I took it in trade from the local yarn shop for whom I do a bit of work.  Although I knit them quickly, sock #2 sat around waiting patiently for its toe to be kitchenered until I needed those particular needles.

Today is their first wearing.  Although they will be more comfortable once they are washed, I like them very much.  I wanted to dress sort of like a grownup, even though summer is a ghost town on many college campuses.  However there is a wee reception this afternoon and sparkly socks will be all the rage.  Actually footwear will primarily be sneakers and sandals, including the ubiquitous Birkenstocks, the Asheville shoe of choice.

The purple socks of the last post are completed, but still unphotographed and unworn.  Watch this space!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I just returned from a short business trip to DC.  The meetings and camaraderie were great.  The actual getting there and back less so.  I ask, how do non-knitters cope with air travel? OK, I see people with their Kindles and other book readers, and people diddling with their cell phones and I really get why people have smart phones and iPads.  I had a laptop with me and did actual work in the airport and in the hotel room.  But I must say I spent about the same amount of time in airports and airplanes as I did in meetings. Here is what I have to show for it.  90% of a pair of socks.  The yarn is Fortissima Socka Mexiko Color (0051).  They were lots of fun to knit.  My seatmate on the final flight to Asheville, suggested that I stay in the airport long enough to finish them, though I decided to go ahead and finish them later.  Maybe tonight, surely by week's end.  This may be a personal best in terms on sock completion.  Nothing fancy here, obviously.  Just a basic sock recipe that I like to use for self striping yarn. As it happens, this is my 5th pair of socks in 2011.  Even if I am not really in a self-imposed sock club, these seem to be my May socks.

My fiber is traveling without me to the Carolina Fiber Fest in Raleigh, NC with Judy and Marie, owners of Asheville HomeCrafts.  They are vendors at the event and decided to make their booth's focus Needle Felting.  So they'll have lots of notions and supplies, including plenty of hand dyed fiber from the studio of Smoky Mountain Fibers.  I spent a few weeks dyeing and prepping the fiber for sale and now it is on it's way    They are also taking hand spun yarns and my patterns.

Friends and Fiberworks will also be at the Fiber Fest, taking lots of great yarns and patterns, including the 2 new patterns that I developed for their store, including this new red version of the Trailside hat. So if you are in the neighborhood of the Carolina Fiber Fest, drop by either booth to visit my work in person.

Meanwhile, I'll be finishing this fine pair of purple socks!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Asheville Yarn Crawl! and more...

I am lucky enough to live in a community that values art and craft.  So it's no great surprise that this weekend is all about - and this time it's not just me!  There are 2 big fiber events going on this weekend.

First is the yarn crawl? The what?  Well, the independent yarn shops throughout Western North Carolina and even into upstate South Carolina want to make sure that the fiber enthusiasts and artists are well acquainted with all the shops as well as the companies that supply and distribute the yarns and accessories we carry.

So much like a studio tour, there is a self guided itinerary for the exploration of  eleven participating stores, fiber farms, and galleries. Starting in downtown Asheville, there are 3 shops in walking distance of my home!  How cool is that?  The organizers contacted the yarn companies and they are contributing full sized samples of yarns, needles, and other great products that are included in raffle baskets that will be available at every store along the crawl. There is one raffle basket in each store, I should make it to at least 4 shops, possibly more!

Saturday is also the Southern Highland Craft Guild's annual celebration of textile arts at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  They'll have spinning, dyeing, weaving and quilting demonstrations, vendors and hands-on children's activities. There will even be wearable art fashion show. 

I've set myself a budget for the yarn crawl & intend to stick to it, but I do need a few things.  Note to self:  bring yarn to match for Windy City hats!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Getting Ready

Although I will not be at the Carolina Fiber Fest, my fiber will be festing away with the best of them.  One of the shops that I work with, Asheville HomeCrafts is a vendor at the Raleigh event and they are focusing on needle felting supplies.  So they have asked me to make up lots of grab bags, bonbons (little one-ounce rolls of hand dyed fiber) and larger quantities of hand dyed fiber for spinners and feltmakers.

So for the past 2 weeks or so I have been keeping the dye pots cooking away as I dye across the spectrum.  I make up the grab bags as multi-packs in color families of reds, greens, blues, skin tones, naturals and mixed colors.  This means I have to have at least 8 shades of red - red, pink, orange, purple, a bit of yellow, etc. to make up a red multi-pack.  That's a lot of dyeing as each shade is a separate pot.  I also like to use some of my painted fiber to make the multi-packs extra special.  I'll make about 5 dozen grab bags for the show  + a few extras because they sell well in the local yarn shops and in my Etsy shop.

The bonbons are the cutest.  Each is a one-ounce roll of roving, coiled up and tied with yarn. I attach a business card so people know where it came from.  So far I have made about 60 of these and I hope to make close to 100.

This is a big order for me, but as school is out, the timing couldn't be better.  So this past weekend, I dyed, weighed, packaged, and labeled fiber.  I dyed just about every color I could think of, but I may be short of blue.  Although the event isn't until May 20-22, I will be out of town before Judy and Marie leave.  That gives me an artificial deadline of May 15th or so, but since that conflicts with the Asheville Yarn Crawl, my deadline moved up to Thursday.  I chatted with one of the shop owners on Saturday, concerned that I was sending too much.  Impossible!  was the answer.  They need the fiber for the show, and besides, it sells well in their shop, so no worries!  

As it happens, I am dyeing for Smoky Mountain Fibers at the same time, so I will have lots of fresh stock!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Herbs and Spices

I love greens!  Mossy green, deep forest green, the color of leaves and frogs.  Greens on the blue side and greens on the yellow side. So although the May Phat Fiber theme is Spice Market, I have to tell you that I went a bit herbal myself.  I dyed both Merino and Falklands roving in 2 shades of green - one kind of olive; another more on the bronze side - both beautiful.  The colors should be just right for leaves of you are a felt maker.  I will likely spin some yarn from this colorway.  It definitely belongs in the permanent line for my Etsy shop.

Perhaps green is my favorite color at the moment because my garden is looking so pretty right now.  The peas are in blossom, so I'll be munching on Sugar Snaps by the end of the week.  The Red Russian kale is coming up nicely and we can eat all the green onions and parsely we want.  It's time to start to plant warmer weather crops, with the most tender after mid-May.  No garden pictures yet, though I definitely should.  With everything weeded and mulched, it doesn't look too much better than it does right now.

I did a fun little weekend project.  As my faithful readers know, I knit a lot of hats that are sold in a number of local shops, so I need to start knitting about now so I'll have enough.  So over the weekend I pulled out lots and lots of yarn to make 'kits.'  Match yarns and patterns to knit later, put them in bags and then in totes.  One tote is already in my office for lunch hour knitting.  I just cast on a (green!) hat, then decided to write this little post instead.  But my knitting is ready and waiting for me.  I have a final to give today.  Perhaps I'll knit while my students write!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Still on a Binge

A sock knitting binge.  But I think it has nearly run its course.  At the end of April I am completing my 4th pair of socks in as many months.  I've had this yarn for a few years.  It's Cushy ColorSport DK Washable Merino by LynnH.  I've been a fan of her blog, her patterns and her yarn for many years and it's time to get these finished.  I have knit 2 other pair of socks from this yarn - one for me and more for a friend.  I love the yarn - quite thick and cushy, it washes well and really lives up to its name.  I don't remember the color name, but its a variegated light pink and purple.  The heels and toes are a semi-solid lilac.

I knit these in the 'gull lace' pattern and plan to write up the pattern, but in a finer gauge yarn.  I like the pattern as it is eay to memorize and adds a bit of style to the socks without much of a brain drain. After making a false start on this yarn during last spring's self-imposed sock club, I took these on a trip earlier this month and then blasted away.

Also begun in April are a pair of waffle socks in Berroco Sox Metallic.  I finished sock #1 on the afore-mentioned trip, then knit the Gull lace socks and have began sock #2 on Sunday evening.  I knit a good bit of the cuff in a session of a Netflix guilty pleasure, Weeds.  This is my second pair in this yarn.  These are wonderfully blue-green-teal; though the earlier pink ones were lovely too.

Although I have a pair marinating on the needles in Knit Picks now-discontinued Dancing, [rav link] I believe I am taking a break from sock-knitting after this. Unless they travel to Washington with me next month(...hmmm...) it's time to get back to hats and my Mossy Cardi.  I even have a another cardigan done but for the finishing and the UFO's might just call my name.  As the semester's finish-itis is certainly upon me, let's see if it won't carry over to my knitting life. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Green Fiber

As I was listening to NPR this morning, I heard an Earth Day related story about the Textile Museum's current show.  Since I seldom hear about handmade paper, spinning and wool felt on mainstream media, my ears perked up and I even remembered to look up the art that was being discussed.  Take a look and see what you like.  I'm partial to this 'basket.'  The artist Jackie Abrams uses recycled silk blouses, coiling them and securing the coils with waxed linen thread.  This is a time honored technique, whether the colied material is reeds, pine needles or fabric.  I love it.

I also really like this piece, entitled 'The Grass is Always Greener.'  Real wool felt and fencing.  While you are at it, watch the video below as Faith Hagenhofer speaks about her art, making felt, raising sheep and the creative process.  there are a number of other pieces in the video

This on line show is very engaging and I found it difficult to pick just a few pieces.  I will be in Washington before the show closes, so I hope to go see the pieces, particularly Nancy Cohen's Estuary: Moods and Modes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stitches South; Dancing Everywhere

Stitches South is coming up soon in Atlanta.  Seems like almost everyone I know will be there.  Even though I won't be there, my knitting will be.  Friends & Fiberworks, one of the local fiber shops that I work with will be a vendor for the first time.  Now this shop has an excellent presence at SAFF, so a number of their followers are sure to find there way to the booth.  I developed 2 patterns that will debut at Stitches along with a number of other exclusive patterns by Asheville designers.

One pattern is a reworking of my Trailside pattern - in 2 versions and a smaller gauge.  Some people (mostly men) really like a ribbed brim that folds up.  Rather traditional, it keeps your ears extra warm.  But there is a 'hat head' factor, that some of us wish to avoid.  So I also wrote an alternate brim that people can push back and make the hat a bit puffy.  Both should be  good for both men and women and work well in solids, heathers and tweeds.  Both are one-skein patterns designed for Berroco Vintage Bulky, but will work just fine for any other yarns in that weight, like Lamb's Pride Bulky.

The other pattern is a garter stitch pattern meant to show off a wilder yarn.  I wrote this for Berroco's Borealis - a multicolored yarn that creates subtle stripes.  Now I will admit to my blog readers that it seems ridiculous to claim that this is a pattern, but at SAFF last year, people kept asking for it.  I told them how to make it, but over and over I heard, 'No, I'll never remember that.  I need the pattern.'  So I finally wrote it down.  in two sizes.  and tested it.  and printed it.  Now it is going to Stitches.  I'm sorry I will not be there for the acclaim or catcalls, and I imagine there will be both.  That is, if the Southerners aren't too polite for the catcalls.

I hope to make both these patterns available on Ravelry.  However since the yarn shops want to sell them, I can't make them free downloads.  They will be low priced however and I'll let my readers know when to expect them.  

Instead of hanging out with knitters at Stitches, I will be calling dances all around the area.  If it's Friday it must be an English dance in Greenville, SC.  Saturday takes me to Greensboro, NC for a contra dance with Ted Erhart and Dean Herington founding members of Footloose and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops!  On Sunday I am back in Asheville for our regular English Country Dance.  I also called contra dances last Saturday and Monday.  If I had just that kind of ego, I'd declare myself on tour.  Instead, I'll just consider it being busy with dance calling.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Socks and Socks - It Continues

I kitchenered the toe of Easter Egg sock #2 last evening and immediately tossed them into the suitcase to come along to Nashville, TN.  It's a short trip - not fiber related.  Day job related, but that's okay.  It was a tough decision whether to fly or drive.  It's that funny distance, where flying and driving take about the same amount of time.  But flying was less expensive and you can't knit while you drive.  you can read and listen to music & the radio, but really it was the knitting that was the decision maker.

It's funny that I called these Easter Egg socks, when I could have called them natural, organic socks.  Oh?  in those funky pastels?  Compare the colors here with my friend Laura's organic orangey-beige and pale green eggs from her own chickens.  I particlularly like how she arranged them in the carton in the checkerboard fashion.  Spring, when the young chicken's fancy turns to making more chickens!

Even before these were completely finished, on Friday evening I cast on for another pair of socks.  This time they are a multicolored blue-green with a silver glitter thread that runs through it.  Berroco Sox Metallic in the Acai (1361) colorway, probably.  It had lost its label so I took it in barter at my local yarn shop.  I'm knitting the Blueberry Waffle Socks for maybe the 10th time.  Even on size 1 & 2, I'm blasting through it.  I am knitting the gusset on sock #1.  I am writing this post in the Charlotte airport as I wait for my next flight.  I could be knitting you know, but in the interest of possible delays, I thought I'd check my email and dash off a few words.  But not to be underyarned on this trip, I took this yarn and yarn for another pair of something a bit fancier.  Alter all, you never know what might happen and you need more yarn.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Knitting: Socks

It seems that all I want to do is knit socks, but that frequently happens this time of year.  The hat business goes on hiatus for a while.  No one is buying hats this time of year, so it's time for me to let my creative muscles relax - new designs will find them.  Although I am currently knitting a sweater, I won't wear it until October or so, so no need to get too far ahead.  My early gardening is done, the beds without baby plants have manure on them, so the frequent rains will spread the manure juice into the earth. 

After finishing the 'Blue Jeans' socks on March 20th, I immediately cast on the springy 'Easter Egg' socks that you see here.  In just a little over a week, I am well into sock #2, and have just started the gusset.  Granted, these are very straight forward - the kind of socks that self patterning yarns are best for, IMHO.

I have a brief trip next week.  I think I'll take another pair of socks, as they are nearly perfect travel knitting - compact, they take a good bit of time.  Best of all, I'll have another pair of socks at the end of the trip!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Things to do instead of working on my taxes.
1. Make a cup of tea. 
2. Laundry.  Hang up shirts from dryer & start another load, thus ensuring more dawdling later on.
3. Check the garden.  The peas planted last weekend are just coming up.  The kale is also now visible to the naked eye.  Everything is very wet as it has been a rainy weekend.  Grass is very long.
3. Turn off the dyepot.  Admire the lovely dyed fiber and put more on to soak.  More dawdling to come.
4. Post some roving to Etsy.  The 20 % off sale has done well, but I still have lots of fiber and I'm dyeing more.
5. Surf over to Facebook.  Look at pictures from last night's contra dance.  Note that those people are having fun, but I am dutifully doing my taxes.
6. Check work email to see if anyone has registered for my summer institute.  Three.  This is good since I just sent the first announcement on Friday.
7. Put on music.
8. Post to blog.  
9. Try very hard to come up with another item to make this a 10 item list.  After all, aren't 10 items better than nine? 
10. Now back to the taxes.  Bye!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old School

I was knitting away on my Easter Egg socks during a web meeting today and I finished the heel flap, quietly rooted around to find the recipe for turning the heel, then I picked up the stitches around the gusset.  Obviously the meeting ran long.  Note to all:  I was actively engaged, my computer screen was actually displayed to the universe (ok, the other participants) and there was nothing embarrassing displayed.  Not sure how that happened.

The only hassle was that I did not have my circs available, only double pointed needles.  The good part is that they don't match.  I was rooting around in my dpn collection as I started the socks the other evening and grabbed the first 4 of the right size.  Two are bamboo, one is an ancient plastic, one is aluminum.

But here is the yarn and half a sock, sitting on my laptop in all their mismatched dpn glory.  The truth is out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So Much Fiber - Time for a Sale!

As you know, I love to dye  In the crock pot, on the stove, sock yarn in the microwave.  But every now and then I take a look at what I have on hand and I'm blown away!  I went down to take some pictures and see what I need to dye  The short answer:  I need to take a lot of GOOD pictures & I don't need to dye anything!

I need to move it out or spin it, and as it is getting into gardening season, I am spinning less these beautiful spring days.  I call the roving on the left Copper Penny.  It's a lovely merino combed top, that really wants to be spun or felted.  It has many friends and they all need new homes.

So, my faithful blog readers - Does 20% off get your attention?  All fibers, patterns and tools in my Etsy shop, Smoky Mountain Fibers are 20% off through the end of March.  I'll keep posting new stuff daily so check back.  Just use the code, SPRINGSALE.  It's an Etsy coupon, so the 20% will be deducted from your invoice automatically.  No revised invoice required!  I'll also refund shipping overages for purchases where Etsy's shipping calculations go beyond actual cost of shipping.

If you can't find anything that you like, drop me a line at amwalter [at] mail [dot] com (edited appropriately, of course) and ask.  I have some beautiful fiber that my point 'n' shoot camera can't quite capture & I may have more that I haven't posted yet. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Knitting and Dancing

I've been knitting, but not blogging lately.  Between the day job and dance calling gigs, I've been on the go.  I'm writing this in a Bruegger's bagel place in Durham, NC.  The wireless in my hotel last night was so poor that I was forced to watch cable TV and knit on my demin blue socks.  I've been blasting through these at nearly record time.  In fact I knit from midway down the cuff & most of the heel flap last evening, after I took the picture on the right.

I really like this yarn - Paton's Kroy Socks in a demin blue colorway that fades lighter & deeper as one ply changes at a time.  The socks don't truly match - and that's okay.

I've also been knitting on my green cardigan.  It's a yoke sweater based loosely on this pattern, but I doubts I'll start with the lace motif.  It's very pretty, but I think the character of the yarn might be better suited to a moss stitch section, then maybe a garter rib, then a seed stitch with a couple of garter ridges in between. I can hide the decrease rounds in the garter rows.  Seems like it might be a good idea to knit a swatch of this pattern combination - what a concept!

The dance schedule has been quite busy.  I attended the English Country Dance SpringFest in Durham last weekend - I had a wonderful time dancing to Helene Cornelious & the Sun Assembly's house band, Collard Greene (great name!).  I called the TCD contra dance on Friday night, I'll be calling the Asheville Advanced Dance this coming Friday night - that's tomorrow- and I'll be calling the ECD on Sunday afternoon.  I'm usually not this busy, but all of a sudden I have a bunch of calling gigs.  Also, there are dance events all over the place.  I'd love to go to the Nashville Playford Ball, but its kind of a haul - about 5 hours of driving each way, though the band and leader are probably worth it.

In the mean time, I've been dyeing and shipping orders from the shop, but mostly the day job has kept me quite busy.  In a few minutes I'll be on my way to a meeting at UNC-Chapel Hill to work with a collaborator.  We are developing a Summer Institute for teachers using the Library of Congress and the Paideia method. Ah, spring break!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Phat Fiber's Sweet Shop: Caramelo

I have been sitting out the Phat Fiber Sampler box for the last few months.  The day job and dance calling responsibilities have precluded adding anything to my workload, even something as pleasant as being involved in marketing opportunities for my Etsy shop.

I did dye some samples for the February box, whose theme was gems and minerals.  As a rockhound, I could get around that.  I had lots of ideas, just not enough time to make them happen.  March's theme is 'Sweet Shop.'  Of late I have been interested in working in brown-copper-olive families.  So it was a short hop to 'Caramelo,' a caramel-colored merino roving that looks and feels just yummy. 

So over that last week or so, I played with dyes & I just finished making up and packing my samples.  They are all a bit over 1/4 ounce and will be shipped to the queen of the fiber sampler on Monday.  Now the Phat Fiber blog and Facebook page are worth following as the contributors frequently donate full-size rovings, batts or skeins of yarn and they are given away to people who comment on the blog.  I've donated rovings a few times and it does seem to generate a good bit of shop and blog traffic.  I've also won a couple of times - that's kind of nice.  There is a supporting Ravelry group that is quite active.

Now I do this to get my samples of my work into the hands of future buyers; but a fringe benefit is that contributors get a sampler box of their own so that I get to see what other fiber artists are doing.  I am so inspired by the work that I see people doing. Join in the fur and you can be inspired too!

Also on the list this weekend:  Knitting on Mossy Cardi II, finishing the tiny sweater for my tiny nephew and getting it sent off, working on the books for Smoky Mountain Fibers, dyeing & photographing fiber, making bean soup (it's gray and chilly out there) and plenty more. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fiber Nights - Back-to-Back

Wednesday evenings are for spinning - at least most Wednesdays.  I find that setting this time aside, spinning with other reasonably serious spinners puts me with like minded people.  Our only connection is fiber.  I like them very much - many of us serve on the SAFF board of directors.  Kim took this picture last night.  She had just resolved an thorny issue with the IRS and had declared it Best Day EVER!  Our expressions say the same thing!

But tonight's fiber group is completely different.  We are a group of women who have dinner together once a month to eat, sometimes have wine and talk about life.  Sometimes work, frequently relationships, occassionally fiber.  One woman is an amazing quilter who crochets. Another is a very talented production weaver who dyes multi-colored warps & teaches lots of workshops.  The third likes about everything fiber and bead related.  She quilts and sews and crochets, maybe knits a little.  I think of myself as a spinner who dyes and knits.  We all have busy lives, work hard and came together through the music and dance scene.

We have lost a couple of members because of work commitments (if you are a special ed teacher who starts at 7:30 am, it's hard to carve out a week night - even if it's only once a month) and family responsibilities.  Anther person just didn't mesh with the group and stopped coming.

Sadly for us & happily for her, one of our group is moving away.  She has been one of our leaders so it is very difficult to lose her. We will be down to 3 and I'm not sure that that is enough to keep the momentum going.  But we are slow to invite new people.  We have invented a good bit of ourselves in this group and talk about our lives and families - the good and the bad.  One woman has gone through a particularly difficult divorce and this has been a safe outlet for her. We can't just bring in anyone.

So I guess that our group will have to figure it out.  With a few months before our amazing quilter (with the cutest dogs and the cleanest house!) leaves us, we will simply continue to share meals and lives and fiber!