Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Still Knitting...

Yikes!  It's been since September?  Seems impossible that the whole fall season - ok, semester - has gone by without a post.  So, here's some of what happened...in no particular order...

SAFF - A wonderful weekend of fibery goodness.  I was holding down the action in the workshop building, so I didn't get around as much as I liked, but it sure was fun. Smoky Mountain Fibers sponsored the contemporary sheep to shawl demo, dyeing the yarn and roving in my Saturn colorway. 

Sock class - I taught a couple of people to make socks.  I knit my little fingers to the bone to keep my samples up to speed with my students & ended up with a pair of cozy purple socks.

Designing woman - Since my collaboration with Friends and Fiberworks, a yarn shop in Asheville NC, I am knitting lots of  small projects to show off the yarn.  Sometimes we knit up samples in the yarn companies' patterns but whenever possible we make up a simple pattern to give away with yarn purchases.  None of these are fabulous creations, but they are all just unique enough to declare an original.  And it really helps the yarn find its way to a new home. 

Knitting along - In addition to teaching classes, I'm also hosting knit-a-longs at the shop.  This evening it will be 'Fast, Fun Fingerless Mitts', or as I call them Fast & Furious Fingerless Mitts.

Just plain knitting - Both for myself and the various shops who carry my hats and scarves.  Now, can we get some cold weather, please? 

Dyeing - Both for my Etsy shop and the local trade.  I am currently spinning some delightful Blue Faced Leicester roving that I dyed in shades of orangey red.  And it's actually for ME! I have a vest in mind...

Other than these few little dibs and dabs, working most Saturdays at the yarn shop, the day job has been keeping me busy as well as my usual activities - yoga, gardening, dancing, goofing off with friends & family.  You know, life! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

On the line

It's been all about dyeing at Smoky Mountain Fibers this season.  Between 3 very nice orders and my regular business, I've been keeping the dyepots pretty darn warm.  My collaboration with Friends & Fiberworks has resulted in a good uptick even in the traditionally lean fiber months.  And with SAFF and the rest of the fabulous fall fiber frenzy, I won't stop until well after the winter holidays.

Although I'll be holding down the fort at the shop, my fiber, hats and patterns will be going to lots of shows this fall.  Some are local; others are far away - Stitches East in Connecticut to be exact.

One the production schedule this weekend...
  • Overdyeing some lackluster yarns
  • Pumpkin orange
  • Leafy greens
  • A bit of spinning
  • Work Saturday afternoon at the yarn shop
  • Taking care of my SAFF responsibilities
  • Updating my bookkeeping (the decidedly unsexy part of the business).

I'll also go to an English dance, do a bit of yard work, and tackle the pile of paper on the dining room table.  What would life be like without a bunch of things (and people) I love!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Birthday Greetings...

...to the best truck ever.  This week my stalwart companion of 16 years turned 240,000 miles.  Yes, my 1996 Toyota Tacoma reached quite a milestone.  Truckie came into my life when she was a mere pup - just 7600 miles.  Her first owner turned her in to get something with a lower payment, the salesman said. So on Memorial Day weekend  '96 she came home.

I'd never owned a truck before, but ever since Datsun and Toyota started selling small pickups in the early 70's, I loved them.  Truckie is a red queen cab, 5-speed, 2 wheel drive model with sport wheels and a camper top.  I've driven her across town and across the country. I have a youth bed mattress that fits perfectly in the bed and I've slept in her in Chapel Hill, NC, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, in Big Bend National Park, Texas and plenty more places.

A few years ago she started showing her age, so I adopted her cousin - a red (of course) '09 Toyota Matrix, who coincidentally turned a mere 50K the same week.  Truckie is no longer my daily commuter, but she still holds a special place in my heart.  She is happy to be a loaner to my friends, but I don't take her on the road to gigs.  I drive her about once a week, mostly to keep the battery charged and to justify owning a second vehicle.

Seems kind of funny to write a love note to an aging pick up truck, but this may be the best vehicle I'll ever own.  Long live Truckie!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Riding the Rails

View from the Jackson Street Blue Line stop
I'm writing this short post aboard the CTA - from O'Hare airport to downtown Chicago.  Whenever I travel, I like to take public transportation if I can.  In DC, I take the metro.  In Minneapolis, it used to be the city bus from the airport to my sister's house, now it's light rail.

Today I am traveling to Chicago for a 2-day business meeting.  I'm on the blue line and writing this post on my phone.  Multiple new experiences at the same time!  Since I had better than an hour, the train @ $2.25 seemed like a good value as well as a cultural peak into big city life.

Earlier this month my friend Sally and I took Amtrak to DC, a long night train ride.  This is very different. We trainsters are moving along while the cars are crawling. People getting on the trains include people in suits and Tshirts, speaking English and Spanish.  They chat, read the paper, play with their phones, write, and just sit with eyes open or closed.  I started to knit, but then decided to write this post.

Requisite knitting content:  A short trip, I brought only the llama-cotton vest.  I guess I am making an assumption that all will go well, though I did bring an additional book and MP3 player.  The vest is kind of a slog.  It is knit top down, with yarn overs that make each row progressively longer.  It's the second one, destined to be a combo shop sample and class 'knit along' but the class didn't make.  So now I just want to get it done!

I'll try to post this with a picture, though the learning curve will likely take its toll.

OK, I posted the picture back in my office a day or two later. A fine trip, everything ran on time and I even snuck in a trip to the Chicago Art Institute.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cousins Count

This busy summer continues to roll along.  Between my professional work, my creative work and a bit of down time, it is hard to believe that August is here already.  There has been a good bit of travel (NC, VA, OH) with more to come (DC & Chicago).  The picture here is the view from a lovely hike in the New River Gorge (WV).

Last weekend I made a little trip to northeast Ohio to visit family.  When I was growing up, there were at least 2 family reunions each summer - often 3.  But we are all grown and spread out now, so it's hard to get together.  I was one of the cousins who moved away early.  I have not lived in the town where I grew up  since I was 18, and I really lost track of most of my cousins.  Since Facebook has made it easier to keep track of each other, we have reconnected.  So about a year ago my sister Ronnie & cousin Tony decided that we should have a reunion.  Last weekend the Quinn Cousins came together.

My mother was one of 8 siblings in an Irish Catholic family and they were nothing if not prolific.  I grew up with 38 first cousins, plus a couple of long-term foster children who I never knew weren't real cousins.  Now there are only a few of my mother's siblings and in-laws still alive, so it's up to our generation to keep this slightly crazy and very fun family from becoming lost to one another.  I think I chatted with a few cousins for the first time.  When you are a child, a few years difference is huge. Now, not so much.  So it was lovely to gather in the parish hall and visit.  We shared a meal, talked, laughed and caught up with one another.  Three of my sisters and their husbands were there and we had fun catching up and shared a few important conversations.

I admit that I did not go to all the events -  I missed dinner on Friday night, touring the town were we grew up, the poker games and Sunday picnic.  I wish I could have stayed through Sunday, but a deadline required that I head on down the road.  I am so glad that I went.  My fiber-geek reputation is not unnoticed.  I brought home a bag of alpaca fiber!

I'm also glad that I stopped for a hike half way there.  Rather like family, you have to see the big and glorious picture (like the photo above), but remember to pay attention to the small, but remarkable details.  I looked down to see a couple stands of Indian Pipes.  A walk in the woods is a great way to break up a long drive.

Official Fiber Content:  I started a 2nd Equinox Raglan - this time in Noro Silk Garden.  I like the cotton/linen one so well (I'm wearing it now), that I know that I'll want to keep wearing it when it gets chilly.  I have a vest class on the schedule at Friends and Fiberworks, but I'm not sure it will make.  I'll make my own even if no one else joins me!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Silkworm Success

If you define success by the fact that the silkworms emerged from their cocoons, mated and laid eggs, that is.  I saved out 5 cocoons for next year's starter stock.  The only 2 that emerged are of the correct genders, because eggs were laid and they have since turned a brownish grey, meaning they are fertile.  It the next day or 2 they will go into hibernation until next spring. Hibernation happens in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. I'll just gather up the paper towel, place the eggs it contains in a little tub and they will be happy there until next spring when the mulberry trees leaf out.

This has been a very knitterly spring and summer.  Because I have been working part time at our local yarn shop, Friends & Fiberworks I am surrounded  by yarns, patterns, and knitting ideas.  I have knit, finished or reworked several knit tops, some knit in record time, others that have come out of the marination chamber where they have been living for several years.  That should bring on a parade of finished objects, but oddly, it has not.  I'll try to do better on the blog.  I have put them on Ravelry, but the pictures are far from stellar.

This is also Smoky Mountain Gardens time and this summer is no exception.  I am already eating radishes (duh!), blueberries, kale and chard.  I noticed a blossom on one of the yellow squash plants this morning - a very good sign.  We had a few rainy rays this week followed by a few days of not-too-hot sunshine and that usually makes the garden take off.  This evening chores include a bit of weeding and a careful picking of blueberries.  I have the bushes netted against the birds.  If not, I'd never get even one. This way it is harder to harvest, but I actually get blueberries. The fig plant is filling out nicely during it's third year in my yard, so I should get plenty lovely figs this year - up from last year's yield of six!

For some reason I thought that I'd get less done in the garden because of my new as a singleton, but it didn't work out that way.  Like many elements of my life, the dissipation of tension has made everything easier, happier and healthier. I can plant what I want, where I want it, no negotiation required. OK, I have to cut the grass myself, but I did it about 75% of the time anyway.  A fine trade off! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shhhhh...They're Sleeping

The silkies have all spun their little cocoons and are snoozing away, growing into moths.  Vegans: Stop reading now!

Most of them won't make it all the way, as I intend to harvest their silk before too long.   I'm okay with that.  Frankly, I think I worked harder than they did.  I gathered leaves each day - sometimes twice when they were the most voracious. I cleaned their trays regularly, adding silk worm manure to the composter & some directly into the garden.  Watching them get ready and then look for a place to spin was fascinating.  I really liked them, even when they got kind of big and creepy-looking.  Since this is my first effort at silk raising, I had a couple of good sources - Cassie Dixon, whose class I took at the Friends & Fiberworks Winter Retreat (she's teaching again this summer, and I highly recommend her class) and a website, wormspit.com.

I was prepared that they would stop eating and look around, then crawl around as though they were looking to get away from their siblings to find a quiet, cozy place to tuck in and spin.  I provided a nice mix of toilet paper and paper towel tubes, rolled up paper towels and paper bags.  The paper bags were the easiest.  When one of the silkies was on the prowl, I dropped it into a bag and turned the top over once.  No staples or even a mere paper clip required.  They just aren't that interested in getting out.  They just settle in, spin a little hammock and then a cocoon.  Kind of cute.  Plus, the acoustics are right so you can hear them spin.  The tubes you see here allow the worms to travel a while to try and get it just right.  Hence a bit of worm doo visible in the webs, as well as the little guy on the right who's not yet fully committed. 

I have about 12 days to do the dirty deed that decides whether they lay eggs for next year or harvest the silk.  Watch this space.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Munch, munch, munch

So spin some silk already! A month ago yesterday, the silk worms hatched out of their tiny eggs and each day since then I have gathered mulberry leaves from a tree a few blocks from my house. As they have gotten larger, they eat more and more and more.  They are now quite large as you can see in this picture.  I've been posting pics every few days on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Smoky-Mountain-Fibers/193995020071), so you can see their progress.

Any time now - hopefully when I get home from work - they will start spinning their little cocoons of silk.  One actually started yesterday.  I noticed him (or her) moving his (or her) head in a figure 8 pattern and there was actual silk coming out.  So I put the little guy in a paper bag and turned the top down.  I checked later and there was a good bit of spun silk. I could even hear it.  A nice change from the sound of about a hundred worms chewing.  

In other news at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers, I have been dyeing fiber for the Carolina Fiber Fest in Raleigh on May 18-20th.  You'll find my fiber at Friends and Fiberworks booth.  There will be  grab bags as well as a healthy amount of hand dyed roving for spinning and feltmaking.  I won't be there.  I'll be back in Asheville, holding down the fort at the shop.  This is a great show for your non-fibery friends as it's at the state fairgrounds and there is other agriculture stuff going on.  Take a look at their website - It makes me want to be there!

But no travel for me.  I have silkworms to feed and provide places to spin cocoons!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Kids Are Alright

Raising silkworms is a tough job, but it seems that I rather like doing it.  More than half way into their life cycle of about a month, the silkies have eating lots of mulberry leaves, shedding their outgrown skin and definitely getting bigger.  Here they were on Friday morning:

]Here they are today:

 The white ones are getting ready to shed their skins. The striped ones have already shed and they eat a LOT more.


Their appetites increase along with their size, so I gather more leaves each day.

Last weekend I went to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a English Country Dance weekend and took the little guys with me.  (It was really fun, but that's another story.)  Their home at that time was a recycled envelope box, which I placed inside a copier paper box.  They stayed in my room (luckily I did not have a roommate to negotiate with), but had to accompany me on Sunday as we had to get out of our housing by 9 am, but the event wasn't over until 1 pm.  I couldn't leave them in the car, but a copier paper box stashed under a bench doesn't seem to freak people out too much.  Some people did think I was a little bit crazy, but other folks were fascinated.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Tiniest Fiber Animals

are not baby doll sheep or angora rabbits.  The newest livestock at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers are silkworms!  I took a silk class back in January, and was given a small number of silk worm eggs.  I took them out of hibernation (the refrigerator) on April Fool's Day.  I wasn't even sure that they would wake up, but on April 15th, they started showing signs of life.  They looked like tiny snips of thread.  As son as I put a few mulberry leaves in their home, they started to eat.  Over the next 3 or 4 days, they all  woke up and now I have to harvest mulberry leaves about every day.  The biggest ones have already started to shed their first skin.

Here they are in their new home - a lettuce tub lined with paper towels.  I put the leaves in about 5 minutes before taking this picture. Next time I'll add a coin for scale.

Say hello to Mary, Harry, Larry, Terri...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Knitting Away

It's been a knitterly spring.  Because winter ended so early I have been disinclined to finish the 2 sweaters that I theoretically on the needles.  I say theoretically because one is complete, but I'm not happy with it.  Its Eloise - a yoke sweater, but the sleeves are a bit short and tight, so I think I'll snip the thread at the armholes and then re- knit them down, both at the same time, so I can use up every stinking inch of yarn.  Like just about every Raveler, I knit it in one piece.  Why would you seam a yoke sweater?

I have another UFO sweater that I love, but needs a collar and front band - a few evenings on knitting, but since it is quite heavy, the warm weather doesn't drive me to finish it.  It too is a cardi in the red family, but it is of a more rustic character.  Its made from Christopher Sheep Yarn that I bough many years ago at Earth Guild.  I started with Green Mountain Spinnery's Maureen cardigan, but I added the cables and made a few other mods.

Yet another cardi - the Knitting Pure and Simple top down cardigan,  I purchased the red yarn above and this pattern at the same time, but I ended up making it from Some Peace Fleece in a sage green tweed named 'Grass Roots.'  I picked up the yarn at a yard sale last summer, pulled out the sweater that someone else had begun and started knitting.  This one is actually finished and I've worn it a few times and I just love it.

I promise I'll be back - I've actually finished 3 summer tops, though in reality 1 was finished, but the neckline was a wee bit off and needed some adjustment.  Another was also stalled at the neckline, but both are now well and happy and can be worn whenever I want.  The third is a wee bit odd, but it is done and I'll likely wear it.  I must admit, it's not really my style.  Time for a change? After all, maybe I need wacky clothes to go with the new haircut!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Trip out West

I'm currently writing this from Davis, California.  I'm here for an Advisory Board meeting that rotates through the member cities.  I hosted the August Meeting in Asheville, so it's nice to travel to see other campuses and organizations.  UC Davis is a large campus with 33,000 students.  It started as the Agricultural college for Berkeley and continues its heritage with a vet school, equestrian center, actual cows and experimental and demonstration gardens and vineyards.  The picture to the left is the Arboretum walkway that follows the creek that runs down the east (I think) side of the campus.  The redbuds are in bloom, the stand of California Redwoods is remarkable and the whole trail is just lovely.  As we walked along we saw 2 sweet baby horsies (foals I believe they are called) nursing on their mamas.  The first day we were here was lovely, students cycling around (no cars on campus), spring in full bloom.  Then the storms moved in and the rains began, but it was still quite nice as long as you don't mind getting wet.  We even walked into town for dinner last night.  Wonderful food, both American and Thai.

Before I came here to the Valley, I spent a couple of days in Portland, visiting with family and had an opportunity to go snowshoeing on Mt. Hood.  More fun in wind and snow, walking through the woods with my sister and her Springer spaniel.

All this travel means knitting time in the hotel rooms and airports and on planes.  I started the Jujuba top using Seduce yarn, the yarn it was designed for.  I'm not sure I like it, but I'll continue on, as I think I might like the top once it is finished and washed. The yarn is a bit stiff and snags on any rough places, including the wood needle and my cuticles!  With about 6 hours of knitting time today, I should get a good bit done.  The top has a very interesting construction - from the cuffs up, sleeves are knit in the round, then the side 'seams' then in toward the center.  I took the approach I often use with socks:  first both sleeves, then the sides to the neck decreases, then both fronts, then both backs.  Eventually I'll join both halves with a 3 needle bind off, front and back.   I sure hope I like it!

Saturday, I'll be teaching a dyeing class at Asheville's Friends and Fiberworks.  It should be lots of fun - join us if you can

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day!

Isn't it interesting that every 4 years we have a bonus day.  Seems like I should do something special, though I'm not sure what it is.  Oh, wait - I'm blogging!  Later I'll go to yoga and then it's spinning night at Friends & Fiberworks, so I guess that doing some of my favorite (though perfectly normal) things is a fine way to spend the day.  Since one of the things I'm doing at work is some interesting graphic design work, that counts too.  I am just so happy that I love my life enough that I don't have to look for extra things to make it special.

Last week was slammin' - - one of those weeks where there is something to do every evening - - workshops to teach, meetings to attend, contradances to call.  I also went to a wind symphony concert here at the college in which several of my students were playing.  Each of the events were delightful, in its own way, but this week it's nice to be home most evenings-  cooking, dyeing, putting my house to rights as the dining room table was stacked with mail and the coffee table was smothered in knitting detritus.

Yesterday, my Etsy shop was featured on the Phat Fiber blog, as I participated in the February sampler box with two hand dyed samples from my 'Skin Tones' multi-pack.  I enjoy participating in the box and am so impressed with the work that other fiber artists are doing.  If you read this post in the next day or so, and then go on over to the Phat Fiber blog you can get in on the drawing.  There are always nice prizes  - donated my fiber artist as a promotion for their shop.  Don't blame me if you decide to support these fine people.  I have found some lovely yarns and fibers this way!

 How are you spending your Leap Day?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Still knitting and teaching and dyeing...Oh my!

Well, it's been a month since I posted - a month of a new semester with a good bit of course development work.  Last term when I taught Going to College 101, the freshman kept me on my toes and I pretty much ignored my regular class.  I can't do that too often - I have to get it back up to speed.  I'm also teaching knitting in the Art Ed class.  I think  my students are a bit confused when they see me in the computer lab and I show up waxing eloquently about the glories of wool and other fibers!

Additionally I have begun working at a friend's knitting shop on the weekends and usually an evening or 2 per week.  I have to say that I really enjoy working at the yarn shop.  Friends & Fiberworks is an amazing place.  It's a yarn shop with LOTS of yarn and spinning fiber and there are classes offered several times per month.  They also host a Winter and a Summer Fiber Retreat with lots of different workshops taught by awesome instructors and a number of vendors.   Lisa, the shop owner invited me to put my dyed fiber, patterns and hats in the shop and I agreed to work a modest number of hours per month.  Turns out I really like it!  Helping people with their projects, teaching classes, just hanging out with like minded people is a very nice way to spend a Saturday.

I've been knitting up a storm.  I recently finished the above top-down cardigan made from Peace Fleece yarn in a tweedy grey-green, and am nearly finished with a purple eyelet yoke sweater.  Quite lovely, both.  I have since started a dark red jacket, based loosely on Maureen's Cardigan, but I added cables up the front to break the monotony.  I'm knitting this with Christopher Sheep Co. yarn that I bought several years ago, but never quite got around to knitting up.  So not only am I knitting a warm and cozy sweater, I am virtuously knitting down the stash!  Now this is my kind of knitting: bottom up in one piece and it will be divided  for the armholes.  Sleeve will be knit from the shoulders down.  I'm currently about 10 inches into it after only about a week, so I should be wearing it sometime in the spring. 

This weekend I'm leading an English Country dance, teaching a dyeing class and I'm sure I'll be knitting on my red sweater.  I have a wonderful life!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Fibery New Year

The new year has gotten of to a roaring start, in my fiber world, work world and personal world as well.  This upcoming weekend is the Winter Fiber Retreat hosted by Friends & Fiberworks, a yarn shop here in Asheville.  I'll be teaching a few classes along with some of the big names in fiber, including Kathleen Taylor and Chad Alice Hagen.  All my classes have people signed up, plus last year there were quite a few on-site registrations so it looks like I'll be teaching dyeing and knitting.

In preparation for the event, 2 cool things have been underway.  To help promote the Fiber Retreat, I appeared on the local midday news's Craft Corner. Click here watch the video, preceded by one of the most annoying commercials ever!  Now granted, I had all of about 3 minutes on camera, but it was LIVE and I got to sit in the studio while they filmed the broadcast.  It was a fairly slow news day, so I got to simply enjoy the technical crew and on-air talent as they did their thing.  I knit almost the whole sleeve of the Eloise sweater while I was watching, giving me something to do while keeping calm until the last 5 minutes of the program.  It was lots of fun, the crew was super nice and I had so much fun!  I dyed a roving similar to the one shown here, but a bit more blended since I immediately put the crock pot in my car, drove 25 miles and let the dyeing finish in the sunny car.

In addition to my close up, I now have my dyed fiber, yarns, hats and patterns in its own section at FFW.  In exchange for getting 100% of my sales, I'll work a few hours a week at the shop.  During the spring and summer this should not be difficult, though during the fall it could be a crunch.  I did my first shift last Saturday and will go in after work this evening to fill in the rest of the display. 

After a lovely break from work that included a trip to Portland, Oregon, I'm back in gear.  With only 2 sections of the same class to teach, I'm going to think I'm on sabbatical.  But I love my job and am feeling very refreshed and happy to work with students and teachers again.

Some changes on a personal note:: The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater came true.  My partner of 6 years and I have broken up.  We both realized that although we like and respect each other very much, we are better suited to being friends that lovers.  It's all very pleasant and civilized -after all Asheville is basically a small town and we are likely to see each other around town.  

Note that this is a Happy New Year post without resolutions - knitting or otherwise.  How about being happy, healthy and creative?  Is that enough?  I hope so.