Monday, October 29, 2007

Delicious Soup Day!

So I got in the rest of the fiber from Smoky Mountain Spinnery on friday - oh man! I had almost forgotten how incredible this stuff is. I now have four ounces of superfine 150's merino and four ounces of baby suri alpaca hanging from my wall. I tried them both out for a second on my wheel, with limited success. The alpaca I can spin, but it is the slipperiest thing I have ever tried to hold on to - moreso even than silk or a greased-up toddler.*

The merino, though, is just too fine for me to spin on my wheel, at least so far. It's very nice, but the Babe, he was not built for laceweight, and his orifice is too wide, so the yarn vibrates around a whole hell of a lot, and also his take-up (even without the brake band entirely) is too much for this fiber. Ergo, I needed a spindle that was up to the job.

Now, I tend to make my own spindles, and this was to be no exception. I like 'em much lighter than I can usually find around town, and I own a dremel wireless rotary tool, so usually I just drill through a pair of wooden craft spoons, sand up a $0.10 dowel, notch it, glue it, and call it a day. This was my plan for friday, along with laundry and packing for the Renaissance Festival on saturday.

So friday I get home to discover that we're actually heading out to the Faire that day, and I have neither dowels nor craft spoons, nor laundry done and costumes packed. Oh noes! I'm not willing to leave without some knitting and some spinning, so I toss Galveston Prime and a mostly-finished Baby Surprise Jacket in my purse, some of my new merino and an ounce of BFL from Painted Sheep in the Dublin Lake colourway into a ziplock bag, clean mundanes and my toothbrush into the front seat, and I'm almost ready to go. I ended up taking off one arm of a wire coat hanger, slipping a heavy silver bali bead a friend gave me a few years back on the end, and bending the end so it couldn't come off. Voila! New metal spindle. I did not expect much.

And as with so many things in life, I was pleasantly surprised :) The new spindle is light and fast, with just enough weight to keep it from floating off (a problem I'd had with my featherweight wooden ones), center weighted so it turns fast, holds a surprisingly large amount of yarn, and is charming to boot. I spun about half an ounce of the BFL walking around during the faire (which was great, TwinSister and LittlestBrother were there and we all had a great time), and this morning I put that onto a storage bobbin *coughtoiletpapertubecough* and started the new merino on it. I am full of love. Love love love love love.

To top off a great day, I came home and made a delicious soup, with an ingredient which was actually completely new to me: butternut squash! Here's the recipe I used:

1 butternut squash (mine was 3lbs) - $3
4 chicken bullion cubes - $1
1 cup frozen chopped onions - $1
Olive oil
4 tbs margarine/butter or hell, more olive oil
1 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
4 cups water
1 box low-fat cream cheese - $1.50
House (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Put cream cheeze (unopened) on top of stove to warm up. Cut squash into quarters, remove seeds and dangly bits. Line a baking tray with foil, pour olive oil on, plus salt and pepper. Place squash cut-side down on tray, bake 45 mins.

While that's going, sauté onions in stockpot on stove, then add bullion, pepper, cayenne, and water. Bring to a boil, take down to a simmer, cover, and wait till the squash is done. Spin for a bit if you have time. Browse through the latest Knit Picks magazine.

When squash is done, take it out of the oven and scoop all the delicious squash-meats out and add to the stockpot. We put the skin in too, but we like soup with texture. Feel free to add the remaining oil, salt and pepper if you like (we did). You'll know the squash is done because you'll have more trouble not piercing the skin than you do scooping the meats out - it will be very very squishy and delicious. Go ahead and try some. We won't tell.

Boil the soup for about 5-15 minutes, or however long it takes before the squash is falling apart in the pot. Squishing it with a slotted spatula helps at this point, or if you want a more traditional, smoother soup, take some out and blenderize the fuck out of it. We just squished it.

Take soup back down to a simmer, medium-low heat. You don't want it to boil after this.

Open cream cheese, which should be very soft by now, and put into a bowl with some of the hot soup liquid. Mix around until it's all liquidy, pouring cheesy goodness into the stockpot and soup into the cheese bowl as needed until it's all melted into the soup. Call your friends and brag about how much more delicious your dinner is than theirs; offer them some for lunch tomorrow.

Makes: a cubic fuck-ton.

* Dude, I have three little brothers, and grew up helping my mom do childcare. I've run after many a toddler whose coated him or herself in something gross. Peanut butter? Bitch to get out of long hair.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sometimes, There Are Assholes

Such as at work, on the phone, who call 15 minutes after you clock out (and you TOLD them when you clock out) but you're nice and take their call anyways, and they go APESHIT on you for half an hour and throw temper tantrums (Grown people!) because of a policy you didn't create, that they've been told about repeatedly for over a month and a half of phone and email conversations.

Sometimes assholes get reported to your supervisor, and you go get margaritas. Yay margaritas!

In a completely unrelated note, I have been having the stress lately. I have the stress about the studying I should be doing for grad school, I have the stress about the planning I should be doing for a wedding, I have the stress about crunching numbers for the possibility of a mill. Lots of the stress. Maybe even a little the stress from having to talk to assholes on occasion, instead of letting my brain-juice settle nicely into the placid pool that is my usual work day. I like my nice, repetitive tasks, with their soothing music, their mild differences that keep things interesting, the bits of hey, I should read that when it comes in that make library work so enjoyable. I even like talking to other lackeys through customer service - how is your day? here is the problem in which I am not too personally invested, thank you for not going apeshit, thank you again for your solution to this problem.

So when I get the stress I avoid the things that cause it - wedding planning, studying, crunching numbers - and I do something soothing and fun. Lately it has been spinning, and I think working with the Sandstone roving has really freed me to work with color in ways that I hadn't considered before.

For example, Sweetie's sister got me two ounces of a lovely blue and yellow roving. The colors are great, it's pure silk, what's not to love? Well, a barber-pole blue and yellow scarf, not so much. However, a variegated warmer/cooler green scarf? Totally down. I picked up the most recent Spin-Off, dug out my wool cards, blended up some of the roving, and I'm loving it. It flashes from bright chartreuse to sea-kelp blue to happy hayfield yellow-green. It's happy, it's largely tonal, and it's now something I will wear and love forever. I feel released just thinking about it.

So when I got all angry today about the asshole (this happened more than once, the anger. I get mad in waves, highs and lows over time), I for some reason thought, I'll show him! That jerk! I'm going to design a lace pattern that's not perfectly symmetrical, see who he's being a jerk to now!

Why I thought this was vengeance, I have no idea. But I DO have two new ideas for stoles (or one really long stole if you stacked them?), if I can make the graph paper love me. This WILL work. I have my sketches, I have my calculator, I have the awesome power of my brain. I have not been this revved about a pattern since Galveston (which, by the way, I will be getting up soon, I promise).

Take THAT.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Free Pattern - Anya Scarf

Name: Anya *
Yarn: 1 ball KnitPicks Shadow (or ~440 yards of your favorite laceweight yarn)
Needles: US 4/3.5 mm
Length: 60"
Notes: Anya is a fairly simple lace scarf, based on Orenburg shawl designs. Like these shawls, Anya is based in garter-stitch, and so produces a lovely squishy type of lace. I did not use the entire ball of Shadow, but only because I could not finish another whole pattern repeat. YMMV.

Anya is here being modeled by Sullivan Ross, a *TEN FOOT TALL* statue on the A&M Campus, which is why it looks a bit skimpy on him.

Modelled on Sully:

Flappin' in the breeze:

Better shot of the pattern:

Chart! (click for big)

Cast on 51 sts, knit 10 rows. On last row, place marker 5 sts from either end to create selvage. These first and last stitches are knit every row. The chart is for the 41 stitches between these selvages. The rest of the instructions will not reference them, but refer to the chart stitches.

The first 4 rows of the chart is section A. The area after that but before the last row is section B, and the last row is section C.

*Work section A 8 times, then work section B; repeat from * four times more, for a total of 5 repeats. Work section A 8 times. Work section C.

Knit 10 rows, bind off (is a simple pattern). Block lightly. Enjoy!

[size=1]* I could not get the PDFs to work. I hope folks don't mind.[/size]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Been Spinning

So I've spun up one 4-oz bundle of the wool from Smoky Mountain Spinnery. I was aiming for laceweight, but may have hit closer to a lovely two-ply fingering weight. Right off the plying bobbin I had 321 yards, but that's not the full 4 oz due to sampling spinning, sampling plying, having one bobbin significantly fuller than the other, and trying to ply from both ends of that yarn cake, which worked for about half of what was left before becoming a tangled mess that I was too tired to untangle. I'm estimating about 1700 ypp, once it's been set, but I'll keep you posted. I'm certainly glad I got that second 4 oz bundle. Right now it looks about as heavy as Sea Silk, in the thickest places.

In other news, I am now a quarter century old. I choose to be optimistic and say that this is a quarter of my expected lifespan, rather than an approximate third.

In other other news, I am trying very hard to get these PDFs to post. If it doesn't happen, I will put them up as regular-type posts, and/or start a yahoo group of my free patterns. It would certainly be easier to update! ...I may do this in the morning.

In yet other (but lastly-type) news, I now have a studio! Our former storage/junk room, even formerly a dining room, has now been cleared of junk and mess, filled with yarn and fiber-related goodness, and re-named. Both the yarn cabinets are now in there, as is the wheel (and wheel-related goods, such as the spinnin' chair and lazy kate), the projects basket, the swift and winder, and my roving.

The best part? My roving? It's on the wall. Big braids, hanging in a row about 6" from the ceiling, all along the wall with the kitchen window. It's about three pounds of wool/silk/linen/mohair total. It rocks hard.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Well, I'm back. I found out late last friday (the day of the previous post) that Aunt Jo had passed away early thursday morning. Sweetie drove me down to Houston on monday and my mom and I made it to Nashville by tuesday with hours to spare waiting for TwinSister's late night flight to get in. I cast on for Mountain Ash in the car and did a few rows. I worked on Galveston Prime. I dicked around with graph paper, and may have an orenburg-inspired southwestern stole pattern some time soon. Mom tried to plan my wedding for the first seven hours or so of the drive tuesday morning. She criticized my weight, my style of dress, my lack of religion; I criticized her long-time boyfriend and his parenting skills, mostly by citing his children's behavior. They're trying to become foster parents, eventually to adopt an infant girl, and we killed a couple hours trying out various name combinations (I still like Alaura Day). We got a hotel room and some frozen dinners and watched comedy central for a few hours, then picked up TwinSister, had dessert, and went to bed.

Mom forgot about the one hour time change east of Knoxville, so we had to rush in the morning. There were around 50-100 people at Aunt Jo's service in Sevierville. It was very touching in that way that you can't really articulate, and as usual I had a hard time reminding myself that I was really there and this was really happening. This tends to happen for me at times like that. I recognized cousin Nick's family and cousin Terry's family, we spent good time with them at the post-service lunch and later hanging out at the hotel. If we have a wedding, both these families have said they want to attend.

Terry is the daughter Aunt Jo gave up for adoption to another of the aunts, who reconciled with her about thirty years later. She's also the other crafty person in the family, and we hit the Artist's Walk in Gatlinburg that afternoon. We saw some excellent woodworking and metalworking shops, barely resisted resisting temptation in homemade candy shops, and eventually found the incredibly fantastic Smoky Mountain Spinnery. I bought half a pound of absolutely exquisite merino/silk roving in her Sandstone colourway for $24, and had her put aside a few other things for when my next paycheck comes in. If this woman had a website, she would be a millionaire. She had buffalo and yak (I distinctly remember the yak, could be wrong about the buffalo, but I don't think that I am), at $19 for 4 oz. Order from this woman, her email is and she is wonderful. She even let us pet some vicuña - did you know something could be so soft that your hands literally don't register that they're touching it? It's one of those things that's so nice, I don't know if I'll ever buy it, because I don't think my current spinning skills can do it justice. It has inspired me to maybe pick up some guanaco this next month, though.

The drive back on thursday was much the same. I was able to sleep from Sevierville to Nashville, where we dropped TwinSister off again so she only missed one day of work. Then it was back, 15 more hours to Texas. Mom tried to plan more of my wedding, we discussed what superpowers we would want, what we would do if we won the lotto, and mom quizzed me for a solid four hours on why I don't sell my shawls, or only make things that I know I can sell, why I have hobbies that aren't centered around making money, how I could change those hobbies to BE centered around making money, and so on. It was a lot of "well mom, I do plan on selling patterns, but I have to get my name out there first, and free patterns do that really well" and a lot of "nobody's going to pay me what this shawl is worth, not even if I paid myself minimum wage" and a lot of "I do it because I enjoy it, and count my purchases as entertainment money, it's cheaper than getting cable and lasts longer". I specifically didn't compare my knitting to her child-raising, even though they're both something done for the love of doing it, doing it well is its own reward, and you're going to spend more money than you get in, even if somebody is paying you to do it. Some places you don't go with mom.

We got in at around 2 in the morning, and Sweetie picked me up around 3 the next day to head back home to College Station. It's hard being apart from him, even for just a few days. Our bathtub faucet broke, pouring scalding water by the gallon, so that the heat and steam made some kind of weird orange liquid seep from the walls, but the part to fix it won't be in until monday. I yelled at the apartment manager until she got someone in to at least tighten it up enough that we won't have hot bath water at all until then, which is much better in my opinion. I admit to being a little harsh, and I feel bad about it now, but it did do the trick.

So all in all that was my week. I'm still feeling antsy and odd, so I started spinning the roving I got from Smoky Mountain Spinnery. It's lovely, whites and pinks and beiges and grays, maybe the occasional light lichen white-green. It's spinning up very easily, so much so that I don't mind that it's not yarn yet, which is a problem I've had lately. I'm going to design a new shawl to knit with it, something simple, maybe faroese. It'll be nice to make a shawl for Jo.