Monday, April 30, 2007

shearing day

We went to a local sheep shearing on Sunday morning. Gerald, the shearer, travels all over Kentucky, Tennesse, and Virginia shearing sheep, llamas, alpacas, and goats.

After her "hair cut," the ewe gets a pedicure. This keeps her toenails short and healthy.
Sheep in humid, hot climates can suffer from parasites. Here, she gets her worming medicine to keep her safe from intestinal problems. (Look at that gorgeous gray fleece, to the sheep's left)
The farmer and our small friend (of "My People" fame) bottle feed two hungry lambs. Not all ewes can nurse their babies, so farmers take on the task of bottle feeding round the clock to keep these lambs alive.

Two fine Romney fleeces, one white and one black one with brown tips, were sent off in the mail this morning to be washed and carded. Twenty lbs. of wool later... it was a beautiful spring weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

honored, humbled and hail

I was honored to rate a photo in the Yarn Harlot's blog! Of course, I was also overheating at that point, but it all seemed good when I left home at 7 AM... and somebody's already bought a copy of the Heart's Ease sock design from my website so not only does Stephanie have magic powers for good and commerce, but my sweaty feet encouraged others to try out the fun two color pattern. I loved knitting it.

Yesterday I continued feeling honored at the state capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky. Maybe it was the sheer size of the building, or the fact that we'd gone 150 miles and been in the car since 6 AM Central Time, but when my mom and I looked up at the building, we said WOW. That's big.That's impressive. I was also a little carsick, so maybe that was it, but I felt nervous about this Kentucky Writer's Day thing at the Capitol Rotunda all of a sudden. Although the event aimed to honor the new Poet Laureate, and lots of other folks, I was given a seat in the front row, and they called me to the podium by name! I met a couple of other friendly writers who also won grants, ate snacks, admired the large statues--including Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederacy-- (see, The War Between the States, it never ends, even in a border state like Kentucky)and my mom snapped proud photos of me. It was great to have her there. I don't think I grow out of having my mom be proud of me! I was one of the youngest folks honored, besides the high school students, and that was humbling. Also, many of the writers had connections to each other. Lexington, Louisville, and Frankfort are not that far apart, and there's a strong arts community there. Bowling Green wasn't mentioned once! I'm a little jealous of that community, and also felt a bit like an someone raised in Virginia, and living far away from Kentucky's bigger cities.

We then drove to Louisville for a funky fab lunch at Lynn's Paradise Cafe, and after a small tour of downtown (ok, we got lost), I dropped my mom at the airport. At that point, I faced the drive home, fortified by many glasses of lunchtime iced tea.

All was fine until about 30 miles from home. There was a wreck (that's what Kentuckians call a car accident) and traffic was completely stopped on the highway. It took an hour to go 5 miles to the nearest exit. In the meanwhile, my car idled and the temperature gauge began to rise in a worrying way. I turned on the heat full blast to cool down the engine, cranked down the windows, and tried my own Joanne sauna. I started to feel nauseous. I drank water...the sky got very dark. We had a huge thunderstorm, with lightning that struck very close, and pea to quarter sized hail. I was still stuck on the highway, and scared!

At last, I reached the next exit, and thanks to the professor's research jaunts to Mammoth Cave, I knew my way home by another road. The car cooled down and I made it home. Nothing like a little hail and a 330 mile round trip to keep a person from getting too big for her britches!

Since Saturday morning, I've travelled something like 770 miles by car. I'm seriously looking forward to spending today at home.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Among The Famous People

It was bright and cold when I set out for Lexington to see the Yarn Harlot at 7 AM yesterday. I chose my clothes carefully--my new design Heart's Ease socks and my bright red wool sweater. The red sweater wasn't a special choice --but more on this later! 8 years ago, when I lived in a very drafty old house in North Carolina, I made two of these sweaters. Each one consisted of about 800 yards of random bulky weight handspun. I dumped each into a dyepot, and knit these red and blue sweaters to keep warm. They're my sweatershirt equivalent.

About 30 miles into my drive, I realized that I'd forgotten both my camera and my sunglasses. Hence, we'll rely on descriptions. For roughly 2.5 hours, I saw: cows. grass. more cows. a very few cars. roadkill. cows. You get the picture! Eventually I drove into horsey country and saw the thoroughbreds at Keeneland.

I made it to Lexington in time to grab a cup of tea and hear the panel on knitting and fiction. Then I spilled the hot tea on my sweater. Luckily, it was red, so no one could see, right? Stephanie Japel of Glampyre Knits was there, and she is more gorgeous and glam in person than in her photos. Whoa. Susan Anderson of Itty Bitty Hat fame was there, as was Ann Hood, the earthy, funny, insightful novelist. It was a fun time, but I was self-conscious because honestly, I felt like people were looking at me. Was it the split tea? Could they see the spill? Was it because I was wearing a winter weight sweater and everyone in Lexington was in their pastel summer clothes? I recognized no one besides the famous Stephanie Japel, so I headed downstairs for a sandwich. In line, I met Holly, the Film and Fiber podcaster. Whoa again. Famous people everywhere! Lovely Holly invited me to have lunch with her and a friend named Jessie. (I think.) We were -like- instant knitting friends. Really fun. They insisted that everyone was looking at me because of the red sweater. Was it Manos yarn? Nope! Joanne's yarn!

Then I went off to the book signing room. I bumped into friends from Bowling Green, including famous music expert Nolan Porterfield . Next I spoke with Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, who is running for KY governor this last, a KY candidate with views I can respect! The famous people were everywhere, I'm telling you!

Then, of course, I headed off to hear Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's talk. I sat with my new buddies. They took a photo of me wearing the red sweater! Stephanie, aka The Yarn Harlot, was hilarious, even with a sore throa. She told us about why knitters are amazingly charitable people who stun fundraisers. She explained why we, the 50 million knitters in N. America, should be proud and stop letting people embarrass us, disparage us, or even get in the way of doing commerce as knitters. All in all, exactly like the blog, but better--in person.

I donated my hat (Annmarie and others, are you serious? You think people would like my "Represent" hat pattern? Should I write it up for my website?)

On my way out of town, I got my books signed. Stephanie took a photo of my socks! I felt famous! Of course, I had to put my foot on the table, and uhh, you know, not everyone puts their feet up on the book signing table, but guessed it, I'm not everyone. I was overhot by then in my wool and dreading the drive home. However, everyone in line admired my sock,so I felt better.

The drive home wasn't too bad (glad I didn't stay later, though, I was so tired). The professor and the dog guys spent the day planting our warm weather veggies! Our garden is full now--with radishes, lettuces, peas and onions almost ready to eat, and now, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and other yummies in the ground. Everyone lived happily ever after, especially after hearing the Yarn Harlot. The End.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

hats off!

Here's the hat I'm donating to charity as part of my Lexington adventure. I knit it last weekend-it's my design- (just a few hours, aren't hats great?) as part of my preparations. I'm going to drive 150+ miles each way this Saturday to hear the Yarn Harlot speak. If all works well, I'll hear Stephanie Japel of Glampyre Knits and Ann Hood, too.

I don't get out very often and "mix" with other writers or designers. That's mainly because it's a lot of effort to find them! They don't just wander through my (relatively small) town, and I don't usually go to big knitterly conventions or writing events. However, I love seeing people one on one, or at small events. I'm sure this thing in Lexington will be huge. However, I can always hop back in the car and go home if I'm feeling overwhelmed. Most of the time, I force myself to leave home, the dogs, and do this stuff. I return feeling so thrilled I've gone. It's an adventure, it's stimulating, and it's very different from my normal routine. All in all, it's worth it.

The professor convinced me to do another big thing. On April 24th, Kentucky Writers' Day, there's a big shindig at the State Capitol. They plan to honor people like me, who've won Kentucky Arts Council fellowships and other honors. It's yet another several hours each way in the car to go to the state capital in Frankfort, so I wasn't so excited. The professor's teaching that day, so he called up my parents and --suddenly!--my mom's hopping on a plane and travelling here from DC to go with me. "Wow, ok," I said. Guess I'm going...

When I called to accept the invitation --they'll reserve seats for us with our names on them and everything-- I realized this was kind of fun. I'm flattered. Also, even though this grant was a very big deal in terms of my small yearly income, so far, the acceptance letter and the check are the only parts of it where I've communicated with anyone else. That's it! So, maybe the professor was right. He thinks I need a little positive reinforcement. You know, the kind where kind people
(thanks, Annmarie!) remind me that I should keep up this writing and designing thing... That it makes a difference to them. It turns out that sometimes, these little positive moments keep me afloat when I'm in freelancer limbo land. (will something get accepted? Should I design more? Is it cost effective? Will I manage to sell this? Should I stay up even later or get up earlier to make this thing I'm submitting on spec. work out?)

This is, of course, in comparison to my lovely hairdresser's response. Joanne (her name is Joanne too!) said she wanted to write a book, and I explained the whole process for writing non-fiction book proposals, and how it works. Especially the W-A-I-T-I-N-G part and the income. (nil) She'd given up on the whole thing by the end of the haircut! She almost said, almost, but not quite, since I was still sitting there..."PFFFFW! Why Bother?!"

Monday, April 16, 2007

We're Hokies* today

Not all blog posts are happy. Early this AM, we heard that the professor's aunt and uncle's home in New Jersey was completely flooded. They were evacuated by boat...but they have flood insurance, and their cars were ok. We were just absorbing this, relieved that they were safe, when I heard the national news.
I was raised in Virginia, and I'm part of an academic community in Kentucky. This morning, long before we knew how many deaths took place, I was hurting for Virginia Tech. I've spent a lot of time on university campuses, as a student, as an employee, and as a teacher. I'm married to a professor. We value universities as these places full of lively, safe, debate. I live a half mile from our local university; I walk my husband to work at his office every day. On Saturday, I was with my dogs on campus. (We're part of the U in the Step It Up sign) I looked forward to posting this image, even though Sally is just a blur, my face is obscured, and only Harry sits up at attention, ready to have his photo taken. We have an identity as participants, mentors, friends-- a part of university life.
Today, the "ivory tower" was no safe haven. My heart goes out to all of those at Virginia Tech. So many people lost today...We mourn with you. We feel your terrible loss.
*Hokie is the name of the Virginia Tech mascot, it's a common reference in Virginia.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hot Hot Hot

In my fickle dating days, I had an off-again, on-again boyfriend whose mere touch caused me absolute shivers. He drove my best friend nuts because he always wanted to be touching me, and she thought it was icky. (I thought it was lust.) Maybe I’ve lost something, but these shivery moments are rare, esp. when the professor is off at a Bioinformatics conference. I was reminded of this because:
A) It’s cold and damp out. Harry likes being in my lap (as much as a 40 lb dog can) and to be touching me in some way. It’s endearing.
B) I’m knitting a hat to donate for the Yarn Harlot’s Represent tour and the yarn, Cashsoft DK and Rowan Wool Cotton, is as close as yarn can get to that absolutely sexy shiver.

C) Aside from a cup of good sweet hot tea, sparkling white wine, and incredibly well-made silky, very dark chocolate, I can think of nothing edible that makes me feel this way.
D) I like a few sensuous and sultry hot hot hot days in summer, when sitting on the back porch and drinking iced tea or lemonade is all one can do. I don’t want to see an entire world of hot hot hot and flooding. Yesterday, Harry, Sally, and I participated in the Bowling Green Action Day for , a chance to ask Congress to enact legislation to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. (Yes, global warming affects dogs, too. I shudder to think of all the shedding...)

What?? How did I get from teenage lust to carbon emissions? Well, it started with your bread stories,and trying to post about positive, interesting things…avoiding work stress, tax extensions, and other negativities...and Phyllis, I lived in upstate NY for a while. I’d like to devote a moment of divine hallelujahs to Wegman’s…La! That grocery store chain (huge, full of exotic treats and interesting foods) is a true wonder.
So, my neato new Map indicates that I'm getting something like 67.28 people visiting, every day! Wow. Let me know you're here and drop a line every now and then, ok? I'm referring to the whole people. That .28, well, is she able to type? Well, I'm just thrilled she's reading at all...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

from scratch

Passover ended. We went back to eating breads, pastas, and leavened foods with gusto. Woohoo! Hurray for Yeast! As I've taken over making almost all our bread, I've come to really grasp the Passover story. You're on the run, leaving slavery, becoming a refugee, and there isn't time for bread to rise. It's matzo (think crumbly crackers, if you've never eaten any) or hardtack or manna, from now on. Anyway, we did our eight day holiday of remembering slavery, we're back to normal, right?

I didn't have any challah in the freezer, and I'd run out of white flour. Challah, a rich, sweet eggy bread, is what most Jews eat on the Sabbath (Friday night to Saturday night)--especially for Friday night dinner. It makes the meal special. It tastes like brioche, and leftovers make killer French toast or chocolate bread pudding.

I made some whole wheat bread instead, because the professor is away this weekend at a conference in Paris,(That is, Paris, Tennessee!!) so, no rush to make a fresh batch of challah. On my errands yesterday, I visited our brand new chain store bakery, Panera. To my surprise, they had one loaf of challah there for sale. If you want challah here, you have to special order it, or bake it yourself. It's not ever just available, since few people want it, or have heard of it.

I noticed that Panera posted a sign stating that they made their ingredients available in case of allergies, so even though I'd bought the challah, I asked for the ingredients. They had to download it; they scarcely sell challah and folks don't ask for ingredients lists. Since I try not to mix milk and meat at home, and I like to know what I eat, I wondered what was in this loaf. While I waited, the manager told me it took three days to special order this bread if I ever wanted it again; they don't plan on stocking it unless I order it specially. It was only available on Fridays, and... Oh dear.

For comparison, here's what's in my challah:
water, yeast, sugar, two eggs, white flour, olive oil, salt
I brush the top of the braided loaves with: one egg, some sugar and sprinkle on top poppy seeds or sesame seeds or salt, according to mood.

I make them four at a time, and freeze them. I aim to use organic ingredients and free range eggs, when possible. It's probably $5 of ingredients, and an hour's worth of active effort.

Here's what's in the $2.25 loaf I bought: (do you know what some of these things are?! I don't)
INGREDIENTS: Unbleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour), water, bread base (wheat flour bleached, dextrose, palm oil, dry whey [a milk protein], salt, mono & diglycerides with BHT and citric acid as preservatives, corn flour, soy flour, DATEM, vital wheat gluten, calcium salts, leavening [monocalcium phosphate], wheat starch, calcium carbonate, ascorbic acid as dough conditioner, calcium iodate, enzymes, soy lecithin, l-cysteine, silicon dioxide, tricalcium phosphate), honey, pasteurized whole egg, yeast, brown sugar, egg shade (water, FD&C Yellow #5, citric acid, and sodium benzoate).

Not surprisingly, in a Joanne's home alone and bored taste test, this challah was chewy like bubble gum, vaguely sweet tasting, and it smelled? Like toe cheese... and not in a good, Limburger way, if you know what I mean. While I don't like wasting food, I didn't eat more of this bread. It seemed safer not to.

I stopped at the grocery store and bought organic white flour.

Last week at the library, I bumped into someone and we bemoaned the local bread situation. I desperately miss Guglhupf, the European bakery that was around the corner from my house in Durham, North Carolina. As I said, "I make all our bread," I thought, have I turned into some sort of overkill loony? Some uppity Gen-X hippie? And my answer?

No, I'm not. This ingredients list (What is DATEM?) is why I make our bread. Oh, and if I am a crunchy granola health nut crazyhead? Whatever, call me what you want. I'd rather eat the bread I make tastes a lot better. Only thing better? That Guglhupf bread, now 8+ hours drive away from my house.

So, do you live near an Independently Owned, Artisanal Bakery? Oh, pretty please -count your blessings--and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Turkish Lace Camisole

Announcing the Turkish Lace Camisole, formerly a Knit Picks design exclusive! Available now as a downloadable pattern on my website. Click HERE to purchase or learn more about the pattern.
How did I come up with this format for the photos? Well, most of the comments (which were all very helpful) involved how one would wear this, and what the model should look like and wear. In fact, this design, due to its drape and lacy appeal, has a great way of clinging to flatter all the curves and waist of most any figure. So, using my red sample camisole as a model, the professor and I did another photo shoot--and then, I erased myself out of the photo.
I found this a fast and fun summer project when I designed and knit it last year.
Now, what should you wear it with? A tank? A bikini? A long sleeve shirt? Nothing at all? ... Well now, that's up to you. Using my imagination (and a little bit of the professor's), this blog entry might make me blush!
No one says you have to wear this in public...

Monday, April 09, 2007

red period

Thanks for your thoughts on the camisole. While it hasn't been reknit, I heard the suggestions on how to fix things, and did a photoshoot with the sample I have, which is red. It looks better...more appealing. Since designing is part of my business, I can't always afford monetarily to redesign or reknit a project. Never mind my sanity, when it comes to the repetitive knitting...As it is, I (sometimes) earn as much as minimum wage, in terms of hours put in! It will be reposted on my website for sale soon, and in honor of its rebirth, I'm calling it Turkish Lace Camisole. That was my original name, btw. I hope it's sexy enough to draw some attention.

To go with the red theme, here's Kool-Aid's Best Use, which just came back from the local art show. (I last posted about this in mid-February.) It's handspun, hand-dyed, and knit into scribble lace, a la Debbie New. It's encased in plexiglass and both a comment on our food grade dyes..and a way to make sure knitting is on the wall at exhibitions and called art. The yarn leftovers are available here . I hung this in my guest room. It won a third place, which makes the yarn famous (!) and earned me enough to take the professor out for a nice meal. Even though it didn't win anything, I like Cosmos Fabric better, so it's in my office so I can look at it every day.
A red period might be angry and irritated, which is sometimes how I feel about the knitwear design. It's creative and fulfilling, but hard to swallow in a business sense...I'm losing money on it a lot of the time. When I have a rare typo or a pattern someone else decides doesn't work, say, because they haven't checked their gauge, etc., you can't believe the snarkiness I sometimes get, even when I try my best to remedy any mistake! (not here on the blog, of course, this is the home of cheerfulness, right? but elsewhere.)
Once, I had a success. I posted a pattern for sale, and several people told me what a great idea it was! Then they didn't buy it--instead, they copied the idea. Ouch.
Harry the dog is a good role model for me when dealing with this... He's very much a Type B personality or perhaps an AB, because he is sometimes competitive for attention with Sally. If only I could relax and just get used to my karma, Harry suggests! There'd be more time for snoozing on the couch!
I'll post the red camisole photo soon. In the meantime, here is another "red"--a sunset shot from an upstairs window at my house. Here's to lovely dusky skies here at the top of Reservoir Hill.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

limbo land

OK, on to a different topic or two. Many of you know that I've had a stall out in the work department. I'm waiting to hear if a big project will happen. I'm waiting to see if I will be travelling a lot this summer, or not. I'm afraid to start pitching new projects because, well, freelancers manage our own schedules. If too many jobs happen at once, I've got no boss to bail me out. I do it all. When not enough jobs happen (like now) I have to be glad when I'm busy with other things, like big holidays! It's hard to stay "just busy enough."

About a year ago, I published this pattern with Knit Picks. They called it "lace camisole." They owned copyright for a year, and now it's reverted to me. This pattern didn't sell all that well, but several folks have agreed that was probably because of the yarn choice. As with many designs I do, I didn't choose the yarn or the color for this one.

So here's a question for you, loyal blog-commenters. Do you think I should take the time to re-knit this and rewrite it for knitters to buy the pattern on my website? I think it might be more successful in a solid dk weight cotton, but what do you think?

Some considerations: I'm making steady progress on the (endless) professor's sweater, which will slow down if I stop to work on this... and well, pattern sales on my website have not been booming lately. Is the knitting time worth it? I'm not even sure if I'll wear the sample camisole once it's knitted! (yes, as a designer, I do make things that sometimes aren't quite my own cup of tea...)

All opinions welcome. As long as you're constructive with your criticism, I'm interested!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

holiday time!

Thanks to everybody who wished us a happy holiday! We're having a great one, so far. Here's a photo of my table, before the guests arrived. Even this is related to fibery stuff--I got to use one of my grandmothers' table linens (she bought it in Italy, it's real linen and hand embroidery,) and the matzoh cover at the end of the table was embroidered by my other grandma. I'm so lucky to set my holiday table with these special things! Brisket, chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, salads, olives, pickles, chocolate cake, wine, and lots of other yummies...wish you could have been here with us!

I'm very pleased by how my gilt mermaid scales turned out. I'm going to press forward and spin and ply more yardage exactly the same way, in the end it was worth it. To answer Terri's question regarding a spacer, I didn't use one because it didn't fit my needs for this yarn. I wasn't aiming to create a series of evenly plied singles. Plus, I suspect the textured boucle thread would require lots of help to feed it through a spice top spacer, but my aim was to create a uneven ply in which the Cotswold occasionally created textured bumps around the threads. I think this would make a fabulous shimmery shawl. Since I'm completely overwhelmed with yarn at the moment, I'll perhaps try to sell this on My new site at etsy: is getting lots of visits, but I have yet to sell anything...

What I may do to ease the plying difficulties next time is roll all the gilt and boucle and other threads together into a ball before I try to ply them with the handspun. Then I won't have the problems which occurred last time--basically when one of the cones got tangled or stuck while I was plying with all the others. I find plying off cones difficult, even when I put them on a lazy kate--some of them, especially gilt or polyester threads, seem to be designed to catch, tangle, and gum up the works. I can only imagine how frustrating they'd be to work with an industrial textile mill, which is, of course, what they were designed for.

OK, enough of this mermaid gilt! Next time, I promise I'll move on to another soon as I think one up?..Suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

the gilt

The next stage for the mermaid scales yarn is, of course, plying. However, when I think of mermaids (my imagination is wild and influenced by cartoons, bear with me) they're bursting from a wave, glittering with bits of shiny seaweed, and garlanded with gold and silver from shipwrecks.

So, I tried plying in bits of lighter green boucle thread, silver and gold glitzy thread, and a dark and light green cotton thread, to give the right effect. It looks really cool, which you can't tell from these photos. For spinners among us, you might sense that plying from this many cones at once was, uhh, complicated. You can see Sally has given up any interest in the process, and positioned herself right near the air conditioning vent. It took a while.

Here's a close-up of the yarn, which of course doesn't show all the glittery bits I worked so hard to put in. (it figures) I'll shoot more photos of this skein another time, so fibery people will appreciate the efforts. This effort is probably a one time deal. The rest of the mermaid scales may just have to go gilt-free.

Today I took a brief break from holiday preparations (Passover starts tomorrow night) and sat outside to spin more mermaid scales. The sneezy professor joined me and we appreciated our vastly accelerated spring weather. We've already hit the high 80's here and blasted through the daffodils and most of the tulips. Our yard is featuring wisteria, wood hyacinths, and bluebells...and the irises look like they'll bloom soon. Global warming, anyone?

As a good natured farewell to all bread products, rice, and other fare that isn't K for P, I told the professor that if he did 35 sit ups, we'd go out for fast food. (it was a joke.) He took me seriously, got on the floor, and I held his feet. Harry the dog got very excited that we were all playing on the floor..but-- not with him. So excited, in fact, that we think he decided to water a very large indoor houseplant in retribution! However, since he's tried to dig in the houseplant before to hide nylabones, it's up on a chair. Imagine our surprise when we quizzed each other--uhh, did you water this plant today? did you? It was an enormous puddle--under the chair. We're accusing Harry, although maybe Sally could have done it.

The joke was on us. We headed to Fat Moe's. This is a local chain that only recently made it north to Bowling Green from Nashville. I say, "I bet it's not open on Sunday!" and the professor insists it is. It looks empty. There are no cars in the parking lot, but even so, the professor marches up to the door. He will not be denied his burger. He tries the door.

It opens.

That fast food joint is empty. Completely empty. No cashier, nothing. Air conditioned, dead silence. The professor ushers me out to the car, (we're both a little spooked) and says, "How about sushi?" --As far as we can tell, Fat Moe's isn't open on Sundays. Maybe they just forgot to lock the door?!!

The sushi (the healthy sushi, complete with salad) was lovely. 35 sit ups and a healthy dinner I preferred? Aside from the large puddle in the dining room, I won.