Sunday, November 25, 2007

Worshiping God through Fiber

We went to see the newly released movie “August Rush” yesterday. I found the premise of an orphaned child with a special awareness of music, very interesting and heartfelt. Essentially, it is a story of the innocence of a child, with an inner awareness of music, that he feels was given to him by his biological parents, and his hope that he must make music so they can hear him and find him. Although constantly being told there is no hope, he continues with this hope to a happy conclusion.

Children music prodigies certainly have a gift that must be instilled in them from God, whether it be from the womb or later. I almost didn’t believe this until I experienced it myself, in my second son, who was definitely driven to seek out music even as a baby. For it is God that has created everything and in everything, it is amazing how the sounds we hear in the world have a musical quality, whether it be a melodious tone or a syncopated rhythm. One just has to listen.

Is God training us to listen to his small voice? I think so. He rejoices in music and the sounds of our worship in music. It prepares us to listen to Him and dig deep into ourselves, our emotions, our deepest thoughts to express and connect with Him in an intimate heartfelt relationship.

Our senses are amazing things. Again, I feel they are gifts of God. Are you thinking, “this is crazy”? Just think about it…. What if you didn’t have the gift of sight? What if you were born without hands? Just like the sense of hearing is there to discover the music in the world, God gives us the sense of sight and touch to learn about the softness of the world through fiber and yarn.

The more I get into the “discoveries” of fiber, the more I realize that not all fiber is the same. Our sense of touch heightens the more we touch the different fibers. The more we touch and work with a particular fiber, “yarn” is not just “yarn” anymore. We start noticing that merino wool is soft and alpaca is softer still. Mohair is shiny but silk is shinier still. What joy that gives us, depicted here by Marly of Yarn Thing Podcast. We are amazed at the beauty of the different explosions of colors of the different yarns our eyes see.

Isn’t God good? What a heavenly craft he gives us, in knitting and crocheting and spinning yarn. Through fiber, He has brought us into an awareness of Him. Is this why it relaxes and calms us and those around us? We just have to look and touch. What joy we experience when we have created something with these gifts God gives us. It makes us feel we need to GIVE back.

Is this worshiping Him? Yes! The blankets, sweaters, shawls, washcloths, hats and baby clothes we make are destined for someone God loves. They are gifts of "love". As we teach someone how to spin, knit and crochet, we are giving of ourselves as if we are giving to God, because we are using the gifts he has given us to lift someone, to warm them, to help them feel loved and cared for. Let us continue to worship Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Twelve Gifts of Thanksgiving

In this season I have contemplated some of my blessings for which I am thankful…….

Twelve plus skeins of yarn.
Eleven pairs of Knitting needles,
Ten finished projects.
Nine bags of roving fiber
Eight new knitting books
Seven days a week to knit
Six favorite knitting podcasts
Five fiber festivals
Four pots to dye with.
Three sons to knit for.
Two spinning wheels
And an obsession to knit forevermore.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Holidays A-Coming, Time to Get Ready!

This year, I accepted an invitation to go to my Brother and Sister-in-laws for Thanksgiving. With fighting this flu and the frustration of not having a lot of time, to prepare for a big dinner, I just felt I could not handle it by myself this year. I am grateful for the respite and have a few more days to get ready for the eventual holiday company that will eventually show up soon after Thanksgiving.

My sons’ have made a commitment to come “home” for the Holidays, even though they live within a half hour driving distance. This is my reward for raising such wonderful sons who are still attached, somewhat, to family and our home. My unmarried sister-in-law will be staying the weekend too, and of course over Christmas holidays. This year we may be adding a temporary member to our family by having my youngest son’s friend share Christmas with us, while her family vacations in Mexico. I’m glad be an open house for whoever wants to come. This is a blessing to me and it helps me feel less lonely during these special holidays.

The day after Thanksgiving, my granddaughter will be returning with her other Grandmother from a visit to El Salvador. I am looking forward to seeing her again. She is now 16 months old. In preparation for her visiting again, I have started to prepare the guest bedroom closet with some new toy shelves, so she has a place to explore. I sure hope she likes it.
Of course, I have claimed part of it to store my fiber and some yarn.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to store the rest of my yarn which is now filling the guest bed. This is tomorrow’s project.

I was browsing the Web and found this lovely easy-looking lace scarf pattern on Knitty. Com called Branching Out. I just could not resist trying it with some of my mohair/wool blend handspun. So I cast on…..I just love the way it is coming out. I know, you are probably thinking I am crazing! Yes, I know I have two sweaters going on plus some Christmas presents and this may become one of them. It is only a 5 rows pattern repeat. If I have time, I may knit up two. I have some purple handspun merino that would look great in this lacy pattern.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Spacebag Nightmare or Dream?

I ventured to go to work yesterday. Although not 100% well, I had a meeting I could not miss. So after the long day, I tiredly trudged home after 9 hrs of work in my attempts to catch up on the work that had piled up on my desk from being out sick.

What do I find as I walk through my door? A bin with a rectangle cube of something smooshed into what looks like a space bag in the middle of my living room! There seems to be blacks, greys, browns and white in it but nothing recognizable.

I look at my husband and ask “What have you done?”.
Husband, nonchalantly: “I decided to experiment”.
Me: “With what?”
Husband: “ I took all the stuff in the shelf and it’s all in there”.
My eyes get big in shock, when I realize he is referring to my lovely round coils of wool and alpaca roving that I must have paid over $100 to process into these wonderful meticulous coils I had carefully stashed in some shelves in the extra bedroom.
Me: This time I was a little louder, “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??!!!”
Husband: “Don’t worry about it!”

Why do men always do this? How can they say with certainty not to worry about it? I had visions of all this fiber ending up in a tangled fibery, felted mess, unusable to me. Women are not equipped with a no-worry brain. As mothers we worry about everything.

Me: “How can you say that, “not to worry”? How can you easily say something I am incapable of doing?”
Husband: “Well, I guess that’s your problem”.
Me: My problem?! I don’t often have dreams of murder, but this was coming close.
Husband: “All you have to do is open the bag and they will pop back like new”.
I sincerely doubted this. Lord, give me patience! This is out of my control! So I’m just going to have to trust that you, Lord, that you will not give me additional pain and suffering when I am already sick physically as it is.

My husband and I went out to dinner and when we got home he opened the spacebag.
What happened next was astonishing!!!!

The bags of coiled roving were intact, dry and unfelted. A MIRACLE! Wow! It was like Mary Poppins taking out these large assortment of things out her small handbag. Was I impressed.! I was immediately thinking how I can inventory this stuff and put that which I will not be soon using in spacebags labeled so I can find it when I do need it. I will bet this will keep the moths away too. Imagine the space I’ll be saving!!!
Geewhiz, what in the world can I put in that space I’m saving? We fiberholics and yarnoholics know what that is?…………More fiber and yarn!!!! What a surprising day! ;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sick Days!

Veteran’s Day holiday was the pits! I continued to run a low grade fever all day and my throat hurt like heck. My husband took the day off too, but I was too sick to enjoy his company, so he went to the movies without me. He thoughtfully brought me home a small buttered popcorn and I watched “The Princess Diaries Two” on my TV at home while I ate my popcorn. The holiday wasn’t a total loss. I spent the majority of the day knitting on my Surprise Jacket and listening to Knitting podcasts as I sipped hot liquids and throat lozenges. I hate being sick!

Today, I still wasn’t quite well, so I called in to my work and took a sick day off. My throat is a little better, but now my nose is running and I’ve started a little cough. However, fever and headache are better. I’ve been busying my self doing laundry and inventorying my new stash.

I have to admit that I feel a little guilty. I have been gazing at my wall of yarn in our spare bedroom and I’m contemplating why I bought this yarn. This is what I bought a few weeks ago at Newton’s Parking Lot Sale. I guess I just could not resist a bargain at $3 a pound. This is what I bought…..
4 hanks of brushed wool/rayon lace weight– weighing
1 lb 3 oz, 1 lb 2.7 oz, 1 lb 2.3oz and 1 lb 2.9 oz.
3 cones of Varigated Cotton: blue grey maroon (worsted wt)
2 lb 11 oz, 3 lbs 13 oz, and 2 lb 1.3oz.
2 cones Scarlet red softball boucle (sport wt)
1 lb 15 oz, and 1 lb 14 oz.
3 cones of brushed acrylic/rayon (lace wt)
Lt pink 1lb 9 oz
Turquoise 1 lb 2.5 oz
Lt Yellow 1 lb 2 oz
I had dreams of making sweaters, shawls and baby clothes

That is approximately 20 lbs of sweaters, shawls and baby clothes that will take me forever to knit. I can always ply some of this yarn to use it up faster.

As I was just about to enter my stash data on Ravelry, the door bell rang. It was the UPS man with my order from Knit Picks. The yarn I ordered to knit my husband a cardigan arrived. It is a lovely blue. I am adapting a pattern I found from the Lionbrand website, changing a vest into a cardigan.

The other surprise was that my most desired book “The Opinionated Knitter” arrived with it. I can’t wait to read it. Well, I imagine this should keep me very busy for a long time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

AlpacaFest West

Beautiful Huacaya alpacas.....
These are Suri Alpacas......They are longer haired and have a luster in their fiber like mohair or silk......

I went to AlpacaFest West in Industry Hill, CA yesterday. I had a little trouble finding it, but that was my error. I thought the Industry Hills Expo Center was adjacent to the Pacific Palms hotel, the big building at the top of the city, but I was wrong. The first clue I had when I arrived at the hotel was that I was grossly underdressed, in a T-shirt and tennis shoes ready to trample among the Alpaca animals. The ladies arriving had very stylish dressy suits and heels. A friendly front desk person, directed me to the correct location which wasn’t very far from the hotel.

When I hit the parking lot loaded with an assortment of animal hauling trailers, I knew I must be close. The Expo was a very large open barn-like structure. Temperatures were overcast and about in the 60-70’s so it was perfect for these animals with their furry coats. There must have been about 100 or more alpacas of an assortment of natural colors, both Suri and Huacaya breeds. I have never seen so many in one place.

There was a show ring with what they called “halter competitions” going on. This is equal to a sheep show where they evaluate the physical features of an animals and judge it to place 1st through 7th place.

The fashion show was very professional with dancers and amatuers models. To my dismay there were only machine knitted alpaca fashions and professionally felted items, not a handknit among them. I think it's obvious what market they are promoting and which one they are missing (the handspinners and knitters). I can't imagine haute couteur (sic?) fashionistas coming to this Fiberfest in a barn. Let's get real! What a missed opportunity! Someone should clue this association in to Rhinebeck and similar Fiberfests. After all, isn't this what the Alpaca business is all about, ....selling fiber?

They had a few booths set up for the Alpaca farms to display clothing and yarns and other decorative items for sale. A very few had fleeces to sell. I bought a beautiful white fleece 3.2 lbs. The white fleeces are prime desired fleeces. This one was lovely from an Alpaca named “Donna Lola”.

The best thing about this show for me was the spinning demonstrations. They had a few members from local spinning and weaving guilds demonstrate spinning, carding and needle felting. The fine yarn they produced was amazing. I wish I had remembered to take a picture.

There were a few workshops but most of them focused on the Alpaca business. I did attend one workshop named “Twist and Shout! Spinning with Alpaca, Tips and Techniques.” I wasn’t impressed. It didn’t seem that the speaker, who wasn’t a knitter knew the difference between woolen and worsted and couldn’t tell how thin a worsted weight yarn was compared to the other weights.

The Sunday Workshop I attended was better, although at first I was the only one in attendance. The topic was “Blending, Shading and Felting, Meeting the Market in the Middle”. I had a chance to ask specific questions and I even got an invitation to visit Mette Goehring’s Ranch, “Ranch of the Oaks” in Lompoc. They have a processing mill and store, and I may take her up on her offer. I have always wanted to visit an Alpaca Farm.
This festival has truly inspired me. My Adult Surprise Jacket is coming out very nicely in the variety of natural colors. Most of it is handspun Alpaca. The change of colors helps me stay interested despite all the garter stitch. I am trying to rotate a 6 row strip with a 4 row strip, alternating a dark color and then a light color. So far I really like the results.

The only bad thing is that I came home achey, with a sore throat and a fever of 102, which came on suddenly within hours. I came home early and I’m now in bed trying to minimize my symptoms. Thank goodness for hot liquids to drink and a holiday tomorrow, which is Veteren’s Day. I’m stocked up on drugs if my symptoms get worse. It feels like the, I didn't get my flu shot this year. I am really regretting this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My Husband's Wish List

I was taking pictures of my husband in my Wishbone sweater (see previous entry) and to my surprise he asked me to make him a sweater. How amazing is this? Usually, men run and hide when you talk about knitting them a sweater. My husband is those rare finds that only come once in a lifetime. He reminded me that many years ago, I knitted him a Aran vest, which he still has, but feels it is too bulky to wear in California weather. I practically forgot about this. It has been sitting in the coat closet for many years, only to come out when there is a very cold day. I must have knitted this before our kids came, when I had lots of time being a homemaker. I hate to tell you how long that was!!

He wants a ¾ sleeve cardigan of a lighter weight fabric that he can wear at work. He has lost some weight recently and he feels the cold much more than before. He wants ¾ sleeve so they don’t get caught in his machines as work. He is a machinist.

I am having fun looking through patterns. He picked out an ocean blue Superwash wool from Knit Picks. I hope its not too dark to knit. He wanted it dark because he know it will get dirty and oily. The Superwash will be good for this.

I was looking through the paper today, and lo and behold (this is such a great line), I saw an ad for the Alpacafest West that is being held just about 5 miles from me this weekend. I have never been to one of these, but I just love Alpacas and spinning their hypoallergenic fiber. I hope they will be selling yarn or fiber. I just might stop over there this weekend.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Finishing Madness!

Sunday morning, I made one of those “resolutions” to get something off my needles. The first lucky recipient was the Rust colored Wishbone sweater. I patiently whipped stitched the facing to the inside of the neck. I decided to keep the neck as is and not redo it, hoping that someone will wear it.

The thing about this sweater is….it is humongous! I tried it on and nearing swam in it. This is one very “HOT” sweater ! Literally! The doubled bulky weight makes this sweater warm enough to wear in Antartica. I don’t think we are going to have very many days of zero degree weather in California.

I let my husband try the sweater on and lo and behold, it fit!. This man, however, always runs a natural high body temperature on his own and he commented that it was too warm for him. I wish Elizabeth Zimmerman had designed the same style in worsted weight. Perhaps the next time I can calculate it myself. The sweater was a very easy style, It’s only the increases from the armholes to the neck that need to be figured out.

Well, now I was on a roll……The next thing that came off my needles was the Green Rib Warmer. I took great care to sew this up right, joining the shoulders and the two half pieces of the vests. It fits me perfectly. I am debating whether to add a crochet edging. It looks fine now, but I think the edge will make it more stylish and finished.

I went back to knitting Alan’s Christmas present. I finished one without the detailing that will be added later. Can you guess what it is?
I cast on the next one. This time I am using the magic loop method. I am liking knitting this way more every day.

Now with two things off my needles, I am get the itch to start something new. As I gaze into the rainbow wall of handspun yarn, I finally make the commitment to sort it into wearable wool for my Adult surprise Jacket. Although I have an assortment of colored dyed and undyed, I think I will use only natural colors for my first jacket.

I know it will be a long term project. So now I have a 6 ½ pound assortment of blacks, greys, browns, tans, and cream colored Shetland, Alpaca, mohair and other soft wools to knit at random into my jacket. I hope it doesn’t end up 6 ½ pounds but I am gratified to have an assortment of natural colored to choose from.

Tonight I cast on……all 338 stitches of it on Size 6 circular needles. There’s no turning back now.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy All Saints Day!

A new month! Wow! Where did October go? We had a very quiet Halloween. Fortunately the forecast for rain did not come true and the trick or treaters stayed dry. Happy All Saints Day! My late mother-in-law’s birthday was on this day. A wonderful woman. I miss her.

I have been staring at this yarn I bought from Webs Valley Yarns called Berkshire Bulky. It is alpaca/wool blend and oh so soft! To inspire me I started flipping through some of my Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books. As I turned the pages of The Knitting Workshop, I stopped at the page with The Rib Warmer. It looked quite easy to knit up.

It calls for a yarn weight of 5 st/in and the Berkshire Bulky is 3st/in. The rib warmer pattern says it fits the average women. Knowing that I am a little larger than the average woman, I though I’d try knitting the pattern as is with the Berkshire. My thought was that it might turn out larger with a larger gauge. I had to adjust the length of the armhole, but it seems to be coming out well. I’ve finished one side and I am half way done with the other side. With the bulky yarn it is going fast.

Here is one side opened up.
This is part of the other side. It will be sewn together and then edged. I think a crocheted edge would be nice. It will use up 6 skeins of yarn when finished.

I have 6 skeins left and I just love this bulky yarn. I found a aran cable pattern for a laptop cover on the web. It calls for a worsted weight but I thought this bulky yarn would be much more cushiony and shock resistant. Since my family is one of computer people, I’m sure I can give it to someone for Christmas. I have been knitting a swatch on Size 8 but I think I need to increase to Size 9 needles. Here is the swatch on 8s.

Last, but not least, I finished knitting the Wishbone sweater. Yea! I just have to sew up armholes and sew in yarn ends and the facing of the neck. I’ve been putting it off because I’m not sure I like how the neck facing turned out. It seems too bulky and I’m not sure the facing is going to lay flat. I knitted the facing with one strand of yarn on smaller needles, rather than the doubled as the rest is knitted. I’m not one who likes doing the finishing.

As you can see, this has been a “knitting week”. I’ve been under an unusual amount of stress at work. Whenever, this happens, “I knit”, to give me some measure of calmness and escape from my overwhelming job responsibilities. I haven’t felt much like blogging, but on the plus, I now have something to show for it. I can say I’m satisfied with that.