February 2010 Archives

Orchids Everywhere


Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Pacific Orchid Expo, down at Fort Mason. (Some might argue that it seems like a bad idea to go closer to the Pacific Ocean when there's a tsunami alert on for the coast, but let's not quibble.)

It was a good time. Orchid people are INSANE. I mean, totally insane. They come up with things like this:

Mardi Gras mask

(The theme of this expo was Carnaval, and that's how they spelled it.)

The market was a wonderland of interesting orchids and the occasional related plant, plus one very intriguing service:

Orchid boarding

(I think orchid boarding would make more sense if you'd spent the $200 some of those orchids were priced at.)

I got a couple of orchids from a friend last year, and I've been enjoying having a cat who doesn't eat plants, so it was fun to walk around and daydream about building a massive orchid garden, or think about what we wanted to do with the greenhouse when we build it. We enjoyed the exhibit area, with lots of really lovely plants at the peak of bloom.


Then afterward we drove to another event downtown in the most glorious sunset. It's been so overcast the last several days that having such a stunningly clear evening was a real pleasure. I think I've driven down this street a hundred times and I've never seen such a clear view of the two Eastern spans of the Bay Bridge (one under construction, of course, but when it's built this view will be terrific on the rare clear day). (And yes, of course they're not as in focus or clear in the photo as they were in person, but usually you can't even tell there's an island out in the bay from here, much less see the bridges on the other side.)

View of the Bay Bridge

And yes, I admit, I was glad to spend the day shoveling mulch around the garden rather than walking around on another concrete expo center floor. Although the funniest thing has been talking to people today and having them say, "Oh, yeah, we went to the orchid show yesterday." Apparently everybody we know was there.

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In Stitches


I spent Thursday and Friday this week at Stitches West, in Santa Clara. I'd show you pictures, but they are militant about not allowing photos. No idea why, because the reason they claim -- that you might take a picture of a designer's work and copy it -- makes no sense. I mean, you can see pictures of sweaters or other things all over the internet, often on the designer's own web site, so how would snapshots of your friends and yarn at a show make a difference?

Anyway, I took two classes, my first time taking classes there. On Thursday afternoon I took "Fiendishly Difficult Stitches" With Merike Saarniit. It was tons of fun. We did four different Estonian stitches (well, one wasn't Estonian, but it might as well have been). Here's my swatch from the class:

Fiendishly Difficult Stitches

I recommend the class to any advanced knitter who is looking to try something challenging for a change.

Yesterday I took an all-day class on pattern writing which was very useful, if not exactly what I was hoping for (I was looking for something more about sizes and math and that sort of thing, while this was more about technical writing; it was still a very good class). The exercise for that class was hand-writing a sweater pattern, and I will spare you that one.

I also enjoyed the market preview and visiting the market during breaks on Friday. I usually like to go on the Friday to the market, because it is less crazy than Saturday, but this Friday was still totally effing insane.

Gadgets from the market

I got a fun little range of things. From the top left, clockwise, a combined measuring tape and pen freebie from a vendor, a roll of highlighter tape for charts, a spinning gauge tool, a package of tubes for storing double-pointed needles, another package with a couple tubes that are slit open so you can store a work in progress, a little pink plastic case that securely holds stitch markets (I seem to lose lots of stitch markers), and a little plastic freebie case from another vendor. I also got a set of blocking wires for lace, but they don't photograph particularly nicely, so I left them out.

And of course I got some yarn.


The big red hank is 500 yards of singles silk from Blue Moon Fiber Arts (you have to dash right to their booth at the beginning of the market preview to have anything like selection), then moving right a hank of Malabrigo Sock (superwash merino), Girl From Auntie sock yarn, and Madeleintosh Sock. Yes, I do know I bought two skeins of the same colour. Apparently I really like orange.

It was a good time. I'll probably skip Stitches classes next year and maybe do Madrona instead, but I always enjoy looking around at the market.

And since I had to be in Santa Clara at 8:30am, I stayed over in a hotel Thursday night. Not internet access, so I brought my spinning wheel, and finished one bobbin and got a nice start on the last one:

Black alpaca nearly done

I am really getting much better at long draw, and if I hadn't had to stop so often to remove vegetal matter from the fiber, I would have made even more progress. I have one more batt of the black alpaca left to spin, and it has to get done before the end of the Olympics. I think I can do that in a few hours, maybe tonight. But now it's time to go to an orchid show, because I really don't have enough obscure, expensive, and time-consuming hobbies.

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Finished Dyeing


And because there was no good light for photos last night when I finished drying the purple skein, here's the finished rainbow of merino for Noel's Mick Aston sweater:

Rainbow of yarn

I think the more saturated purple works much better.

Also, because it is a rainy Sunday, I give you a little glimpse into how we spent our morning:

Two dogs and a purple couch

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Another Ravelympic Event

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Another big Ravelympic event today: I did the first part of my weaving project. That basically involved cutting the project that came on my little rigid heddle loom off and re-warping the loom. It took me about two hours to warp the loom, which is useful to know.

I used the direct warping method, and it definitely seems a lot faster than using a warping baord would be. One step in the process is re-threading every other thread, which was a laugh riot.

Pulling the warp threads through the slots

But to be honest, it went very quickly and a lot faster than I expected.

All threaded up

And pretty soon I was doing some of the most wobbly and terrible weaving ever. Yes, I do consider this object mostly a learning experience.

Very bad weaving

Mostly I think the trouble was with the warp threads and how unevenly I tensioned them. There's some crazy stuff happening there.

Very bad weaving, from further away

I did all this while re-dyeing my purple skein. As you can see in this photo, even with the bad colours (I blame the fluorescent fixtures), my purple skein, the last of the dyeing for my dyeing event, came out really, really pale. So after dithering over whether it would matter, I decided it would, with all the saturated colours in the other skeins, so there was nothing to do but stay up late and overdye it a deeper purple.

Purple skein, before overdyeing

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Olympic Dyeing Efforts


One of my two main Ravelympics projects is a dyeing project I've been planning for a while. Noel and I are huge fans of the BBC archaeology program Time Team, featuring Prof. Mick Aston and his incredible rainbow sweaters. Seriously, whenever one of us finds some random piece of history while digging in the garden we like to pretend we've found some iron age pottery or a Roman villa or something. Anyway, I was very impressed by Mick's obviously handmade sweaters from the start. Then Noel asked me to knit him one. Of course I spent days and weeks trying to find a yarn that came in the right variations of colours, without much success.

Mick Aston and his rainbow jumper

I finally decided to use some of my masses of undyed worsted-weight yarn and dye it up in the colours I want. I won't get them right on what Mick has, but I do hope to get close. And I have just three days to do it. (It wouldn't be the Ravelmpics without a challenge like that.)

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A Party, for a Change


Yesterday was Valentine's Day, the Chinese New Year, and President's Day weekend all wrapped up in one. So of course we had a party:

Obama window

Don't be impressed: I got both the dragon and the Obama picture at the party store. You can be impressed by my outrageously good freehand-cut hearts. I made those with scissors. I rule.

We also had a few decorations from our wedding shower lo those many years ago, so I hung them around:

Hearts in the doorway

Those are so pretty I'm just going to leave them there for a while.

Also, we had a minor miracle. Somehow we invited 23 people over and everybody said yes, so we needed more chairs. We went and bought some at IKEA, but we were still going to need to borrow chairs, when one of our neighbors set some perfectly nice chairs out at the curb. Noel dashed down the street and picked them up, I washed them, and we had enough chairs for a very weird dinner party. (Actually, we ended up running out of tables, which is a bit harder to compensate for.)

Anyway, it was fun, but it was too many people. My dinner party brain can only keep track of the needs and desires of guests up to about ten, and above that it's more like "there are many people here, wow."

Now we have a week's worth of dishes to run through the dishwasher (no, we were never in danger of running out of dishes), and Noel put in a special request to just go out to eat tonight rather than cook anything after two solid days of cooking. After that, I'll be eating leftover pasta and meatballs for a week or so.

Opening Ceremonies


Tonight was the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and it was also the opening ceremonies of the Ravelympics.

I decided to do a few events to help motivate me to finish up some projects (or get started on them). This afternoon I organized all the pieces for those projects.

This is my kickoff project: a baby romper I started five years ago and stopped because I didn't like the shape (and was making it from acrylic for washability, so it couldn't be blocked into submission). I decided to rip it out and reuse the yarn.

Baby romper to be frogged

My second project, the big one, is finishing spinning the black alpaca I'm going to use to make a sweater for Noel.

The last of the black alpaca

I'll also be doing some dyeing. I'll use chemical dyes rather than natural ones because I want specific colours that aren't easy (or even possible) to get with natural dyes.

Dyeing supplies

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Shearing a Spinner's Flock


Yesterday my fiber buddy and I went up to Orland, about three hours' drive to the north, to observe/participate in a sheep shearing. Shearing for spinners is different from shearing a meat flock, because the quality of the fleece really, really matters. Also, this were Cormo sheep -- a cross that includes Merino -- and they have wrinkly, delicate skin. There are inevitable nicks and scrapes to be dealt with.

I spent most of the day doing animal handling -- that's pretty interesting to me and it seemed like they had plenty of people to deal with the fleeces -- and she spent the day dealing with the fleeces.

I've put my (numerous) photos after the cut, and I'm still editing the video I shot.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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