Friday, March 27, 2009

Like Coals to Newcastle

Or so the saying goes. But, I really can't help myself when I'm presented with such a work of art as this. Actually both of these items are news-worthy because (1) the fiber is MY FIRST HelloYarn fiber club in colorway THRIVE courtesy of Adrian Bizilia and (2) Kokopeli Drop Spindle from Tracy Eichem. I've been stalking, er admiring Adrian's color style for quite some time and I have been able to purchase dyed yarn and patterns from her fairly easily. But man, the Fiber Club was near impossible to get into, but not entirely. ;-)

On the same exact day, I received two new spindles from master craftsman, Tracy Eichem. I ordered the Kokopeli (shown here) as well as a production spindle with a Comet design. Both spindles are such a treat to spin with. Precision cut and balanced with an artist's flair for wood choices and graphic treatments. Both spindles are signed by Tracy and join the legion of many art spindles that I use for all my OCD spinning projects.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Woolen vs. Worsted Spinning Class @ Verb

This past St. Patrick's Day, I attended an Advanced Spinning Class at a Verb for Keeping Warm. Kristine Vejar (entrepreneur, spinner, dyer) led the class and presented the different types of fiber preparations (top, roving, batts, rolags, etc.) and how they are more suited for worsted or woolen spinning.

We started off with a little show & tell. Most folks had wonderful fiber to share, but I only had my latest spindle. I know, I know, but in my defense, I ordered this spindle back in October of 2008. Tracy Eichem is a respected artist in the world of spinning art and his work has been featured in Spin-Off magazine as well as spinning books like Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook and even at the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat (thanks, Ted!).

Kristine gave us handouts that had a graph which depicted the preparations and their corresponding recommended spinning. For example, combed preparations (such as top) contain only the longest hairs and have their individual fibers lined up. They are perfect for worsted spinning (such as the short forward draw) because they create a smooth, sturdy and lustrous yarn. Carded preparations (such as roving and batts), on the other hand, have short and long hairs mixed together and the fibers go in many different different directions. This is perfectly suited for woolen spinning which creates a lofty, squishy and matte yarn.

Kristine is quite serious about her instruction. Earlier that day, she consulted with Shari McKelvy, the owner of Morro Fleece Works to get terminology and processes down so that she could explain the most contemporary methods and machinery to us. it's so charming to see someone as passionate and as concerned about accuracy as the Verb crew. I feel quite honored to work and study here.

After the brief lecture, we dove into the spinning fun. In order to get a feel for each spinning technique AND how it translates to knitting/weaving/crocheting, we tried each one and created a mini-skein to work up later. Kristine demonstrated the "short forward draw" (aka Inch Worm method) which creates a worsted yarn (not to be confused with worsted weight... different beast altogether). We used a combed fiber, then a carded fiber to get a sense of how the spinning changes the nature of the preparation.

Next up, we reviewed the long draw which is the production speed technique but one I can't quite seem to master. I do love using it for my woolen spun yarns, but I haven't figured out how to create a consistent yarn (slubs and thin spots do not a fabulous fiber make!). I'm going to experiment more to see how different methods of handling and turning the fiber will improve my execution.

Finally, we did my favorite, from the fold. It's the technique that always get the "Oooooo" or the gasp, "It's magic!"

As always, class flew by far too quickly and that beautiful dusk blue sky turned dark as 9pm approached. I never really want to leave the Verb studio and I even stayed until midnight chatting with Kristine, Adrienne and Marlowe. There are never enough hours in the day to play with fiber or with your fiber friends...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Second Mitten Finished

You see here, the second mitten in my first color work adventure. Oh, sure, I've done super simple, improvised things like tea cozies and prep for Stitches classes, but this is the real deal (stranding, two colors/two hands, picking up in pattern, etc.). This design is called the Halland Mitten and is a charted pattern from the awesome book, "Folk Mittens" by Marcia Lewandowski.

The yarn used is A Verb for Keeping Warm's Yakkety Yak which is 80/20 Yak/Merino. The subtle variations with the natural dyes really make the colors vibrate... in a good way. And, man, how warm and soft they are after finishing. I was sad to let them go, since they were knitted as a shop sample, but it was great to get such positive feedback from Kristine and everyone else that saw them at Stitches.

In terms of construction, I did find three things confusing about the pattern:

1. The final decreases at the very top are inaccurate because they have two decreases in a row which is not possible given the final stitches you need to work them.

2. The placement of the left hand thumb does not make sense if you start the mitten in the middle of the chart (as it states). I knit the second mitten EXACTLY like the first but I inserted the waste yarn on the left side of the chart (as pictured in the book).

3. Picking up the 6 sts (3 top and 3 bottom) for the peasant thumb was a bit awkward, especially since you are picking up stitches going in the opposite direction of the knitting for the “top” half of the thumb.

Perhaps someone more experienced will know what to do but I just winged it.

The only thing I’m seriously not happy about is the way the mitten distorts near the right hand thumb (you can see this in my pic with my hand inside). I believe it has a lot to do with how I’m stranding the yarns. But, this is my first true colorwork. :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Baby Shower for Della Garcia

My dear friends Holly and Rene just welcomed their second baby into the world and her name is Della Atari Garcia. She was born on February 7, 2009 and I got to see her very soon after her delivery at Kaiser in San Francisco. Della was sporting a full head of beautiful black hair and seemed a bit more chill than her older brother Renecito . Holly seemed much more at ease, this time, too. I suppose you're ready for whatever the delivery process is going to throw at you the second go 'round.

Before Della left her mother's watery citadel, she wasn't quite with the program. The medical term I believe is presenting breech, but with several weeks before her scheduled arrival, everyone was hopeful that she'd come around to the proper exit strategy. Holly endured several weeks of natal "massage" that was supposed to coax the baby into proper alignment, and, in the end, it worked. No C-section was required and it was a relatively complication free procedure.

Della is named in honor of her uncle Daniel Anthony Garcia who sadly passed away last year before he was able to meet her. Della and Daniel have the same initials and I think that Daniela was Della's first name, originally. In fact, it might be her name on the birth certificate but everyone is calling her Della now. Oh, and, in case you're wondering, Atari was not chosen for the video game, but rather, it's an exclamation in Japanese that is used when you've won something big, like the Lotto. Holly & Rene won the Baby Big Scratcher.

I've been working on the knitted love for Della for quite some time now. I've made a punk rawk pony , a Baby Surpise Jacket w/matching booties , several Sproutets , hats w/booties and, my latest obsession, leg warmers . These leg warmers originally were made for Holly because I mistakenly thought she wanted them for herself. When I finished the first one and showed it to her (the day before Della was born)v, she shouted, "Jeez, Baby Della is going to disappear in that legwarmer". Oh, it's for Della.... I thought it was for Holls. Nevermind, they was destined to be matchy-matchy Mother Daughter legwarmers .

I was so jazzed by these ultra-simple 1x1 ribbed tubes, that I proceeded to go a little cuckoo and get all the materials for two more sets with matching hats (hats shown above). When I asked Holl what colors she wanted, she said pink with green. Here you see Pink Heather Cascade 220 with Lime Green Kidsilk Haze (on left) and Green Heather Cascade 220 with Pink Kidsilk Haze (on right). I love the knitted up fabric created by holding these two yarns together. It creates such a rich and super soft texture.

The adult legwarmer pattern is from "Last Minute Knitted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson and it's one of my very first "expensive" design and pattern books. The only other books I had purchased before were "Stitch N Bitch" by Debbie Stoller and "Knitting Without Tears" by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Both of these books together were about $20. It was a big leap for me to spend $30 on a single book. How things change when you find yourself chuffed that you got that Alice Starmore out-of-print "Fair Isle Knitting" book for just a little over $100 (retail price in 1986, $30), but that's another post for another day.

Welcome to the World, Baby Della. I can't WAIT to shower you with knitted dresses and tiaras. You're going to be such a girly girl, I can feel it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunday Is My FUN Day @ Stitches West 2009 (4 of 4 posts)

Stitches 2009 Haul
Originally uploaded by >>>WonderMike<<<
Sunday morning was my final day at Stitches West and also at the Hilton. I got up early and packed up my things because I didn't want to have to return and do the check-out thing at 11am. It was a lot easier to pack everything in the car and just camp out in the Market Place.

The vibe of Sunday @ Stitches is very different from the madness and chaos that is Saturday. By this point, most people are fried from all the classes and the vendors are exhausted from the (hopefully) frenzied shopping. Everything has been kicked down a couple of energy notches and seems a lot more manageable.

I started off the morning with my first purchase of a Carpel Tunnel DVD by Joshua Tucker. I had seen it advertised on Ravelry several times and hadn't yet taken the plunge. Purchasing a therapeutic how-to video seemed very sensible, so it was the perfect slippery slope act of the day. Joshua was very nice (and cute to boot) so I had him sign the DVD "To My Favorite Ravelry Stalker...". He wasn't too freaked out; I hope his wife isn't either. I had also thought of getting a massage from the same booth, but when I discovered that Joshua was not administering said treatment, I opted for Purlescence's Magic Fingers man, Ray. [Is this why Kristine kept calling me "Slutty McMutty" all throughout SW?? Hmmmph!]

My next stop was Ray aka Mr. Magic Fingers, the physical therapy genius at the Purlescence booth. I did the full-on 30 minute session and, shazam, was it worth it. I almost fell asleep and it was a bit awkward to get only a chair massage, but my lower back sooooo thanked me for it on the ride back to Berkeley that evening. It reinforced the wise fact that massage is indeed necessary for maintaining one's good health.

All weekend long, a new-to-me colorway from Kristine (Chocolate Cherries) had been serenading me in the Verb Booth. It was 100% dreamy-purrfectly-squishy-and-even Targhee and now it was to be mine. It had miraculously stayed in prominent position but had not been acquired, so I assumed the universe wanted it to come with me. A work of fiber art such as this needs the right companion and I think I found it in this Asciano rosewood Clover spindle (seen above).

The owner/artist behind Asciano is Deborah Doyle and her sales pitch is so disarming. Every lovely item that I picked up to admire was quickly described in terms of its limitations. It's like Picasso telling you that he didn't really like the way his lines came out in "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon " or that Van Gogh thought his "Sunflowers" were too yellow. When I selected the clover spindle, I was given a clever device that turned out to be a fishing tackle spinner so that I test the balance of this wooden gem. Well, I could see her point (barely) but I just couldn't get beyond how stunning the craftsmanship was. Nope, she couldn't talk me out of it. It's new home was with me... and with Chocolate Cherries Targhee from Verb.

I was VERY STRONG by not stepping one FOOT into the BMFA booth, but I did admire many, many Rare Gems from afar. I still have 5 skeins of RG from last year that have yet to be knit/woven up. See, I can practice restraint! Oh, wait, I still haven't told you about Fiber Fiend.

Fiber Fiend is the brainchild of Margit and I love her color sense. I also love her fiendishly cute logo. I simply could not pass up a tote and matching pin. Especially since my pin from last year fell off my bike messenger bag (arrgh!). I also picked up several lovely superwash corriedale rovings in my favorite autumnal colors of green/orange/red. Delicious.

Oh, I forgot to say that the night before, I fell down in Bobbin's Nest and purchased several things in addition to the exclusive BN colorway from HazelKnits. I also got "Weekend Warrior" (be still my green with envy heart) and "Cami Chic" (which is just a WW with a little red thrown in for good measure). Wendee has such glorious colors and you can't resist when she's RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU and being such a generous indie dyer.

The final thing I did was pop by the Wild Fibers / Keep the Fleece booth and picked up a back issue of Wild Fibers that was "out of print" but had mysteriously turned up in a box in storage. Yay for me!!

I finished up the day by getting some more video footage and chatting with friends (both old and new) in the Hyatt Lounge over cocktails and dinner. It was about 7pm when I finally mustered the courage to get on the road in spite of the hurricane force winds and rain that is so FREAKING WEIRD for the Bay Area. I seriously thought that I had been transported to New Orleans for a Katrina re-run. Sheesh.

I made it home safe and sound by 8:30pm (I drive like a pawpaw) and was greeted with many hugs and kisses from my boy, Anto.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saturday's All Right for a FLIGHT (3 of 4 posts)

Day 3 of the Stitches West Saga....

This was supposed to be my final day of working @ Stitches and it was exciting to know that I had been a busy and productive bee (i.e. not just a greedy raccoon shopper) but it was also a wee bit depressing because I was heading home at the end of the day. But, before I could wallow in my own manic depression, it was SHOW TIME!

And, my friends, Saturday was a busy, busy day. We had scads of people drop by to say hello. I saw co-workers, friends, bloggers, podcasters, designers/LYS owners, authors, and, the thing that makes me weak in the knees, a UTILIKILT! It doesn't help matters that I think Kevin is a babe and his wife, Nathania an even bigger babe, but that's how the fiber love fest happens. You can't help your crushes, no?

The day was a whirlwind of meeting new listeners, showing people how to drop spindle, demonstrating the Schacht Ladybug, and showing off our new sock designs by homegirl, Marlowe. She even made a personal appearance and modeled said new footwear but, sadly I didn't have my camera handy for the runway work. I'm certain Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn would have approved.

One of the highlights of my day was a visit with the inspirational, Linda Cortright from Wild Fibers Magazine. She was in town with her wonderfully wry brother, Hugh, promoting the publication but also a new project called Keep the Fleece. KTF coincides with the U.N. proclamation of 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibers. There is a series of spinning and design contest categories that focus on various natural fibers as well as THE organizing project which hopes to create the world's largest scarf made of pure natural fibers. As a result of interviewing Linda for Yknit 016, she asked Anthony (our producer) if he would like to edit a promotional piece for KTF. A great opportunity for sound-work that will benefit a worthy cause.

During my lunch break I headed over to the Shelridge Farm's booth to check out CookieA's new sock book (!!!!) and knitted samples of said designs by Kristi. So beautiful and elegant Cookies designs are. While I was there admiring the footy goodness, I saw the Queen of Color herself, Lucy Neatby, sporting her glorious Fishtail Shawl coordinated with her bi-hued Doc Martins. She informed me that the only US storefront that sells Docs (in all their groovy colors) is in Portland. ++Perhaps you can stop and get a pair when you go to Sock Summit.++ Lucy was kind enough to show me her latest creation, the Venus Cardigan which you can learn to knit by ordering her soon-to-be-released DVDs showing the various techniques used in the VC construction. She will also be releasing an Intro to Knitting DVD which, if it's anything like her Sock Essentials or Knitting Essentials dvds, it's going to be a monumental hit with the YouTube set. I bow to Lady Lucy's awesomeness.

After the market work was over, we ran back to the Hilton for a quick rest before heading over to Santa Clara LYS, Bobbin's Nest owned by the hostess with the mostess, Erin McGee. Erin was hosting a yarn release party for Wendee Shulsen (aka HazelKnits) and featuring designs by Melissa Goodale and sock/hat/cowl designs by Jeni Chase. The exclusive release colorway was a lovely baby blue/brown/cream combination that is surely going to turn into a scarf or socks for Anthony. He fell in love with it the moment he saw it.

It was great to spend some quality time with Wendee (finally, after missing her premier party last year due to a prior Ira Glass/This American Life commitment) and to really check out Erin's store. It's such a warm and inviting space and I'm so jealous that we don't have something comparable in the East Bay. Okay, maybe the white wine and cheese is clouding my judgment but I did have the most lovely time hanging with the BobaKnits gals and the Santa Clara crew. I'll be back for sure.

Afterwards we had dinner at Jasmine, a local Thai restaurant. I very much enjoyed the fare, but several in our party thought it was a tad too spicy. I'm a total spice wimp so I always ask for mild. I can't run with the big spice dogs, so I'm happy to chill with the chihuahuas.

At this point, I was supposed to head back to Berzerkeley, but there were still people I wanted to check in with and places I wanted to check out at the Marketplace. When I called Anthony to ask for one more night, he immediately replied, "But of course! Have fun!". Gotta love that man. He knows the way straight to my wooly heart. So, it was one more night at the comfy Hilton and one day at the market.

Next up, Sunday is my Fun Day....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good Omens and Good Fridays (2 of 4 posts)

The Stitches West 2009 Saga continues...

Thursday night the Verb crew (Kristine, Adrienne, Michelle & I) stayed at the lovely Hilton located just across the street from the Santa Clara convention center. This meant that our carbon footprint was significantly reduced and my sleep and sanity was greatly increased. Good for everyone. I'm told that my snoring is perceptible but not obnoxious for which I'm very grateful. I shared a bed with Adrienne and she didn't punch me in the middle of the night. A clear victory, methinks.

The next morning, we walked over to the CC and did a fluff up of the fiber and prepared for what could be the busiest (from a financial perspective) day of Stitches. I would have thought that Saturday would take the prize, but not so with respect to last year's receipts.

Once we got the booth all set up, I walked around, took some notes and I even got some video with the Mini-DV camera I borrowed from my friend, Rene. I started at the entrance to the market place and who should I run into but, the wonderful Jenny & Nicole from the Stash & Burn podcast. I took this as a good omen and snapped a pic for proof of my good fortune.

We ran into each other at the Wall of Socks for the XRX Think Outside the Sox competition and, although it wasn't as many as I was expecting, it was a stunning array of knitted and crocheted footwear. There was intarsia, fair isle, hand-dyed, felted and even knit-with-wire creations. I was never so happy as to discover that one's name was not associated with one's entry, because my two pairs of socks were sooooooooo mickey mouse compared to some of these works of art.

While I was chatting with Jenny & Nicole, two women approached me and asked if I worked at a software company with a gentleman named Dennis. When I confirmed that I did, I was introduced to Dennis' god-daughter, Elizabeth and her mother DeeDee. They were so sweet and charming and I got a pic of them for Dennis. After voting for my "People's Choice" award for the socks... yes, I voted for myself (I had to at least get one nod), I walked around and got a fair amount of video b-roll. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with this, but I thought it best to use my Press Pass to full advantage. I'm sure it's a use it or lose it situation with events like these.

Once I was back at the Verb booth, it was full tilt boogie with respect to the shoppers. There were many times that I only had room to stand up straight, write out a receipt and direct the customer to check-out in the back of the booth. Thank goodness everything was labeled properly with colorway name and price because it was hopeless for me to try and memorize all that. I especially suck at remembering the percentages of fiber in the different blends.

Quite a few people stopped by to say hello and share how much they love Yknit. I was so touched and bowled over with the generosity. We really do have the most wonderful listeners. It's also nice to have people tell you that they appreciate the quality of the production and the hard work that goes into each episode. Hurrah!!

Our convention "neighborhood" was purrfect because we were close to friends (Fiber Fiend, Purlescence and Cocoknits) as well as the archangel Ray (massage therapist) but not too close to the fiber crack (BMFA, Toots LeBlanc and Brooks Farm). A perfect balance of personalities, color and texture.

Friday was also the day that K.C. and his roving film crew were making the rounds and capturing footage for his documentary. There was quite a long segment that featured my demonstration of drop spindling and I was shaking like a leaf. I'm positive that the glare from my shiny forehead was causing issues for the cameraman, but I'm hoping they can correct that in post-production.

In addition to the lovely celebrities that stopped by such as Cat Bordhi, Lucy Neatby, Rosemary Hill, and Kristi Geraci, I was chuffed to see Men's Fall Knitting Retreat attendees, Jonathan and Joe. Jonathan was sporting his Alice Starmore vest that he had been working on at the retreat. While he was visiting the Verb booth, the Stash & Burn ladies interviewed Jonathan and he is on their latest podcast.

Once our workday was done, we headed back to the hotel for HOT-TUBBING and cocktails. On our way to get drinks, we ran into Leslie, Debbie and Susan from Blue Moon Fiber Arts and were treated to delicious Fat Tires. Those ladies know how to relax, let me tell you. We visited for a spell but then made our way to the hot-tub. It was Kristine, Adrienne and I and had it not been for the encouragement and slight-guilting, I would not have ventured to the pool area. Thankfully, it was deserted and quite a lovely night for it, so we had the whole tub to ourselves. My friends Michael and Jodi showed up after we had been "steaming" for about an hour, but they (shrewdly) declined to join us.

We finished up the day by ordering pizza and falling into bed quite exhausted but relaxed.

Next up: S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Fright!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Multi-tasking Master - Stitches Stylee (1 of 4 posts)

I have personally vowed that 2009 is the year of fiber exploration and wooly discovery for me. I'm taking as many classes as I can, teaching as many people as will have me and attending as many guild meetings/meetups/knit nights as I can squeeze in. Since I'm not the best time management person, I love it when I can do double duty with a commitment and, boy, did I score with Stitches West 2009.

Some of you already know that I've been shopping, err, working at A Verb for Keeping Warm's brick and mortar in Berkeley. Yes, it's not really like working when you love every single second of being at a place or when you look forward to seeing all the staffers and customers who pop by. Yes, I consider myself one incredibly lucky duck.

Little did I know that my luck would increase exponentially when Kristine (dyer, spinner, proprietor of Verb) asked if I'd like to work the booth at Stitches West. Would I??? It was all I could do not to take off the whole week of Stitches from my other job, so I could finish up some projects and get my act together for podcast recording. But, I was sensible and only took off Thursday and Friday so that I could help with set-up.

This event marks only the second time I've spent the night away from home and from Anto (my partner). The first time was for the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2008 and it was a big step because my partner is paraplegic and I'm his primary caregiver. There are many things that can happen to a person who is disabled and in a wheelchair, so it was with great trepidation that I attended the MFKR last November. Fortunately, there were no accidents or dramas and I felt much confident being away from home for SW09.

Thursday morning, I headed over to the Verb Studios and provided moral support (with mochas and treats from Cafe Cacao) while Kristine and Adrienne packed up Michelle's van. Once they had that all sorted, I packed my Corolla with the remaining items, including a 4 foot tall pussywillow branch which was used to display the Spindlewood and Lars Larsson drop spindles in the booth.

We got on the road and made our way to Santa Clara and all was smooth sailing... until I noticed a bit of dirt (I thought) fly up from the back left wheel of the van. I quickly realized that they had experienced a blowout and was trying to call Adrienne to let her know. Funnily enough, they were calling me at the same time. We were only 10 minutes from the Santa Clara/Great America Parkway exit, but we pulled over and called AAA for flat assistance.

Since the van was borrowed, we weren't exactly sure how to get the spare out, but Adrienne pretty much had it out and ready to go when the dude from AAA arrived. He changed the tire lickety split, but advised us to get off the interstate immediately and take surface roads to the Convention Center because our spare was only a emergency tire, not a full replacement.

We finally made it to the CC about an hour behind schedule and began the set-up in preparation for the 6-8pm Market Pre-shop. Since this was the first time that Verb had their own booth, Adrienne had built custom display units for the spinning fiber and yarn. She was a whirlwind of activity with her power drill and lighting fixtures. Kristine directed all of us and I just took orders (what I do best).

We took a quick junk food break and stretched our legs by heading over to the Hyatt. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything remotely healthy on offer, so I grabbed a Snickers bars. Cheese-Its and a Full Throttle. Okay, let's talk about the Full Throttle.

Apparently it's the Coca-Cola co's answer to Red Bull or Rock Star and it is POTENT. I'm an old hand with the contents of RB, but Full Throttle gave me heart palpitations. Seriously. I was alternating between panic attacks and wanting to hear house music. Very, very strange. Reminded me of when I first moved to San Francisco... the glory days.

Michelle arrived around 4pm with the most amazing homemade sandwiches. These saved my sanity as I was surviving purely on sugar and caffeine at that point. I think mine was sundried tomato spread with turkey on sourdough baguette (or something like that). It was divine and just what I needed for the final stretch before the masses started streaming into the CC.

Kristine and Adrienne had reserved rooms at the Hilton (across the street from the convention center) so we were able to relax and not worry about driving back and forth every day. It was like a little holiday for me and I loved the luxury of being away from home and playing with fiber all day long.

Next Up: Thank God, It's Friday @ Stitches West!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Knitting: Men In America

Hello Fiber Friends,

My friend, Kyle Kunnecke, is working on project about men who knit. Part of said project is a survey that will take you around 10-15 minutes maximum to complete.

If you're a knitter, please consider taking the survey. Women and men are wanted!

All other questions about the rest of the project can be found on the FAQ.