Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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August 2006 - Posts

My older scale got jealous. Though she'll never be used to weigh crack, she's served me well and deserves some air time, too.

This is my Soehnle 67060 Bretagne, bought on Amazon.com after a LOT of research. (Hmm. Sound familiar?)

Sohnle scale

My concerns when choosing a scale were: accuracy to 1g, and ability to weigh both yarn and packages for mailing. Therefore, I needed something that could hold a lot, both in terms of fitting a lot of yarn, and handling a good bit of weight.

Whenever you choose a scale, unless you're shelling out the bucks, you're either getting accuracy or capacity. The cute Palmscale from yesterday is accurate to .1g, but can only measure up to 250g. Not good for much more than a couple of skeins of yarn, but perfect for dyes and small stuff.

This Soehnle is accurate to 1g, but can measure items weighing up to 11 lb (5kg). It's sleek, it's sturdy, and really, it does a good job.

In researching, I compared capacities and prices of different scales, as well as their design, in terms of being able to hold, say a big package, or a big bowl of yarn, as well as looking cool. This scale met all requirements. The only negative (and a slight one at that): because the surface area of the scale is not very big, if you put big things on it, it can be hard to see the readout. Using a bowl of some kind helps.

I also read a lot of reviews to see what people thought and did other research online. The other factors in choosing this scale were:

  • ability to "tare" or "zero out" the scale; ie, put a bowl on the scale, tare so it's "reset" to zero, then add stuff
  • ability to measure in both grams and ounces, and easily change via a switch on the bottom (some models you have to unscrew something)
  • stabilizes pretty quickly when on or when measuring
  • auto-off
  • easy to store

I've had this scale for about a year and a half and have been very happy with it.

(Now go play nice with the Palmscale!)

We're off for a quick trip to Jersey to see friends and the Family Values concert. Should be fun. Have a great long weekend!

Get acid. Check. Get a precision scale. Check. Wonder what kind of google hits I'll get. Check.

I was pretty happy with the scale I already had (measured to the nearest gram). Until it came to weighing small amounts of dye or yarn. Then, not so happy. In weighing 10g of dye:

  • I'd put a small amount on the scale and nothing would register.
  • I'd put a larger amount. It'd jump to 7, 8, 9 grams.
  • I'd add small amounts, trying to ease up to 10 grams. Nothing would register. Nothing would register. Nothing would register. Then BAM, 11 grams.
  • I'd remove some dye. 9 grams.

In general, it's not SO important. I mean, if I'm making a 1% dye solution and measuring 10g of dye to 990g of water, if the dye is really 9g or 11g, that would make it a .9% or 1.1% dye solution. Not the end of the world. But for someone going to the trouble of measuring mL of dye, who doesn't want to use an existing twist protractor because the lines aren't exact, who wants to dye triads on very small amounts of  yarn and dye, it matters. I'm anal like that.

(Oh, the google hits. The horror.)

So I did some research and found Scale Magazine, which seemed to be a good source for scale information. Once I narrowed down to the type of scale I might want (size: small; accuracy: .1g), I checked the recommended vendors to find what scales were available that fit. Then read up on them at Scale Magazine. And narrowed to: the Palmscale 6.0. Pocket sized and accurate to .1g. Of the three vendors I checked, SaveOnScales.com had the best prices. Still too high for me.

So I searched around some more, and found the same company on eBay, and the same Palmscale 6.0 for a bunch of bucks less (albeit only in silver). I read their ratings/reviews and saw a lot of happy customers. 99.8% positive feedback. Always a good sign. And I did a google search of the website name to see if there were complaints floating on the Web. Didn't find anything. So I bought it. And it arrived:

new Palmscale scale

Ooooh, carrying pouch and 100g recalibration weight.

Palmscale 6.0

Ain't she cute? Sleek, compact, light. Two small trays. Nifty.

Of course, as I'm writing this, I panicked and wondered if Scale Magazine was a dummy site set up to promote certain scales or vendors. So I searched around again, for "Scale Magazine" and "ScaleMagazine", for links to the domain name, etc. I didn't see any negatives, and rereading through the pages, I don't get "scammy" feelings.

<begin soapbox>

All this caution is not only because caution with new online vendors is a good thing, but also because we nearly got hoaxed BIG TIME when we bought our first digital camera. We encountered companies that claimed to have the lowest price, but when you called, they would only talk to you if you were willing to upsell to the package "deal". Or they'd claim to have the item in stock, but after ordering, you'd find out you were waitlisted. For weeks. And so on. And when we did a search on the company name, we found links to all sorts of complaints, about their upsell techniques and poor service, inability to get in touch with anyone when there were problems, etc. Long story short: when dealing with a new vendor, it pays to do some research. Google the company's name, their website URL, and find links to their website (use Google's advanced search).

<end soapbox>

Okay, glad we got that out of the way.

I charged up the scale last night (yep, rechargeable) and weighed small things like chapstick, a quarter, some screws. (Again with the google hits...) It was nice to see the decimal place accuracy.

The scale does not sit quite flush on the floor, though. There are foam pads on the bottom which may be adjustable, so I'll give that a try.

The scale arrived quickly and safely. It's cool looking and full-featured. I'm looking forward to measuring out yarn and dye for my triads!

I'm a geek.

Skirting the issue

For gray la gran and anyone else waiting to knit Sangria, here's what 2 skeins of Classic Silk will get you:

That Cute Flirty Skirt - in progress

I think it's purty. I cranked last night and knit a whole ball's worth. (Beavis: "Cranked. Hehe. She said cranked"...)

Tonight, I was ready to start the next set of instructions, but my numbers didn't match. And then I realized I had misread the instructions. It's NOT "Repeat ... 8 times more". It's "Repeat rnds 1 through 8 five times more". So let's see. I did 3 extra repeats, of 8 rows each, or 24 rows. Extra.

"DOH!"

I hear that one echoing.

So here's where that leaves me:

That Cute Flirty Skirt - post frog

Oh! and here's what the frogged portion weighs, +/- .1g:

That Cute Flirty Skirt - frogged portion

That would be half of last night's progress.

On the plus side, I tried it on before frogging and it fits great. Up to where I screwed up. :)

Ever since we got the house just under 3 years ago, we've been bringing in sandwich meat and bread to work and making sandwiches for lunch. At first, it was out of necessity (and felt like punishment). We got used to it. After a couple of years, when we had recovered from mortgage shock, we continued because we:

  • finally knew the cost of eating out and wanted to spend the money on other things
  • realized that making sandwiches meant smaller portions and fewer calories, usually of a healthier nature

Turkey sandwiches get boring after a while, even when interspersed with chicken. So some weeks I get pastrami and heat it up in the toaster oven. Yum!

This week I even brought in some cheddar jack cheese. My tastebuds have been in heaven.

I layer the pastrami on one piece of bread and the cheese on the other:

Pastrami sandwich

then toast for the regular amount of time. Add yellow mustard:

Pastrami sandwich

and mmmmmmm. Tasty.

Last week at the grocery store I picked up a jug of vinegar for dyeing. At the register, my mouth hung open when I saw the price: $2.79. For a jug of vinegar! Hell, no.

I had been thinking about getting citric acid crystals. I heard they were cheaper and allowed brighter colors, but couldn't find any locally the week before (and what a hunt it had been). So, I resorted to the Internet. And picked up a couple of 5 lb bags of citric acid at BulkFoods.com. Plus some spices and snacks. Their flat rate shipping (they call it a $5 "handling fee") made it worthwhile. But dang, we now have enough fajita, taco, and lemon pepper seasoning to last our lifetime.

Ordering was easy and delivery was quick. Wanna know what 5 lbs of citric acid looks like?

Citric Acid

It doesn't look like much, but it's heavy. 5 lbs heavy.

Next up: a better scale for weighing dyes and smaller amounts of yarn and fiber. I'm keen to start dyeing up some triads after my dyeing workshop. Some people like to mix dyes willy nilly to find the right color. I'd rather dye a spectrum beforehand and then pick and choose the ones I want. Potayto, potahto.

Well, I did it again. Spent more time spiffying the blog than working on a post.

In trying to figure out how to post the handspun stuff, I kinda ran into some complications.

Flickr don't like it when you use their photos to sell something on your website. So I can't use Flickr.

Etsy is a bit expensive, so I'll hold off for now.

Creating a new blog requires putting the photos some place.

My blogging software has a photo gallery, but the skin has links to a bazillion things you just don't need to see. Plus, it doesn't look like my blog.

So I worked on the skin.

And now my blog doesn't look like my blog. Heh.

I changed things around to fit the new banner. It really changed things. Plus, I was feeling like the colors were getting kinda dark. Wanted to lighten things ups. It's definitely lighter. :) But I like.

So... Handspuns are temporarily housed at http://twoleftneedles.com/shop. (Who knows what temporary is?) I'll add a linky-dink to the sidebar at some point, too.

I'm still working out formatting issues; it's not quite there yet, but close enough!

I managed to spin some this weekend, but very little knitting was accomplished. Oh, and I had to chuck that pink-purples roving. Instead of rinsing it out I let it sit ... and it grew a bit o' mold. Yuck. Chucked. I think I've learned my lesson. (I hope I've learned my lesson.)

I did go to Fabric Place's 25% off sale Saturday, and bought a sweater's worth of Classic Silk for my guy. And a couple of skeins of non-wool for a possible Alien scarf. And nothing else. 'Cuz I have enough yarn. And it's nice to know that every now and then I realize it too.

I leave you with an in progress photo of Sangria, or That Cute Flirty Skirt. Here's what a skein of Classic Silk will get you:

That Cute Flirty Skirt - in progress

I've made excellent progress on That Cute Flirty Skirt. Not crazy progress like all the obsessed Moth ladies zooming towards the flame (go cheer them on!). But progress nonetheless. We've been ironing out some kinks in the first section of the pattern; the rest should be smooth sailings. I've also complicated matters a bit by adding extra stitches to the cast on for a slightly larger waist, and adjusting increases to catch up to the pattern. I'm all caught up now so I can just follow along and knit. Anne's instructions are very thorough and the skirt is coming along nicely. You'll be able to see a lot more detail in the next update (tomorrow?).

Thanks for all the nice comments on my new banner-to-be! I originally had it reversed, in dye-spin-knit order, but changed it at the last minute to match my "byline" - "adventures in knitting, spinning and dyeing". I like it the other way, too. I think I'd like to make a couple of similar banners with projects I've taken through all three stages. Although I can only think of one other... spin-dye-knit-a-scarf. And that one I'd want to put in the project order of spin-dye-knit. Does that make sense? I'll just have to try it and see.

Karen teased me with news of Classic Silk on sale at Herrschners. I rushed over in a tizzy but it was sold out. Apparently, some people were quicker on the draw than I was. As luck would have it, Fabric Place is having a 25% off sale starting Saturday! Classic Silk, you will be mine, oh yes, you will be mine. (Seriously, though, thanks, Karen!)

And the handspun yarn I was going to detail, well, I spent too long on the skirt and I'm not sure where I want to put it. Here? On it's own blog like June? On Etsy? Bah. I'm as indecisive as my brother.

Plus, I do feel weird posting them for sale after Tuesday's post. Honestly, do I expect people to pay full price plus shipping??? Hahahaha! In my defense, I've been preparing the yarns for a week. My mouth flaps and my timing's crap.

Blah blah blah blah blah. Sorry, I'll pull myself together in a minute. :)

Here's a group shot of the yarns, though:

handspun yarns

I'm even including Calico Cat, which is amazingly squishably soft with such interesting coloring. I dyed up some more fiber in the hopes of spinning more. Here's how the original Calico Cat looked:

Purples and Calico Cat
Calico Cat on the right

and here's the new batch:

Calico Cat on BFL

On initial glance, I think it looks pretty ugly, though not as ugly as the original, so I think it's a good first stab. On second glance, it looks more camouflage than the Rorschach of the original. Still could be used as a therapy tool...

I also dyed some pink-purples, to "match" the pink-purples in the original Calico Cat fiber photo above:

pink-purples on BFL

I wanted more pinks and less purples. Also, I think I used black before, which really saddened the color, so much so that I didn't want to spin it. I ran out of pink, so it's pretty purple heavy. Hehe. I hope this batch comes out better.

Geez, instead of working on my post I got carried away creating this:

Two Left Needles

Whaddaya think? Hey, I'm no graphic designer, but I can hook up your page to a database and make it dynamic. ;)

I'd like to make it my banner. All suggestions welcome! (I do plan to shift that last photo so that "dye" is not right on top of the white.)

Also, I've decided to sell some of my handspun stuffs! Just a few skeins to start. I should have photos and details tomorrow.

Sand River is written up and on its way to Kate. As my first pattern it took disproportionately long (the scarf is a fairly simple knit) because I had no idea what I was doing. I compared a bunch of different patterns and amalgamated them into some semblance of ... something. I suppose once you've done it once you have an idea of what information to include and how to organize it. Otherwise, I don't know how some people can crank out a pattern in a day!

Speaking of Anne, the starts of Sangria:

Sangria - in progress

Not a lot to see, but it's a start. Still loving the Classic Silk. And if any of you find it on sale, you best let me know. I don't want to hear about some Classic Silk sale somewhere that I missed because my buds were too busy hoarding it all! Just sayin'.

And that nameless rambouillet/silk shawl:

rambouillet/silk shawl - in progress

Yep, there's some subtle striping going on. I like it.

And, I'm surprised the pattern is not getting to me. I'm still enjoying this knit.

I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking some communication is warranted. Heck, I'm easy going, even an automated email would have pleased me. Good thing there are puh-lenty of other vendors who dye amazing stuff.

I'm a cheapskate. Does that surprise you? Well, maybe it's not the best word. I hate buying stuff at full price. It started when I was a kid and bought 20 popsicles when they were on sale for 10 for $1, slowly ate them one or two a day until they ran out. Chocolate. Banana. Mmmm. Savored them all the more because of the bahgain, 15 cent savings. Per popsicle!

The flip side now, I find it VERY hard to resist a sale. If I'm in a yarn store, even if I can't justify spending $20 on Koigu for socks, I'll spend $25 on discounted yarns, even if I don't have a specific project in mind.

That's why going to Webs is VERY bad for me. Especially their sales. Bad. News.

Do I look like I have self control? (don't answer that)

Anyway, that's why I have a hard time buying some of the yarns or fibers I've been drooling over. Like Adrian's, Lisa's and Felicia's. To list a few at the top of my list. :) And I have to admit, the shipping gets to me, too. I have a hard time giving so much away to the post office.

Sigh. Meanwhile, I deprive myself of the joys of these fabulous fibers.

That was one of the weird things about MDSW. No shipping (but sales tax). And though there were some specials (especially at Little Barn), most of my purchases were full price.

There's something about being in that environment, and being able to see and touch what you're buying. There's always the "not paying for shipping" angle, too.

Anyway, I'm realizing that, sometimes, paying full price is okay. It hurts a little, true. So I just have to make sure it's worthwhile.

What's your name?

The rambouillet/silk shawl is a little over 12" long now. Thanks for the suggestions on names! I was leaning towards Diamond in the Rough, but then my niece suggested Raspberry Ice. I loved the Raspberry part. The Ice is a nice play on the diamond idea, as well as hinting at the shine from the silk. Ice makes me think of cold, though, and this shawl will be warm and cozy, so I'm still tossing that one around.

I know, it's just a name, right? :)

Becoming a better blogger

Thanks also for the comments lately, I truly appreciate them. I try to respond individually when I can find an email address, but I haven't been putting responses in the comments or on the blog very much. And sometimes that would be helpful! So I'm working on that, and will try to add a comment or update a post when warranted.

Eg, I've added the info on where the Zephyr was bought on that post, and some additional info on the CVM fleece post.

Sand River

I'm working on a pattern for Sand River. Yay! I'll be including info for both a scarf and a rectangular shawl. Kate will be test knitting (thanks, Kate!). Coolio!

Tomorrow: progress pictures on the shawl and flirty skirt!

And so I don't leave you with a pictureless post:

Sand river
(two wraps)

1.

Seacoast Handpainted Yarns alpaca/wool in Ocean

This lovely Seacoast Handpainted Yarns dyed alpaca/wool yarn called out to me on eBay. There were mini bidding wars on most of her auctions (all in the last minutes, of course) and I lost several before I picked this one up. Right around the time I bought that CVM fleece. And some color cards. And some handdyed BFL. Hmm, eBay shopping spree...

When I opened the package, I reflexively whispered, "oooo, pretty". Always a good sign.

Just under 1000 yards, no plans yet. I resist urges to get more...

2.

BFL from eBay

The BFL was a new vendor. I was drawn to the autumn colors and figured I'd try 4 oz.

My problem is not so much with the fiber (though it's not quite as soft as other BFL) as with the vendor: No Email. I didn't get a thank you for ordering or paying; no confirmation of payment or shipment. After almost a week (and my CVM fleece had been won, purchased and received with time to spare), I emailed and found out the vendor doesn't send emails and usually ships "within 3 business days".

Is it just me?

It seems that, in the age of internet shopping, where good service is increasingly rare and all the more appreciated, where uncouth opportunists think nothing of stealing your money and goodwill -- it seems to me that a simple email acknowledgement goes a long way to both show appreciation as well as reassure you that your PayPal funds didn't "disappear into the ether".

If you went to a yarn shop, had someone ring you up and send you on your way without so much as a "hello", "thank you" or "enjoy!", would you go back? That's what I'm saying.

3.

Classic Elite Classic Silk

This yarn I bought without plans, to take advantage of a Fabric Place sale + coupon combo. It was the first time I gave in to such urges. I figured, no wool, neutral color, could become something for Scott, or maybe that black shawl my mom wanted.

Clearly, it was an inspired moment. Providence. My mom's shawl, of course, will be the ebony Zephyr. And the (Classic Elite) Classic Silk will become: Anne's Sangria! Yep, that cute flirty skirt is knit with, you guessed it, Classic Silk. And I get to test knit it!!

Anne's been raving about this yarn and I gotta tell you, she's right. It feels pretty good in the skein but it's pure delight while knitting. Delight! And did I mention it's got no wool? I would knit Scott a sweater with this yarn! I love it that much.

The swatch is done and I'm getting set to start the pattern, a slightly modified size small. Fun fun!

PS:  Don't worry, that's all the stash divulging I can handle at the moment. Back to normal (whatever that is) tomorrow.

Thanks for the sympathies and suggestions on Scott's allergy situation. And to be clear, yes, I would be willing to not knit wool for my kids so Scott can be near them until they're old enough that they can manage wool knits carefully (ie, remove them when they get home and learn to use a lint brush, haha). I would still knit with wool for myself and the rest of my family, though. I ain't crazy. And as Carole wisely suggests, we won't worry about future children's wool allergies 'til later.

Can you imagine, though, going to the doctor for a checkup and asking, "So... any way you can tell if the fetus is allergic to wool?" Innocent blink.

Or, being apprehensive about giving birth because it would be the moment of truth: allergic or not??? If the former, a whole 'nother kind of pain and post partum depression...

I was skeptical of suggestions for alpaca or finer fibers like cashmere, buffalo, quiviut, etc. But, I felt like I shouldn't just blow raspberries at you all so I brought a skein of alpaca yarn and a cone of cashmere yarn for Scott's touch test. Both passed! (Though shortly after, he did feel some tinglies in his hands, which he says may or may not have been psychological.)

The next test is to knit a small swatch and have him wear it. He's a good sport and willing to try. Who knows, there may be a lot of alpaca in this household soon.

Gram

On the Gram front, she's being moved to another assisted living place this week so we're all a little confused and agitated. We packed up some of her things before visiting today. 

From the website, the new place seems nice, and it caters to those with memory issues, so hopefully she'll be in good hands. I'm concerned that another move so quickly will throw her off even more; she's not quite settled into the nursing home as it is. Fingers crossed (which seems so inadequate a phrase, but I got nothing).

Going to Montreal was a nice break, but as soon as we got back, we felt guilty for not visiting. And today she was a bit emotional when she saw us. I'm trying to accept that we're doing a lot. Period. Without the niggling "but it's not enough" and "she deserves better" and "we should do more" thoughts that are so quick to follow. We're doing a lot. Period. It's hard.

More stash

I got me some JaggerSpun Zephyr laceweight in white, ebony and cinnabar*:

JaggerSpun Zephyr laceweight in white, ebony and cinnabar

and a cone of white in DK weight as well. You know. For all that dyeing I'm supposedly doing.

Here's a comparison of the laceweight vs DK weight:

JaggerSpun Zephyr DK & Laceweight

The ebony is for a rectangular shawl for my mom. I balked before on knitting a black lace shawl, but after seeing a few in blogland, I realize I am a big wimpering baby. I can do this. Without going blind. Without too much sulking.

Sand River

was blocked

Sand River - blocking

and is done!

Sand River

It blocked to just over 6 feet! I like-y. More pics soon.

Etc

I've got a few other exciting things to show you this week! And maybe some more stash.

What do you think:

  • too much stash = shock and disgust, or
  • woah, I'm jealous and now I gotta wipe my keyboard off but keep 'em coming


* Edited to add: The JaggerSpun Zephyr cones were purchased through a coop from Sarah Siegel, who has
an eBay store and a website. I have heard good things about her promptness and responsiveness.

I had a shocking realization last week.

Scott and I have been talking about, you know, when we have kids. Someday.

You all know that Scott is allergic to wool. He's very patient, understanding and supportive of my fiber habit, but it's always a concern:

  • I make copious use of two lint brushes for post-spinning, post-fiber handling, post-mohair-knitting, etc. I brush off my clothes, my chair, the sofa. After combing fleece or spinning for a while, I grab the Dustbuster and give the area a once over.
  • I rarely knit with mohair. It's too stressful. For both of us. At the sight of mohair or angora, Scott gets the heebie jeebies. At the sight of floating mohair fibers -- yeah, let's not go there.
  • In the fall and winter, as soon as I get home, I change out of my handknit sweaters and wool tops into fleece or cotton. So he can come near me.

Right. So I've known about the possibility of our kids being allergic to wool. Which would be very sad. Because I really don't like to knit with cotton. Because I love working with wool. I've known this, but figured I could always knit a few cotton and cotton/acrylic baby things. I could deal.

And then I realized: When Scott and I have kids, if the baby is not allergic to wool, I will still be knitting cotton and cotton/acrylic baby things. Otherwise, Scott won't be able to hold the baby! I know! No wool clothes! No wool booties! No wool baby blankets! As the Harlot would say, I need a lie down...

It gets worse. I was talking to my sister, who realized that if the baby is allergic to wool, I won't be able to wear wool clothing!

I feel weak.

Let's not talk about what happens to my spinning habit or my stash...

And if you come up with another realization along the same lines, by all means, keep them to yourself! I don't wanna hear it...

On the topic of baby clothes, here are some of the cute patterns in the 2 magazines I bought at Mouliné:

I love all of these:

from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2006
from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2006

And no. 8 and 11:

from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2006
from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2006

Scott likes no. 4, especially the flower:

from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2005
from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2005

I love no. 26 and 25:

from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2005
from Phildar Layette, Spring-Fall 2005

Can you stand it? Hey, I can still knit for other people, y'know.

And here's the interior of Mouliné as shown on their bag:

Mouliné in Montreal

It looks different; they've added more bookshelves or a wall that separates the back area into a real pattern area. But even in the drawing you can tell the mannequins have attitude.

I've been going a bit wild on yarn purchases lately... I don't know when I think I'll have the time. What can I say, I have trouble resisting a bahgain.

A few things from Wild String's closing sale (sad to see her go), all Cherry Tree Hill:

A few skeins of yarn...

Some Melange:

CTH Melange

Some North Cotton:

CTH North Cotton

And a shitload of Cotton Boucle:

CTH Cotton Boucle

The good news, no wool. The better news, $5 a skein (Melange retails for $24). The bad news, what the hell was I thinking buying so many single skeins??? Still, I see possibilities in combining the boucle yarns. And there were patterns for socks using North Cotton on the Cherry Tree Hill website. Anyone ever used it before?

Oh, and the bag they were in:

MDSW bag

My free MDSW bag that I got for volunteering. Forget to show it before. :)

I took a lot of projects to Montreal. Well, more accurately, a lot of yarn. And needles. I brought Sand River:

Sand River - in progress

and worked on it in the car. A lot less than expected.

You know how I said it was a 6 hour drive to Montreal? Well, I thought I'd have 6 hours to knit. Each way. That's a lot!

Until you take into account the time that I'd be driving. Or sleeping. Or too hot to knit. Yep. I'd say I knit a good hour in the car. Maybe two. And not at all the rest of the trip.

Still, Sand River was almost done Sunday night:

Sand River - in progress

and magically completed Monday night!

Sand River - almost done!

I thought I still had a good foot to knit, but then I tried it on and it was good to go. And I was at the end of a repeat, too, so all I had to do was tink back a row and cast off. Nice. Just need to block her out.

With all that knitting I thought I'd have time for, at the last minute I wound that rambouillet/silk on my yarnwinder and threw it into my bag with the 3 skeins of sock yarn (that I didn't use). I had a pattern picked out and 4 different needles to test out the gauge.

rambouillet/silk - ready to go

Of course... I forgot the pattern.

It's just as well, it was better to finish knitting Sand River before starting the shawl:

rambouillet/silk shawl - in progress

The pattern is "A Beginner's Triangle" from A Gathering of Lace. I'm still thinking up a name for the project. Any suggestions?

I'm really enjoying knitting with this yarn. It feels really good and I think it's working nicely with the pattern. Which is hard to tell without a contrasting background or slight blocking. But trust me. Er, trust Scott. He's been reassuring me.

Thanks, Denise, for shedding light on the sculpture. It is called "La Foule Illuminée", or "The Illuminated Crowd" by Raymond Mason. Denise included a description, and I found a slightly different one as well, once I knew what I was looking for:

"A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology - or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death - the flow of man's emotion through space."

It's an interesting concept, and next time I'm in Montreal I'll check it out with new eyes.

(In searching for more info, I found a post listing "strange statues" which included the above. Quite the range: some clever, some refreshing, some ridiculous. And I'm sure we can all disagree about which are which!)

Thanks also to Jen for confirming that EA does have offices in Montreal! The mystery is solved!

*     *     *

When we left our Sea Silk shawled wanderer and her camera shy guy... they were on their way to ... Old Montreal!

*     *     *

En route we were happy to report good cell phone reception:

Montreal: good signal

'Though I think we'd be charged up the wazoo for roaming.

We knew we were in Old Montreal when everything

Montreal, Old

around us

Montreal, Old

looked less than

Montreal, Old

modern

Montreal: Notre Dame

Above is Notre Dame Cathedral, and as we came upon it, the bells were chiming and chiming. We figured out it was for a wedding, and saw no fewer than 3 brides in the next hour and a half.

I took advantage of flower boxes when taking photos to mask streets and cars, and there were lots of flowers around. Above, they also cover horse drawn carriages. The horses didn't look so happy. It was hot. Below is the building connected to Notre Dame. Back in the day that must have been a cool courtyard to wander.

Montreal: Notre Dame

I started to sneeze (I'm very allergic to horses; back when I was a kid, I'd always be miserable on class trips to the Toronto Royal Winter Fair. Took me a while to realize I was allergic to the animals, and even longer to realize there might be something I could do about it.) so we headed towards the water:

Montreal: harborfront

which you can't see here, but on the left you can look out and see lots of 'spensive boats.

Along the sidewalk are entertainers and caricature artists. There was a particularly talented caricaturist in the far end of the street, probably where the flock of people are. I was tempted but too chicken to get ours done. Maybe next time.

A little further down, we headed back towards the streets:

Montreal, Old

and towards the main "square" which I remembered from my 8th grade class trip:

Montreal, Old

The rest of Montreal was quiet, but Old Montreal was bustling. In the square were lots more caricaturists, folks selling jewelry, street performers:

Montreal, Old: street performer

Git your mind outta da gutter!

He was swallowing one of those 3' balloons, the kind often contorted into animals and hats. He swallowed it all the way down!

Montreal, Old: street performer

But wouldn't bring it back out.

Boo! Boo!

Sidestreets off the square look like this:

Montreal, Old

But we were tired, and I was distracted by this:

Montreal, Old: flowers

(and want to dye something those colors!) and the fountain in the top corner. We found shade and a place to sit. And watch:

Montreal, Old: just married

Seriously, though, the street performer that wouldn't regurgitate the balloon got to me. I was ready to leave. And find a yarn shop. I knew there was one around there, I had seen it on a map. Information pointed me in the right direction, so off we went!

But first, photo op:

Montreal, Old

and more floral inspiration:

Montreal, Old: flowers

Our route included hopping on the Metro, and of course, passing more flowers:

Montreal, Old

Montreal, Old: flowers

Seriously, I don't know if the Harlot and her sock have made it to Montreal, but if not, I'm priming them for unusual fiber blogger phototaking.

Speaking of:

Montreal: at Mouline

Mouliné! The yarn shop! Easily found, and first thing I see are these crazy mannequins! I fit right in. (Their website is in progress, but has their contact info.)

I narrowed my purchase down to a couple of cute Phildar baby magazines (wait 'til you see them!), though I was sorely tempted by some sock yarn, among other yarns. These days, I try to limit purchases to fiber, and yarn purchases to dyeables and bahgains. It's tough. If I hadn't been buying so much lately, I woulda broken down.

Svetlana and Scott run the shop and they're very nice and quite knowledgeable. There was a gorgeous scarf on the table that Svetlana designed combining Noro Kochoran and 3 different ribbon yarns, the colors and textures combined very nicely.

Scott recognized the Sea Silk in my shawl (they're getting Sea Silk soon) and we ended up talking for a while, about knitting, blogs, spinning, fleece processing. Svetlana talked about designing for knitting magazines, too.

But, I had to get Scott (my Scott) out of that store. Poor guy, sitting and waiting patiently. Not so fun for him.

On the way back, we passed these crazy runners, dressed in red, sometimes in drag:

Montreal: crazy runners

There were dozens of them. What the hell? Anyone know what they're doing?

We had an amazing "bistro style salad" at Bistro L'Aromate, and a fabulous wine; the rest of dinner was pretty good, too. We'll definitely go back.

Afterwards we strolled around Rue Ste Catherine, listened to a lovely non-traditional quartet playing classical music, sat down to coffee and saw these ladies stopping a firetruck:

Montreal: crazy night life

and playing a ukelele:

Montreal: crazy night life

Crazy Montrealers.

Rue Ste Catherine got rowdier as the night went on but we were pooped from all the walking so we chilled at the hotel. We're such fogies.

Next day, we stopped atop Mont Royal to catch the view on the way out:

Montreal: view from Mont Royal

Ah, Montreal. Filled with crazy people and interesting sights, commas instead of periods and 10% cream. Thanks for the good times.

We had a fabulous time in Montreal!

(Warning: You asked for lots of pictures. You did not specify what kind of pictures. You have been warned.)

The drive there (~6 hours) was uneventful. Once we crossed into Canada, it was nothing but corn fields and silos for miles (er, kilometers):

to Montreal: corn fields and silos

with the occasional tall Coke guy along the way:

to Montreal: big Coke guy

(and no, that is not me messing with scale, he was that big!)

Look, speed limit 100!

to Montreal: speed limit 100!

Kilometers. Man, as soon as you cross the border, it's all french, and kilometers, and totally alien. Look, they even use commas instead of periods like those nutty Europeans:

Montreal: crazy comma users

And along with 2%, they have 10%:

Montreal: 10%?

It was weird to see bookstores and newstands with so many French titles. But cool at the same time.

We wanted to be within walking distance of the city and sights, and that meant shelling out more bucks. Rather than pay too much for a Marriott Courtyard, we found an online deal and paid the same for the 4 star Sofitel Montreal: tres chic; modern; clean; friendly and helpful staff; a very nice place if yer splurgin'.

As soon as we checked in we scattered our things about and dove onto the feather duvet covered bed, ruining our chances for a nice photo. Ah well. This is the kind of place where, if you take a shower after checking in and then head out for a walk, your shower has been cleaned and towels replaced upon your return. It was kind of insane, actually. I could get used to that kind of luxury.

I did take a few photos the next day, after room service had tidied up.

Entrance with orchids, tea light and matches:

Montreal: hotel

double doors lead to the bathroom with rain shower (rain shower head is in the ceiling):

Montreal: hotel

(I loved having the swinging door and not dealing with a shower curtain.)

super big bed with feather duvet:

Montreal: hotel

(Too soft for our tastes. Can King size beds really be that much bigger than Queens? I felt like Scott and I were in different beds we were that far apart. I don't think I kicked him once.)

and a little living space:

Montreal: hotel

Very nice. I really appreciated not seeing those awful patterns you see on motel room bed covers. And lots of natural light when you wanted it.

We took a walk around the hotel, walked by:

Montreal: butter sculpture

this piece that looked like butter in the sunshine. Anyone know what it is? The people towards the back are sick or starving, the ones in front are looking towards the future, hope, destination.

We walked through parts of the Underground Mall, which was mindblowingly vast. Picture 5 malls, all underground, all interconnected. Throw in a few interconnected subway stations, hotels, movie theatres, etc. Now multiply the picture in your head by, oh, 100. Well, maybe not that much. But it was HUGE.

Dinner at a so-so place, where we had 2 beers each and walked back to the hotel. I loved that. Being able to have a drink and walk back. After leaving the city, we've left that convenient lifestyle behind as well.

And actually, I loved walking around the city. Downtown, Old Montreal, it was all very walkable. Loved it.

The next day, I saw this sign:

Montreal: Look! EA!

that looked just like the EA Games logo (Electronic Arts, I think?). We went searching for answers but all we found was Dunkin Donuts: 

Montreal: Dunkin Donuts

where they had weird romance novel teas:

Montreal: Dunkin Donuts romance teas?

I really didn't know what to make of it.

Outside we enjoyed the quiet and breeze, and took a few photos. This was a good chance to take some FBS-in-action shots, too!

Montreal: FBS

Montreal: FBS

Montreal: FBS

I even got one of Scott:

Montreal: chillin'

(he's so cute)

and one of us:

Montreal: awwww...

The weather was in the 70's, with strong sunshine and cool breezes, so the shawl was just the covering I needed to keep from being chilly. And, of course, I loved wearing it. :)

Tomorrow: actual photos of Montreal! Mostly Old Montreal. And the one yarn shop I managed to visit!

When it's been too hot to spin, I've been combing the Corriedale fleece:

combed corriedale

growing my pile of clouds:

combed corriedale

that are soft and fluffy:

combed corriedale

and weigh only 5.5 ounces.

Combing takes time. But it's so darned relaxing. When you don't stab yourself. And the resultant top, oh my oh my, such a nice preparation. And since I don't have specific plans for it anytime soon, no rush.

turkey lurkey

A few weeks ago there was a gaggle of turkeys in our front yard. A big one followed by 10 or 11 little ones. I chased them down the street with my camera (they stayed in the bushes, I followed along the road) but they were fast.

A couple of weeks ago I had to stop on my drive home to let them cross the road.

This past weekend they wandered through our yard again. They've grown! There were 2 big ones this time, you can see one on the left below:

wild turkeys

They're quite camera shy and are retreating to the left. They crack me up and tickle my city girl funny bone.

I'm off to Montreal. Enjoy your weekend!

MDSW did something to me. Or maybe it was spending all that time with fleece-crazed Barbara Clorite-Ventura. I've barely processed any of the Cormo fleece (or should I call it The Cormo fleece); I've combed (much) less than a pound of the Corriedale fleece (and how soothing it is); and here I am, working on a third fleece. (We won't mention the alpaca and llama fleece that shipped with my wheel; nor the sample of Freesian Erin kindly sent before I got bit by the fleece bug; and not a word about the pound and a bit of Navajo Churro Scout sent along!)

What can I say, my fleece muse is unpredictable. And powerful.

I "won" the CVM fleece (California Variegated Mutant - what a name, eh? Should be on X-Files.) on eBay.

Now, I don't generally recommend buying fleeces sight unseen. It's hard enough (for a newb like me) to pick out a fleece in person. But over the 'net, that much harder. You can't inspect the locks, you can't test for breaks or see if there's a lot of vegetable matter, check for second cuts, etc. It can be a crapshoot.

But, as I said, my fleece muse is unpredictable. And powerful.

There were two deciding factors. Well, three:

  1. I've heard a lot of good things about CVM and have been wanting to try some out.
  2. The seller had another auction for a fleece that won grand chamption at their county fair. I know, I know, I don't even know what that means. It sounded good. But I did read through their eBay feedback and it was good.
  3. Well, crap, I forget what 3 was. But, the fleece was described as next to the skin soft with a super fine crimp. The sheep was covered and the fleece was well skirted. (In English: the sheep wore a coat to keep hay and burrs off it's wool; after it was shorn, the icky and subpar bits were thrown out.) Sounded good.*

I paid more than I planned. Naturally (evil eBay). And this arrived from Sheepy Thyme Farm:

Thank you Mr. Postman!
thank you Mr. Postman!

Bonnie even included some angora because of a small billing confusion. She was super nice and the fleece arrived very quickly!

Here's a sample lock:

sample CVM lock

It does have a very fine crimp and is quite soft. When it arrived, it was a scorcher, and the lanolin was kinda liquid in my hands. Ever have that happen to you? Kinda weird.

Laid out, I could see all the different colors:

V for Variegated

Cool, eh?

CVM's are Romeldales (but not all Romeldales are CVM's) and were specially bred for their colors. There aren't too many of them around, and I think the fleeces are generally on the finer side, so they're also rather pricey.

I wasn't sure what to do, but I knew I wanted to separate out the colors. If I combed or carded the locks willy nilly, then the colors would blend and average out, and I'd lose the range.

It took a while.

Done
the last of it - done!

But it was kinda fun.

Done
bagged and tagged!

I think I overcategorized. After a while it was hard to figure out into which batch the locks should go.

Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I had to try some out. So I washed some locks of the lightest 2 shades:

Washed
left: lightest; right: slightly darker

See what I mean? You can hardly tell the difference!

While most locks were quite soft and had a staple of about 4", some were coarser, and some here and there were shorter. Quite natural in a fleece, I think. There were small bits of second cuts, but they were easy to separate out. I considered sorting out the coarser and shorter locks, but the overcategorization was making me dizzy. I might go back and do it later.

Dry locks:

And dry

I brought some to work to photograph. See the color gradations? In't cool?

Somma da colors

Here's a comparison of the two lightest colors:

2 shades

But when they're brushed out:

lightest shade
lightest

you can hardly tell. Below is the slightly darker one, look how much lighter it looks brushed!

next lightest shade
slightly darker

It also looks a bit yellow at the tips. Not sure what that's from.

The tips are dirtier and rougher than I expected. Most of it is just dirt that comes out when flick carded.*

The plan is to spin some up and see what it wants to become. Some of the ideas floating around my head:

  • A sweater with some fair isle or multi-color detail utilizing diferent shades, and probably dyed as well.
  • A lace shawl that gradually goes from lightest at the top to darkest at the bottom.

I'm sure I'll come up with more as I play.

Oh yeah. That fleece muse? Working overtime. I found The White Barn Farm through the Sheepy Thyme Farm website, and loved their fleeces (also CVM). Their fleeces are all sold for this year, so I, ahem, reserved one for next year. Mabel. Her coat will be mine, oh yes. ;)

Kim sent some samples so I could get an idea. Samples are a good thing, people! Since her fleeces were all sold, she sent me some "seconds" from the bits that are skirted out of the sold fleeces. I think they look great. Look at the crimp and color! I especially like the dark grey one at the bottom. Now don't you want to get a CVM fleece??

samples from The White Barn Farm


* Edited to add: sheepshepherdess's comment reminded me: the fleece was very clean with very little vegetable matter. It was indeed well-skirted and the waste when sorting was very minimal! Also, Ana sent me a link to an article in Sheep! magazine written by Bonnie at Sheepy Thyme Farm, which I enjoyed reading. They really care about their sheep and fleeces!

Thanks so much for the support. I have taken a lot of your ideas, suggestions and advice to heart, and honestly, it's helped. I'm feeling much better about Gram being in the nursing home. I think it's the best place for her right now. The nurses seem nice, and she's in the dementia ward, so they'll know how to understand and help her. We saw her Sunday and she didn't make a lot of sense to us. I'm hoping the transition disoriented her and that she'll bounce back a bit. But even if she doesn't, well, it is what it is. It's part of the process, and unavoidable. She's safe, and cared for, and that's what counts.

Scott and I are planning a trip to Montreal this weekend to take a break, get away and have some time to ourselves. Oh, and have fun! I've been to Montreal a few times. 8th grade class trip... random weekend drives in college... oh yeah, the time I went with some girlfriends for Jazz Fest, on Canada Day, when the border guy asked why we were going to Canada. Me: "To have fun!" Hands in the air! Youthful exuberance! Luckily, I looked young AND innocent, so they didn't search the car for drugs. Heh. It'll be fun.

Last week I brought this to work:

basket o' goodies
goodies galore! sunny day! green picnic table!

I finished plying the rest of the rambouillet/silk, and now have 2 empty bobbins! (I was counting my bobbins the other day and was short one. I counted, recounted, searched around, recounted, searched some more. Gave up. The next day, it hit me. It was on the wheel. Doh!) The top skein is the one I showed you before, the bottom is one of the new ones. In all, about 1050 yards over 8.8 oz. I think it's the most yards I've spun for one project. I lurv it.

rambouillet/silk 2 ply
soft and yummy

The first skein bled in the wash so I wanted to see if there were color differences. It's (slightly) noticeable in another photo, but not this one.

Those empty bobbins will be filled by the luck of the dyepot primaries batch, predrafted one sleepless night:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

Because of the random way the top was laid into the roaster, each 4 oz segment is a little bit different. There are the bluer bits:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

the redder bits:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

and the greener bits:

Luck of the Dyepot - predrafted

I could spin each bit separately and have slightly different and somewhat coordinated skeins, or I could alternate between the bits to get 12 more-or-less-matching ounces. Not sure which way to go. I'm trying to spin up 2 matching skeins for someone and the bit already spun may be more green than the green bit above. Ah well, it's been too hot to spin most days anyway.

Sand River has grown and I'm still loving it:

Sand River - in progress

Luscious silk/merino beats cotton blend any day, so Trellis sleeves are slow goings:

Trellis - sleeves started
hey, you can see my feet!

Last, look at the color!

sample cards from dye workshop

These are the sample cards I walked away with from my dye workshop with Linda Whiting. Purty darned cool. I had a really good time, met some new folks, learned a few things. I'll try to put together a few thoughts later this week.

Tomorrow: the CVM fleece. It's sorted, and a bit of it washed. I never figured myself for a fleece processing person, but I seem to be becoming one. I've even reserved a CVM fleece for next year! 8 months from now! I know!

New update on the drum carder: 4 more weeks. Sigh.

MIA

Gram started wandering and made it out of her building. Without shoes. The police picked her up, yada yada yada, she is now in a nursing home and unhappy to be there. It's been a tough week, and while our actual street was quiet last weekend, life was not.

Did you ever play T-ball as a kid? With the hollow pole holding the softball so kids like me had a chance in hell of hitting the ball? This week my head felt like the softball, whacked hard with a bat. It's still attached, but I've felt like my head is leagues away.

I visited Gram in the hospital and sat with her for a few hours. Low key. Just spending time together. I think she was comforted to have someone there. I was okay while I was there, but on the way home, not so much. I decided to try a little retail therapy, stop by a couple of places I've been wanting to check out for months. I stopped at a yarn store, the one we've driven by every week on our way to Gram's. Closed. For the summer. I headed to the alpaca farm not too far from where I live, which is open during business hours while I work. Closed. For vacation. Oh, cruel fates, forcing me to face my sadness without a fiber fix! Perhaps the fates know the state of my yarn room. Or about the CVM fleece that arrived this week...

We visited Gram in the nursing home. Sat on her bed, held her hand, chatted. She was asleep when we arrived and promptly fell back to sleep after our visit, so I'm not sure she'll remember we were there. She was happy to see us, though, wondered how we knew she was there. "A little birdy told me." We've continued printing out photos and bringing them with us, and I think she's enjoying them. We've got plans to get frames, especially those composite ones, and lightweight photo albums.

Blogging might resume next week, might be sketchy, might be all about the fiber or (it would be shocking) maybe a little knitting thrown in for good measure. It's too hot to do much, anyway. I've been combing the corriedale I washed some moons past. Sweat drips down my body, but there's minimal contact with the fibers, so I don't mind. I've grown a nice pile of cloudy fluff.