Two Left Needles

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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!

FBS

Only happy news allowed this week.

Happy thing 1: The humidifier works great. In a week it's brought our basement humidity down from the upper 60's to a comfortable 50. I spent a couple of hours sweeping, reorganizing, designating for trash and recycling. We still have a ways to go, but it's a good start.

Happy thing 2: I plied 4.2 oz of the rambouillet/silk last night, it came out to 520 yards. 520 yards!

Rambouillet/silk 2 ply

That's a lot of freaking yardage!

Rambouillet/silk 2 ply

The singles sat on the bobbin for a while and I haven't set it yet so it's still kinky.

Rambouillet/silk 2 ply

With 5.4 oz left to ply, that's more than enough for a nice shawl. It'll be my first handspun shawl. Any suggestions?

Happy thing 3: I joined the Northeast Handspinners Assocation and am signing up to attend The Gathering this fall. I doubt I'll get any of my first choice workshops, but it'll be fun to go. I hope they're not full!

Happy thing 4: I nearly forgot - I'm signed up for a dye workshop this weekend! Wheeee! It's taught by Linda Whiting, the same person that did the dye workshop for Erin, Cheryl and co. I'm looking forward to it.

Okay. Let me show you the shawl and get that out of the way. Tomorrow I want to start showing you the silk samples I've been playing with. Fun fun.

FBS

FBS
Started:
5/20/06
Finished: 7/21/06
Pattern: Flower Basket Shawl by Evelyn Clark, Interweave Knits Fall 2004
Yarn: Hand Maiden's Sea Silk in Rose Garden
Needles: #7
Notes: I loooooove love love this yarn. Love it. Love. It. It's soft, has incredible drape, that awesome silk sheen, the colors are gorgeous, it photographs like a mo-fo in the sunlight, man, what more can you want? The pattern shows nicely, it feels good wearing it, it was nice to knit with. Do you really want me to go on? Lovely lovely stuff. AND, I'm so glad I got it at half off. Just one more thing to love about it. ;)

I was worried that I'd run out of yarn. I did run out. Rather than frog back and lose a whole bunch of yards, I decided to throw the dice and try to maximize the shawl size and yarn use. I ended up casting off in pattern on row 9 of the edging. I could have used about 20-30" more yarn to get a looser cast off, but I'm happy with the end result:

FBS

It blocked bigger than I expected. After completing only 6 of the 7 main pattern repeats I thought I'd have a smaller shawlette, but the finished wingspan is ~54" and it's ~27" high, same as the pattern specs. Good stuff. On my 5'2" frame, it's a perfect fit. If you want a larger shawl, you'll definitely need a second skein.

FBS

Obligatory window shot:

FBS

Last night I heard noises in the bushes outside the window, so I sent Scott to investigate. Turns out it was a skunk. For some reason, we thought it was a good idea to take its photo. We crept up on it but it shuffled off. Not fast, but fast enough. Do you see it?

skunk under the trunk

No? That bright spot under the car, that's it's eye. Thank goodness it didn't spray us.

FBS

It was close.

I knit the remainder of the row and had almost 2' extra yarn from my marked off thirds. Good start. I cast off the next half row and came up against the next marker. Not a good sign. By simple logic, I should be short 2' before finishing. 20 stitches before the end, despite your good thoughts and my wishful thinking, and just as I had calculated, I ran out.

I really wanted to keep the row, as it was the final decrease round and helped flesh out the edging. Plus, I was already leaving out 3 rows of the pattern. So instead of frogging back, I decided to cheat first.

Starting at the beginning of the row, I tightened up the stitches, one by one, all the way across, so that I had just enough to cast off. And by just enough, I mean a 2" tail to sew in. It took a long time, a lot longer than frogging and re-doing the row (twice) would have. But I wanted to be sure I didn't tighten up too much.

Unblocked, it looks okay:

FBS - edging

But blocked, it definitely doesn't have the scalloped edges of the original pattern.

FBS - not-so-scalloped edge

I know, can you believe it? I went ahead and blocked it! This is a record. Truly.

Look, it's a 2 board project!

FBS - blocking

The white board was something I built in my early twenties (egads, that's more than 10 years ago), out of foam core, thin black sticky tape-like stuff, and covered with that plastic sheety sticky stuff you put on shelves:

handmade blocking board, 10 years of loyal service

I spent a lot of time making the lines straight. Obviously, back in the day I was low on funds and high on time.

Look at all those holes, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it has.

FBS - blocking

White blocking board, you have served me well.

Anyway, I'll see how the shawl looks off the pins and wires and see if it's missing something. (I suspect it will.) If it does, I'll frog back a row or 3 and come up with plan B.

PS:  The yarn is Hand Maiden Sea Silk. Lovely stuff. I bought it half off at a yarn closing sale and resisted buying a second skein because of the price, and dyelot worries. I think it's fabulous for FBS or shawls in general, but if you want a full sized one, get 2 skeins.

I've been playing with silk on the wheel but I don't have a post ready yet. Instead, I'll show you an almost done FBS:

FBS - almost done!

Are you shocked? Knitting content?? Hehehe.

Man, I love taking photos of this yarn in the sunlight. Love love love it. But what's that at the top of the photo?

Why, all the yarn that's left:

FBS - not much yarn left...

As you can see, I'm mid-row on the wrong side. I guesstimated that I had enough yarn to finish the row and then one more after that. Maybe. I'm sure you've heard, it takes about 3 times the width of a piece to knit one row. Problem here, it's on circulars and I'm mid-row, so I'm not quite sure what a width is. Hence, maybe.

It might be just enough, or not quite enough. Either way, it's close. Of course, when you take into account bind off rows take more yarn... I could be screwed, right?

But I prefer to stay optimistic. And, I want to start another project. And I'm already at my limit of 24. Heh. One way or another, it'll work out.

Here's my view at lunch, and the (green) bench where I've been taking photos:

lunchroom with a view

I particularly enjoyed this view in the winter to chase away (stave off?) the winter blues. A dose of sunshine in winter goes a long way.

Is this enough to finish the edging of FBS??

FBS - in progress

When I said my posting would be spotty, I didn't mean non-existent. Hehe.

The conference was actually quite good. It was Microsoft's TechEd, and a LOT bigger than I expected. There were 10,000-12,000 attendees, another ~3,000 Microsoft employees and ~2,000 vendors. Yeah, a lot of people.

The exhibit hall was immense:

TechEd - exhibit hall TechEd - exhibit hallTechEd - exhibit hall TechEd - exhibit hall

with lots of giveaways to be had. I walked away with 10 tshirts, a bunch of pens, a yoyo, 2 flashlight, some squishy lego like pieces, blah blah blah. Typical conference loot, eh?

The food hall was also immense, here's 2/3 of it:

TechEd - food hall

When they opened for lunch the words "cattle call" came to mind: mindlessly following the masses towards food lines. The food: not so hot, in all senses. On the first day I walked for 5 minutes after getting my food, looking for a friendly place to sit, preferably with women, preferably with people still eating... I was near the other end of the hall before I ran out of options and sat down at a table that matched neither criteria. And had an interesting time nonetheless. One of the people at the table was from Turkey, another from Dubai. The next couple of days I didn't search so hard, met an interesting person from Australia who started up their own business and who made me want to buy a video iPod (he showed me the cutest videos of his kids singing itsy bitsy spider; I showed him my knitting).

Besides the sessions/lectures/workshops throughout the day, Microsoft folks were on hand at Technical Learning Centers to answer questions, show demos, etc. They wore identifying blue shirts:

TechEd - TLC
look at all 'em blue shirts

I sat down with a Business Intelligence guy to talk about the reports I'm setting up at work and got great guidance on what to change, how to improve. That made my day. (I also laughed at myself trying to explain to him what I'm doing. I'm used to "dumbing down" the geek speak and hardly ever talk to peers so I can't actually do the geeky geek speak.)

They also had hands-on labs where you could walk through tutorials of various technologies:

TechEd - hands-on labs

It wasn't just a developers conference, it was all things Microsoft, from servers, networks and connectivity to data, websites, web services, applications, Office, and so on. A broad audience. There were over a thousand sessions, and then informal presentations that were not listed online, so it was hard to wade through and find the ones that were most relevant. A bit overwhelming. But I did sit in on some excellent sessions and walked away with good tips and a glimpse of what the future will hold. Some cool stuff.

Oh yeah. The building was huge:

TechEd - location

so walking from session to session was quite a chore. It took me until Friday to get oriented. And then it was all over. Figures, eh?

My new summer shoes performed well under all the stress:

new shoes
happy shoes

It was a little weird seeing so much Microsoft everywhere. Although all my programming is with Microsoft technologies, I have mixed feelings about The Empire. I prefer Firefox to IE, google to MSN... But I can't see building websites with anything but ASP.NET now. It makes it way too easy to build complex data-driven websites.

Hey, you want to know one of the funniest parts of the conference? With a roughly 10:1 men to women ratio, the women's bathrooms were always empty and the men's had lines. Ha! HA!

But you didn't come here to hear about Microsoft. You're here for the fibery stuff, right? :)

That many sessions means much progress was made on FBS:

FBS - in progress

She's almost done!

I also started a sock using Pink Panther to see what the striping looked like. This method leads to splotchy transitions between stripes.

Pink Panther socks

The first pink stripe was the most mucked up one, so it's rather spotty. Even with my mucked up pink band, I think it's still a cool effect. I think it would be easier and less stressful to have color transitions that don't need to be so distinct, like gradual color shifts or color blending.

Oh yeah. On the last day of the conference I saw this:

TechEd - exhibit hall

and was actually sad.

I been sick. Slept most of Sunday. Sat zombie-like in front of the TV Monday watching The 4400 reruns in preparation for season 3. TiVo, baby. Managed to finish the handspun socks! That brings me down to 23 projects, in case you're counting. In progress pic:

handspun socks - in progress

This shows the colors better:

handspun socks - in progress

This was the second yarn I spun on the wheel, and man is it inconsistent. Thicker and thinner spinning, tighter and looser plying. It's a mess. And it's mine.

It was cool to knit up, even with all its flaws. The whole "I made this" thing again. Plus, much better to use it now and chuckle at my mess, than to look at it 6 months from now and not want to knit with it. 'Cuz now they're socks!

We have a winner!

I was entertained by your guesses on the contest. My two favorite guesses were:

Anne:
i've been oberving your shopping habits carefully, and i know you never buy just one of anything. i'm going to randomly go with the original number of WIPs—67.

So true, can't eat just one. But what a scary guess! So high!

Kimberly N:
I guess 24 - it's a good, solid number, divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 12.

Girl after my own heart.

Most guesses were in the 10-40 range. Since you liked my geeky WIP Management chart so much, here's another:

Contest Guesses

I don't know much about statistics, but I hear tell there's something called a bell curve, shaped, wouldn't you know it, like a bell. The chart does have a nice bell shape to it, doesn't it?

Guess where in the curve I am. Here's a hint:

Kimberly, a better guess would have been a nice solid number divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30. Or better yet, a prime number less than 65.

The answer: I'm an outlier (surprise!). There were 61 needles in my circular solution:

circular solution

About half again (or twice for some of you) what we expected.

[Pause to let that sink in.]

(Scary stuff.)

Anne, your guess of 67 was closest. Email me your address and I'll send you some fun stuff!

FBS update

FBS suffered a setback:

FBS - in progress

I thought I could perform knitting surgery. I was wrong. I frogged 10 rows.

All you can eat

Thanks for the Birthday wishes! The actual birthday was not great. It was my first one "alone", and Scott bore the burden of celebrating with me. The highlight was all you can eat sushi at Minado's.

Preparing for battle:

birthday sushi

Round 1: Sushi, mostly eaten sashimi style (sans rice)

birthday sushi

Round 2: Non-Sushi, mostly eaten

birthday sushi

Round 3 (not pictured): A smaller version of Round 1, eaten sashimi style

Round 4: Banana strawberry crepe and green tea ice cream

birthday sushi

Round 5 (not pictured): more crepe to finish off the ice cream

The key was leaving most of the rice. Can't fill up on rice.

We rolled out and headed to the movie theater to see X-Men. Great movie. Loved it.

On the way, I insisted on stopping by Macy's to photograph this:

would be comforter set

We saw it while hunting for a comforter,

would be comforter set

and wondered why we couldn't find a bed set that looked like it

would be comforter set

for under $300.

would be comforter set

I went up and down the escalators twice trying to get a good photo. Scott thought I was mad.

FBS is growing:

FBS - in progress

Supposedly, seasilk carries some kind of vitamin E health benefit that can be absorbed through the skin through wearing. I don't know if I'm just a skeptic, cynical or jaded, but it seems... well, farfetched is too strong a word, but you get what I mean. There's a part of me that's open to it, though. The part that believes in aliens and magic and telekinesis (even if I will never be able to knit by thought)*. Hey, if it works, that's great, I'm all for it. And if I have to believe for it to work, then I suppose much of it will be lost on me.

Whether or not it heals or restores, it does feel wonderful flowing through my fingers. I'm enjoying the fabric that's being created, the play of colors, the drape and stitch definition. Every few inches I stop to stretch it out over my lap to admire the emerging pattern.

* How many of you tried to move things as a kid?? Or more importantly, how many of you succeeded???

Enablers all! Hehe. My eye is on a Patrick Green Fancicard, which is even more expensive than the Fricke/Strauch I had been looking at. My reasoning: I'd prefer to buy one carder that will last me a good long while. I'm afraid that if I got a Louet I will want to upgrade too soon. I'd like to card in silk with merino, cashmere, alpaca, yak... and the Fancicard is supposedly very good at handling the exotics. Gotta save those pennies. I might be picking up some part time programming work, though. And my birthday is around the corner (2 weeks!) so if I have any discipline (not likely) I might be able to put a few bucks towards one.

The sun is out today (yay!!!) so I took a few pictures.

At the spin-in last week I spun my sunfires blue faced leicester:

Sunfires

The plan is to navajo ply and possibly make socks.

Progress on Honeymoon Cami is slow because I can't knit while spinning:

Honeymoon Cami - in progress

I added a few inches at The Fabric Place Knit Club last night.

Last night I also wanted to start the Flower Basket Shawl with this:

Hand Maiden Silk/Seacell

but forgot to wind it before leaving home. Doh. It's Hand Maiden silk/seacell, and it has a lovely soft hand with nice shine. I bought it (and a coupla other goodies) half off at a yarn store closing sale a few weeks ago. Skeined up it looks like:

Hand Maiden Silk/Seacell

I love seeing the transformation from skein to ball to knitted item in handpainted yarns.

The beginnings of FBS:

Flower Basket Shawl - started

I'm hoping that this one skein will be enough (~550 yards) but I think a shawlette would be fine, too.

Off to a wedding!