Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Every knitter's dream

Among one of the things that makes me really mad lately (and believe me, there are a good number of things right now, but I'm not going to get into my personal life) is that Monday Night Football has switched to ESPN. I think this is just wrong. Football is a game of the common man, a night to drink beer and eat pizza. Obviously, this wouldn't upset me quite so much I had cable, but I don't. So even though it's still pre-season, I really wanted to watch the Green Bay Packers lose last night. I was not disappointed.
I decided to go down to the local sports bar, and since I was going alone, I packed up my knitting to go with me. At the moment, it's another hourglass sweater in malabrigo. I sat there knitting, drinking my beer, and watching the Packers lose. This old guy came up to me and asked if I was knitting. I told him yes, and explained what I was doing. He got really excited and told me that years ago, someone had knit him some hats that he loved, but now they had fallen apart. He wanted to hire me to knit him some new hats, and insisted on only the very best yarn. He would pay me for the yarn and time.
Isn't this every knitter's dream? Sure, there was a young guy that asked me if this was sewing class (I politely informed him it was knitting), but instead of getting made of fun for knitting in public, someone walks up to me and commissions some hats. We'll both be back for MNF next week, and he's going to bring the hats then. Now, how much to charge?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Skein winder

Vicki, my from the knitting guild, recently got me this nifty information about the wheel I bought in Germany. It's true that it really is a yarn skeiner, a fact that I really could have used already. But due to lack of room in my car it's still sitting in my parents' house and I had to spin a full bobbin onto a toilet roll holder.

"Those interesting gears behind the reel are things to help you keep track of how much yarn you've reeled. After a certain number of revolutions, the second gear will move that up right stick of wood to make a "clack" sound --so you can daydream as much as you want while reeling, and just count the "clacks". At the end , you multiply the "clacks" by the number of turns each "clack" represents, and you'll know how much yarn is in the skein.Those skeiners are usually known as "click reels", and finding an older one in great shape like hers is very lucky!"

This is from Ruth MacGregor at http://www.spinningforth.com/ .

And besides all that useful stuff, doesn't the thing just look really cool?

Sock Wars!

I really nearly laughed out loud when I saw this, which would be a problem because I'm at work and people would look at me funny. (Don't worry that I'm blogging at work, I'm just baby sitting a detector.)

It's Sock Wars!

The Rules:
1. The first rule of Sock Wars is, you must talk about Sock Wars
2. The second rule of Sock Wars is, you MUST talk about Sock Wars.(no really, for this to be a success we need as many combatants as possible)
3. Two socks to a fight
4. One fight at a time
5. No shirts, no shoes, just socks
6. Fights will go on as long as they have to
7. If this is your first time in Sock Wars, you have to fight.

I've had my issues with socks, but this is just what I need to get me started. I think this is the coolest idea in a long time. I know a lot of you are sock knitters out there, so this is the perfect time to sign up. I'll be lucky if I kill one person, but hey, it's at least one pair of socks.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hand knits

Look over there! It's definitely not me not working at work. Or knitting. Or anything.
There's something about becoming an obsessive knitter that makes me crave all things hand-knit, even if I'm not the one that made them. (In fact, I've forbidden myself from buying any sweater not hand-knit, unless it's cashmere and/or at a really good price. Such as the Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater I got at Goodwill today for $4.99) So here are two fantastic purchases I made in Europe.
I was at this cool little shop called Tolle Wolle in Nuremburg. (Toll means cool, so it's basically the German version of a shop called Cool Wool. Somehow in German, that's really cute.) They had a little wool, and lots of finished objects in there, some interesting sweaters, nice stuff in Noro, lacey tees, felted bags, but I thought their prices were a bit much. In all fairness, the prices were reasonable, I'm just cheap. However, they did have a whole row of hand-knit socks. Now, I've had my issues with socks before. But people go on about how great hand knit socks are. They knit them incessantly. I thought, maybe, if I got a pair of hand-knit socks, I would fall so in love with them that I could get back on speaking terms with socks. I did buy that ball of Opal, though I told myself I didn't necessarily have to knit socks with it. It was 9 euros. Now there were these socks hanging there for a mere 18. I assumed they were knit with the Opal, and thought that twice the price of the wool for the finished project was a pretty good deal. They fit suprisingly well (just a tad too long, but I'm more likely to wear them lounging about than in shoes anyway). When I got back, I happily showed them off at Fringe, and Veronica examined them closely. They were not self-striping. Someone had hand-striped them, and carefully woven in all the ends. And they match perfectly. Suddenly, they seem like an extremly good deal. Enough to convince me to knit socks? We'll see. Note: my legs are not actually that monstrous. It's foreshortening, I swear.
My other insanely beautiful purchase is this hand knit lace sweater from Karlovy Vary (aka Carlsbad), a spa town in the Czech Republic. This is a place used to high end shoppers. I think their prices were higher than in Prague, and even designers like Valentino have their pret-a-porter lines there. But amid all the glittering jewelry, furs, and designer gear, there was a dark little store with hand knit and crochet items, and even tatted lace. Some cheap socks first caught my eye, but they weren't actually hand made. There were some little crochet skull caps, but with my long hair, they just kind of made me look like a dirty hippy. Not that there's anything wrong with being a dirty hippy, I hit that phase in middle school, but only part of it still lingers. The owner was a charming man who spoke perfect English. (I'm so much more likely to buy at a store if I like the owner. ) This was convienient, because the only words I know in Czech I had learned the day before in Prague (sleva/slevy - sale, vlna - wool, bovlna - cotton, bambus - bamboo). We're not going to talk about how much it cost. I don't actually know. It was the rest of my Czech kroners I hadn't used plus 30 euros. But I don't care. It's mine and I love it. And the nice shop guy threw in a little cross stitch kit for free. Strangely, the instructions are completely in French. Luckily, I happen to have a degree in French, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Did my cat just lay an egg?

Here's Worfy, guarding some of the leftovers of my Ballet T I just finished. (I used less than half of the spiffy purple yarn I got in Prague. I'll post the finished project once I weave in ends and figure out how to photograph myself in it.) I think he looks like he just had an Easter egg, but then again, I am easily amused.

Wedding Band Shawl in red

I know it's not one of those wedding band shawls, the kind that take a year of your life and 86% of your sanity. But by golly, it does fit through a wedding band, and that's what counts. Here it is at Fringe, hopefully tempting people to make it on their own or take the class I'm going to teach on it. (Take the class! Take the class!) The truth is, it's really pretty easy. It's just feather and fan, one skein of Karabella mohair (~500 yards) on size 10 needles. But I tested it on Veronica's wedding band, which is really quite small, and it even fits through that. And it's red, which would be lovely for the holidays...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Because I'm so enamored with my new yarns, and because I have the attention span of a 4-year- old, I had to start knitting the alpaca right away. I knew it was going to have to be something small, because it was just one short skein, but it also had to be something I could wear next to my skin, because it's alpaca.
I love alpaca. I could sing alpaca's praises all day long. In fact, the only bad thing I could say about alpaca is that it's not cashmere. Then again, I'm not Angelina Jolie (though my lips did look deliciously puffy after too much edamame the other day). Anyway, enter the long, skinny scarf. I'm pro- long, skinny scarves as long as they don't emerge in anything resembling a novelty yarn.
The picture may be silly, but 1. I took it myself, 2. I had to think of something, and 3. the yarn still smells really good. The pattern is a thinner version of the Men's Cashmere Scarf in Last Minute Knitted gifts. Looking at the picture, I thought it would be a lot more complicated. Turns out it was just one row of k1 p1 ribbing with one row of knitting. Neat, huh? Perfect for TiVo'ed episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My own hand-dyed!

I'll continue to distract you from the fact that I haven't gotten much done here with more photos from Germany in a moment. However, the Saturday I got back, Veronica had a dying workshop at Fringe. I got to make my own hand-dyed yarn!
Everything was all set up for us when we got there. We had a ton of Kool-Aid colors to choose from, and all the necessary equipment, including squeeze bottles, trays, a microwave, buckets to rinse things in, and most importantly, yarn. We each got one skein of superwash wool, one of a dark and light alpaca, and one plain old Lamb's Pride worsted.
I knew what colors I wanted to make for myself going in, red, orange and pink. I really don't think that combination appears enough. I went for that right away with the superwash. Here it is looking like a plate of colored spaghetti. The superwash wool sucks up the dye the second you apply it, which can be great if you don't want your colors to run at all.
It turns out dyeing the yarn is really fun and easy. You soak it some water with a little bit of dishwashing liquid to help the yarn soak all the way through faster (ah, surface tension). Then you put it on something microwaveable (we had airline food trays) and stick in the microwave until it's really hot and the water coming out is clear. It took about 5-6 minutes for these skeins. It made the microwave pretty messy, but it was only Kool-Aid, and wiped right up. Here's the alpaca in its spaghetti form.
Then you rinse it in cool water till it runs completely clear, wring it carefully and hang it up to dry. It's bound to get tangled, so Veronica did this magical trick where she put it on her arms and snapped it back and forth a bit. I'm not really sure how it worked for her, because it certainly didn't work for me, but she is the pro. (Really, go look at her yarns.) Here's the Lamb's Pride in blue and purple.
So here are all my pretty yarns hanging out to dry. I'm really happy with the way they turned out. I don't really have the space to do this at home, but it was so fun, I would take the class again. I'm trying to pester Veronica into having an open dye time at the shop as well. I also really hope she offers the next level of dyes, the non-food safe kind. I would definitely take that class too. And now that I've started spinning, it turns out the process is exactly the same for roving, too.

Here are everyone's yarns all together, Valerie's on the left, Salena's in the middle, and mine on the right. We made some really different choices, but they all came out beautifully.

Here are my yarns in yummy cake form, just waiting to be knit. Well, they're going to have to join the line. There are an awful lot of things waiting to be knit around here.

Monday, August 21, 2006

KIP around the world

I was back at my parents' house this weekend, and we were talking about all the pictures from Germany. Every picture she has of me, my mom says, has me knitting. Knitting at Albrecht Durer's house, knitting in a cave, knitting at the top of a castle, knitting with the Spanish Inquisition....
Well, here's proof. That's me knitting near Albrecht Durer's house (Monty Python fans will appreciate that one)

That's me knitting in a cave (hey, I look pretty cute there).
That's me knitting on top of a castle (the ruins at Flossburg). I got that awesome coat at a second-hand shop in Prague.

To prove I did do other things, here's me drinking, overlooking the German countryside, hanging out at some castle ruins, playing in a cave, fighting with my dad on top of a castle, and jumping on this crazy harnessed trampoline thing at a fair (after a liter of beer and a giant wad of cotton candy, not too smart).

I find it slightly disturbing that the best pictures of me by far are the ones where I'm knitting. Have at that one, Freud.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

German and Czech yarn

Here are some pictures of the yarn I picked up in Germany.

This is a linen blend that was in the 1 euro bin at Tirschenreuth's LYS.

And so is this. I also picked up some black and white linen, but it quickly turned into washcloths for the German relatives, and I forgot to get a picture. I did knit them continental, which was good for me to learn. And there's something rather appropriate about knitting continental when you're actually on the continent.
This is a wool blend, enough for a small sweater, also in said euro bin.

This is some cotton I picked up in a family owned department store somewhere in Bavaria at absurdly cheap prices.

This stuff was in the 1 euro bin in Nuremburg. It's kind of funky, not sure what it will become. Maybe something for my sister.

This is a skein of the famous Opal sock yarn. It was on sale. Maybe, just maybe, it might convince me to go back on speaking terms with socks. I'm not sure though.

And here are a few magazines I managed to pick up at the regular grocery store. They had about 10 knitting and 10 crocheting magazines, as well as needlepoint, quilting and all those other crafts that just aren't as a cool as knitting. Grocery stores around here really need to do that. I had to get the one with my name on it, even if it is mostly ponchos (blech). I got a sock magazine to further fuel my attempt to get back on speaking terms with socks. By far the coolest one is the one that just lists interesting patterns with sketches and measurements for some actual garments. Even with the German translating problems I've had in the past, this I can handle.

And then there was Prague. I've already chronicled my shopping adventures, but here are the photos to prove it. Much of this is the Czech brand, Mar Len, which has some really intersting combinations. Not to mention absurdly cheap prices, even in the center of Prague.
Here's some bamboo I got at Galanterie. I'm thinking a little tank top, even though summer is nearing the end. (Maybe the Lotus Blossom tank on the cover of summer's Interweave knits. It calls for bamboo anyway, and I should have enough.)

This nifty blue stuff actually has a piece of leather running through it. Not sure what that's going to be, but the swatch in the store looked awesome.

This green yarn is a souvenir for Amanda. She recently changed schools, but this is in our school's colors, so she better make a scarf for herself and not forget us.

These are souvenirs for Nancy and Veronica at Fringe.

This purple cotton tape was in a bin that worked out to about 1 euro (though in Czech kroners). There's more than enough to make myself a Ballet T, so that's the plan. I need more purple in my wardrobe (also red, and kelley green, but that's beside the point). It will also match these cute little flats I got at Goodwill for $2.99.
I'm not really sure what's going to become of this pink stuff, or the blue stuff. I think there's enough of either to go for a Ballet T. Why not one in every color? I probably have enough pink in my wardrobe already though. And I'm sure my mom would like the blue. Anyway, cool stuff, really cheap.
Well, big post, but lots of pictures in it. There's really nothing more satisfying than walking out with a huge bag of yarn and having spent less than 20 euros on it.

Spinning extravaganza

Was it the fact that I had seen this in a castle just days before that led me to buy one (maybe two) spinning wheel in Germany?
No, I lack self control in any environment. The truth is, I had been wanting a spinning wheel for some time. I wanted one of the beautiful old-fashion Kromskis. (On some level, I still do, actually, but that's not going to happen unless 1. I get a much bigger place, 2. I have a lot more money and 3. I get really good at spinning.)
I was all set to come home with a duffel bag full of German yarn (like I did last time) and rejoice in that. I would have been happy. Estatic, even. But then, driving through the small Bavarian town of Tirschenreuth, I saw several spinning wheel in a shop window. I had to go look at least.
The store appeared to be closed, but there was a sign in the window with a phone number. I tried calling, but it was aparently the wrong number. I asked at the little pub across the street. They called the number too, but it was still wrong. Then, a guy came into the pub that lived or worked in the same building as the store, and he managed to help me out. (Bear in mind, this all took place in German. My command of the German language is feeble at best.) He let us into the shop, and told us to wait while he called the owner.
There were only a few wheels, but I was amazed. There were several toy model that people who like to put that sort of thing in their houses would love. But there were also several that would clearly work. There was also one of the giant star-shaped wheels that I had only ever seen in photos of Ghandi spinning.
Well, I knew I was buying one. The price was really quite good, much cheaper than the other ones I liked.
When the owner, Herr Schmidt, arrived, he was an ancient little old man. He was missing his fingers on his right hand, and shook our hands with his left (with no embarrassment or apology, good for him). He had hand-made almost every piece in the store, including the spinning wheel I was going to buy. That cemented my decision more than ever. How could you pass up a spinning wheel hand made by a cute little old man in Bavaria? He was thrilled that I was actually going to spin with it, and kept giving me little wooden animals as extras.
As my dad went and got the car, I sat and eyed another wheel, the Ghandi one. My mother and the owner conversed through me, both assuming I spoke fluent German (I don't. In simple situations, I'm maybe 60%, but that didn't stop either of them). He had lived in that town over 50 years, and this beautiful Ghandi wheel had come with him. It was probably over 100 years old. It was only 45 euros. My mother bought it, though I fully intend to use it.
When my dad got back and found we had purchased another wheel (a really large one), he basically wouldn't speak to us. We went back to my cousins' and disassembled both wheels as much as possible. That bench was going to be a huge problem.
We looked all over for a box big enough, and finally found one at the local hardware/kitchen store where my other cousin's wife works. (The owner, probably about 35 with a young daughter, was totally hot, but that's beside the point.) As it turns out, yarn is an excellent packing material. The box was just over regulation for the aircraft in size and weight, but we didn't have to pay extra. It was a pain to lug, but it's so worth it.
Finally, back in the US, we got the wheel assembled. I really owe my dad big for that one. He should get something out of the first quality handspun (though I don't know if he'll appreciate it). The big wheel actually works! I've learned several things about it. Aparently it's a double-drive Saxony wheel, not that I knew what that meant two days ago. The star-shaped wheel, well.......not so much. I don't even know what it's called. I know it can be spun upon, I know it! I've seen a picture of Ghandi. But googling Ghandi and spinning only gives the boxed charka wheel (which is cool, but not particularly useful to this application). Well, I'm a big fan of things that still function while broken (ie. escalators just become stairs) that I'm going to use it as a swift until I figure something else out. I've got plenty of time to practice on my big wheel first.


Here's the thing. I hate to not blog. Since I read a lot of the blogs, it really bothers me when people don't update. How else am I supposed to waste time on my computer? I know there are only about four people that read my blog regularly (hi, Aunt Elsie), but it's a matter of principle. However, I also hate to blog without pictures. If I write the content first, I know I won't go back and post pictures later. And I'm fully capable of getting pictures, just not for a few days for most of my German/Czech purchase because I lazily left them at my parents' house.
So, here's my compromise. A list of things to come.
1. A spinning wheel I purchased while in Germany
2. Another spinning wheel purchased in Germany, obstensibly by my mother
3. Both spinning wheels in various states of assemblage
4. An incredible hand knit lace sweater I got in the Czech Republic (also, the few words I've learned in Czech)
5. The hand knit, striped (not self striped, striped with all ends woven in) socks I bought in Nuremburg for a steal.
6. The German yarn I got at absurd prices. Some linen and cotton, and enough wool blend to make a little sweater. Most were in the 1 euro bin.
7. The Czech yarn I went wild with. Some are souvenirs for knitting friends (what other kind of souvenirs would I buy?), some are just cool, and I even have one project planned (Ballet T in some cool purple cotton tape)

Also, I have to remember to take pictures of the things I've finished here. I finished a red mohair shawl for the shop, but forgot to get a picture of it.

Today I'm off to a dyeing workshop at Fringe. I should take the camera there too. I think it's still in the car....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


So I diligently followed All Tangled Up's guide to yarn shopping in Prague. Now, I love shopping. And even more, I love yarn shopping. But by far, the best part about yarn shopping in Prague was the two hours it afforded me away from my family. I'm much better behaved when I get some quiet time to myself, especially if it involves yarn.
But as much I appreciated her guide, I'm afraid I have to disagree with some of observations.
First, right as the tram drove past it, I found the Textilni Galanterie Trzište 6, 118 00 PRAHA 1. Although it had yarn, I was pretty disappointed. It was mostly acrylic, there wasn't even one yarn that was 100% wool. It was also all behind a counter. I also don't speak Czech. However, I still managed to buy a few skeins of bamboo yarn in a light pink. It came out to about $3 a skein for 300ish meters, so it was still quite a good deal. I have some hot pink bamboo yarn at home languishing in a UFO (that I'm going to frog) and maybe get something interesting.
The next one I found was StarBeads,Passage Palac MetroNarodni 25,110 00 Praha 1. I was not particularly impressed with that either. I had visions of beautiful Czech glass beads, but despite having pretty good prices, I didn't see anything I couldn't get at home. A much better idea would be to buy one of the very long necklaces that all the vendors sell for about $10, and just cut it up for the beads.
I was thrilled to find the one called MarLen, Karolíny Světlé 12110 00 Praha 1. Well, that's what All Tangled Up called it. Now it's called something like Tingle Tangle, but they still have that sewing machine out front. It is utterly fantastic. But, dare I say it, the yarn wasn't even the best part of the store. The place seems to be primarily a fabric store, with beautiful exotic silks and other fabrics. That didn't stop me from looking at the yarn. They had fantastic soft wool, blends and cotton, interesting novelty yarns that included leather, and a bin that worked out to about a $1 a skein. I picked up some souvenir yarn for knitting friends, and some other interesting things for myself. I'll post photos of all my loot when I get back.
Sadly, there was another shop in the Old Town that looked utterly fantastic, but they were closed for vacation.
I've also bought some fantastic yarn in Germany, but I'm in Prague now and it's fresh in my mind. Still, yarn prices are incredible here, and even basic department store owned by oma and opa have yarn. I guess you trade that for the 24 hour convienience. Yet there is really nothing better than a 1 euro bin when it involves some lovely linen.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Things I Love about Germany

Things I love about Germany:
1. Beer
2. Potatoes. Seriously, this country knows how to do potatoes.
3. Half-timbered houses
4. An obsession with ice cream concoctions
5. That really interesting yarn/world clothing store I'm going to have to go back to.
6. Swiss army cards
7. The seemless blend of old world and ultra modern design.
8. Cute and clever little cars.

Things I don't love about Germany:
1. Being with my parents 24/7. Seriously. Something like 4/2 would be much more manageable.
2. Everything is closed on Sundays.
3. That darn exchange rate.
4. It's cold and rainy right now.
5. Coke Light
6. According to the rental car company, I'm not old enough to drive. (Nevermind, the German autobahn is not the place to learn to drive stick shift anyway. Ask me how I know.)
7. Wet cobblestones on a steep hill.
8. Everything is closed by 8pm.

This will be updated every time I have internet access. That may not be too often. However, I'm lobbying for about 4 yarn shops by the 'morrow, so hopefully I'll have some good loot when I get back.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yarn shopping around the world

Well, tomorrow I leave for Germany and the Czech Republic. I'm thrilled of course. And besides packing obsessive compulsively (packing list, organized clear plastic bags for each type of clothing, etc) and planning my travel knitting, I thought I'd run a quick Google search on what sort of yarn shops I expect to find.
We're going back to visit my cousins, and I already know about two good yarn shops near them. One is in their tiny little town of Tirschenreuth, the other is nearby in Wagner's home town of Bayreuth (a really beautiful little German town, btw). Those are already on the agenda, whether my family knows it or not.
We're also going to stay a couple of days in Prague, so I thought I'd Google "yarn Prague". I wasn't expecting much, but then I found this. Could I ask for more? I printed it out, complete with map, and expect to hit every single one of them. Well, I suppose I could skip the bead store, but then again, there might be Czech glass....
The only remaining question mark, the three days I might be without a yarn shop, is when we're in Nuremberg. I found a mysterious post on the Yarn Harlot site mentioning a Hermann Wolleckla in Nuremberg, but searches for that, even in German, have yielded no results. Any suggestions? So far the plan is to ask the concierge when we get to the hotel.
As for finished projects, my cousins are multiplying at alarming rates, so I made a Big Bad Baby Blanket in white for one of the ones spawning. I haven't posted a picture of it because 1. I'm lazy and 2. It looks exactly like the other Big Bad Baby Blanket in white, only this time minus the pink ribbons because they're having a boy. Lots of travel knitting (and crocheting, actually) on the needles. Hopefully much of that will be done when I get back. What else am I supposed to do for 8 hours on a plane?