Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo Last Post — Unexpectedly from the Road

I should have been home by now, with some pictures to show you of the weekend (though I didn’t take a bunch of photos that I should have).

But weather and bad roads intervened, and I am stuck in Rochester, Minnesota, typing in a motel lobby, due to black ice.  When you are passing your 15th accident/car in the ditch in your little Saturn that handles poorly in winter anyway, and traffic is going 20 miles an hour, and you have 90 miles to go, and it’s starting to snow more, and dark is falling — common sense hopefully kicks in.  (Especially with the Gothlet in the car.)

So no new photos. I am thankful to be safe and warm.  (Especially thankful that my good friends, who WERE involved in a car accident last night, are reasonably well even if their car isn’t.)  And tomorrow, in daylight, I have confidence that the very efficient Minnesota highway department will be on the job.  (Once the temperature warms up just a few degrees, it will be fine. It was just snow that melted, then froze, then blowing snow on top of the then dreaded ‘black ice’.  The road changed within 5 minutes from just a bit damp to causing one-car rollovers….)

I hope you are all safe and home with your families now.  As I will be soon! Take care, be safe, and hug your loved ones.  Till tomorrow —

Some Sociological Musings

So I was speculating the other day why women seemed to be better predictors of their race times than men (based on a totally inadequate sample size and highly questionable logic).

In that same vein, here is an observation and a question.

It struck me, watching the high school show choir Sunday night (not the RockStar’s choir), what a significant percentage of blondes (and blonds) there were.  (Granted, in the picture below, the girl in the foreground looks highlighted, a bit, but three of the other five girls in the picture appeared to be totally natural blondes in real life.)


Here’s a slightly different sampling.


Now, yes, there may have been selection bias for the choir.  But I think most of it is genetics.  Lots of Germans around here, some Norwegians (though many are dark, actually), a few Swedes and Danes.  Of the girls in the choir, there were two redheads, and about 1/3 blonde blondes, about 1/3 dishwater blondes/light brown like me, and about 1/3 brown/black.

Why do I bring this up?

I was at an educational conference in Florida a few years ago.  I was knitting, at the back so as not to distract anyone.  I looked forward at the group of attendees and realized that, although there were a number of blonde heads in the group, not a single one was a natural blonde.  Not one!  It was so strikingly different from the Midwest.

And it led me to ponder — what is so special about blondes?  I considered myself blonde when I was young, though my hair has darkened so I don’t any more (my husband, bless his heart, still thinks of me that way) — being blonde-ish didn’t seem like anything special.  (Leastways, not around HERE.)  Why do black and brown-haired women go blonde?  Sometimes, it doesn’t strike me as flattering, with certain skin tones.  Nor does the black line at the part of the hair.  (My husband, who is generally fairly observant, used to ask me wonderingly how I could tell, if I said something about a woman dyeing her hair.  Another difference between men and women….)

Theories?  Do we want to believe that blondes have more fun?  What is it about blonde hair?

While you’re pondering: tomorrow, a contest announcement, and the day after, the unveiling of the Coulee Shawl (and its free pattern).  Plus:  The Noro Striped Scarf is indeed addictive.  I think it ought to be a controlled substance.

A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Knitting

Last night was my 13-year-old daughter, the RockStar’s, first public show choir performance of the school year.    (And so it begins.)  (Actually, it’s relatively mellow at the middle school level.)  But she had a crazy end-of-the-weekend — which meant I did too.  All weekend gone at a confirmation retreat (and it’s kind of like sleepovers, they tend to come back sleep-deprived from these); arrive home well after the time she’s supposed to be at the performance venue (her director knew this would be the case, but the retreat took priority); speed make-up and hair (oops, dress should go on BEFORE the hot rollers — I could have told her that), and onto stage without having a chance to rehearse, to perform 5 songs (the other middle school did 3) during one of which she sang a solo.  After a dinner break, do it again, then immediately leave for a Nutcracker rehearsal that she was also late for.  Poor RockStar.  (And I don’t say that very often.)  Of course, assisting with that was most of my Sunday afternoon/evening too.

But the concert was great.  This was part of a fundraiser for one of the high schools’ show choir, so also in the concert was that very highly regarded HS show choir, their girls’ show choir, and a second middle school choir.  I enjoyed all the performances.  My husband and other daughter chose to come to the later show and just hear the RockStar’s choir.  They’re not so much into the show choir thing.


rockstar-show-choir (jazz hands!) jazz-hands

And I could knit a bit here and there.  (Lots of waiting time, and a lasagna dinner after the first show.)

So what am I knitting currently, now that the Coulee shawl is off the needles?  (Speaking of which, my only photographer around yesterday afternoon was the Gothlet.  She was willing — she loves photography.  A quick glance at the results on the camera showed that my 10-year-old takes pictures at least as good as my husband does, I think.  But the pictures are on her brand new camera (she’s been working hard and is a good saver!) and it doesn’t play well with PhotoShop as far as uploading automatically.  So I have to wrestle them out when I have time.  Which obviously I didn’t last night — the shawl photo shoot was in the 5 minutes before the RockStar got home.)

Well, there’s a certain little baby hat which is almost done, for a certain little Boston-area baby who is also almost done.  I’ll wait to show you that.

Also, I started a scarf two days ago.  Once again: there’s a story.  (There’s always a story.)

When the Gothlet was with me at Ewetopia Fiber Shop last Friday during spinning intro (and also, Kathryn had asked about Rhinebeck, so she and her mother got subjected to Rhinebeck show and tell for a bit), Gothlet got a bit bored since there wasn’t the opportunity for her to get her hands on a spindle right then.  So — I had an inspiration.

I had knit her this scarf several years ago (shown on frosty snowy grass):


It’s the Child’s Rainbow Scarf (Ravelry link) from “Last Minute Gifts” by Joelle Hoverson.  Two different skeins of Noro Kureyon.  She picked out the colors.

Well, the Gothlet has sensitive skin, and you know how Kureyon is.  Not the softest.  She loves it, loves the colors — but doesn’t wear it.

Plus, it’s called the Child’s Rainbow Scarf because it’s pretty small.

So EVEN before the Yarn Harlot’s recent post, indeed on seeing The Kat’s parade of lovely Noro Striped Scarves, after previously seeing them here and there in the blogosphere, I had thought about making her another similar scarf, but using Noro Silk Garden (I knit her the above right around the time Silk Garden came out, before I had seen or felt any), and probably using the single rib Noro Striped Scarf idea:  I like the pseudo-stockinette-but-without-curling look, the thickness of single rib, and ribbing doesn’t irritate me knitting continental, the way it used to knitting English-style.

Thus, I suggested to the Gothlet, to occupy her time, that she go find two colors of Silk Garden to make a scarf ‘like her old one, but softer’.  (And everything was 10% off that night!)  She was extremely willing.  And she came back with two skeins that I also thought were going to look awesome together.  Only problem:  I would want two skeins of each, to avoid a wimpy scarf.  And there was only one skein left of the one color.

However — I was 99.9% sure I had bought that same color of Silk Garden,  the last time I was at Ewetopia, a month or so ago: 3 skeins for a Pioneer Braid Scarf.  I was certainly willing for the Gothlet to scrounge one of those skeins; the Pioneer Braid Scarf was not yet designated for a recipient, and I was sure I could find another skein somewhere anyway.

When we got home — YES!  Success!  Same color, same dye lot (such as it is).

So here is the Noro Striped Scarf, Gothlet style, which I knit on over the weekend in bits and pieces of time:


I think the Gothlet has a fantastic color sense.  Now, look at the skeins themselves.


I’m not sure I would have picked those two out — well, not the bright one (color 258).  (Obviously, I liked the other one, color 252.)  But they play really well together so far, and I think will continue to do so.  Not that La Gothlet minds some brightness and contrast, or what I might myself describe as clashing.

Anyway, she’s got an eye for color.  Whereas, the RockStar’s got an ear for music.  And my husband’s the cook — taste and smell? Besides the ear also.

Leaves me touch, as far as the five senses, I guess.  Mmmm, I love me some nice soft yarn.  Or fiber, now, too!  And I can knit by touch.  Fair enough.

Boxes O’ Fluff

Usually the boxes arriving at our house contain….yes, yarn.  Well, sometimes, various musically-related items.  And, as Nutcracker Ballet time approaches in particular, dance stuff.

But this week, a light but sizeable box was on our porch.


Now, a few of you have heard my personal thoughts about taking up spinning — for me personally, that is.

  • I have MORE than enough yarn.  Um.  Just a bit.  (Running out of room.)  I certainly don’t need to make more.
  • I have way too much knitting I want to do and not enough time to do it.
  • I don’t need another hobby.
  • I don’t have room for a wheel.

So just WHY is wool top arriving on my doorstep?  (I assure you, none of the above have changed.)

It’s a bit of a story. (Settle in if you have time.)

Every 4 years, our church puts on a production, a recreation of Bethlehem 2000 years ago, called The Bethlehem Event.  (Do follow the link, it tells all about it.  Plus, see the pictures on the left side of the page, from the 2004 event?  The potter on the top right is a very good friend of mine, and a fellow knitter!  And the ‘woman at the well’ whose picture is on the bottom right is also a friend and a knitter.  No, that’s just a description of her location in the village, not reflective of her occupation, even if her hair is showing, rowdy lady that she is.) (And she is!  Rowdy.)

Last time, I and my family were papermakers (we made papyrus, pretty fun).

This year, we are a shepherd family.  (As Kmkat, who has met him, might guess: my husband is having nothing to do with this.  His excuse is that the church band has to play the whole time, for people as they’re waiting.  Hmph.  Fine.  I’m a widow.  [Actually, I was going to claim that my husband was in town trying to sell our sheep, or out with the rest of the flock or something, but apparently they’re scrounging up a husband for me now.])  I and my daughters will have real live sheep and be just outside the entrance to the ‘village’ as people enter; we greet people: “Shalom!  Be well!  Have you come far?”  and talk about the big light in the sky that we heard about last night….

Now, the event lasts 5 hours on paper, but anyone who’s waiting at 5 pm gets to go through, so it’s really 6 hours.  First of all (most importantly to me), if I had to sit with nothing in my hands for 6 hours, I would go off my rocker.  Or off my bale of straw, more accurately.  I can’t knit — it’s not ‘period’.  I’m not officially a weaver (they’re in the village).  But a woman in a family who kept sheep — would drop spin any time she was not cooking or doing something else.  She made homespun for all her family with the wool from their sheep, with a drop spindle.    (The children learned when they were five or so, probably, to spin.)  (I’ve been doing a crash course in Judean shepherd life; can you tell?)  It would be completely OUT of character to sit there with nothing in my hands for all that time.

Therefore — I am abruptly and wholeheartedly abandoning my resistance and learning to spin!  I spun once on a wheel this summer, and showed you then the results of that hour-long introduction to a Louet wheel.

Not that I felt I had gotten the hang of drafting (for non-spinners — the mostly one-handed process of thinning and spreading out the fibers, so that the twist can gather them up smoothly and continuously) or of coordinating my hands yet.  But I had been introduced to the principles.

So: intense research followed as well as a plaintive call for help from my friends on Ravelry who actually know about this stuff.

I now have a lot of book-learning, and am trying to acquire practical skills!

Judean spinners would have used what’s called a bottom-whorl spindle, which is the less common type available in this country.  Many spindles come with a hook at the top: I don’t think they made cup-hooks in small Judean villages of 2000 years ago, so if I get a spindle with a hook, that will have to go.  Instead, the authentic technique would be to secure the yarn with a half hitch before spinning; then slip it off when a length of yarn had been spun, wind the yarn around the spindle, resecure.  That’s the technique I’ll need to master for now.  (If you’re interested, here’s a video showing the whole process of drop-spinning on a bottom-whorl spindle by Abby Franquemont, a veritable spinning expert.  It’s only 7 minutes from start to finish, but it does show all this stuff I’m talking about.)

So I have been trying to reasonably expeditiously acquire a bottom-whorl spindle or two.  (I have until December 21st to get to look like I know what I’m doing.)  The first one happened to be an eBay purchase from a Wisconsin maker, so it arrived first. 


However, it’s quite light, and I have trouble getting it to spin very long.  Add to that the fact that I was first trying to spin with hand-dyed commercial roving which I acquired as a door prize, which was somewhat felted (and I didn’t have the hang of drafting anyway).  (The pink stuff under the brown stuff.)  It was not much of a success.   I needed hands-on help!

The shop-owner who had demonstrated for me how to spin on a wheel, Kathryn of Ewetopia Fiber Shop, coincidentally enough was having an Open House the night before the opening weekend of deer-hunting (for hunting widows & others).  I asked her via Ravelry if she knew how, or knew of anyone who did know how, to drop spin.  I was happy to pay for a lesson.  She told me she could spin with a spindle, though it was not her expertise, and she’d be happy to help if she could.  (No charge.  Very kind!)  Two nights ago, therefore, the Gothlet and I headed out to Viroqua (the Gothlet usually these days wants to stay home and watch TV, but was intrigued by the spinning process and wanted to watch so she could learn too).

Well, first Kathryn diagnosed feltiness as an issue with the roving I had, and thought I might find another fiber easier to draft to begin with.  I tried spinning from a cloud of some Border Leicester wool from her own sheep, and it went much better (that’s the brown fluff above).  But I still couldn’t get much of a spin going on the spindle.  Kathryn mentioned that a local crafter made spindles and she had them in her shop; they were mostly high-whorl spindles, but on investigation, three were bottom-whorl, and the one that wasn’t rosemaled looked promising — it certainly looked pure and simple, more authentic than what I had.   And heavier.

So I tried it, and it spun beautifully.  Different spindle, different wool prep . . . success!  Not that I don’t have a lot of practicing to do.  A LOT.  But I am starting to get it.


Here is my new spindle.  (Notice no hook — I learned to half hitch!)  The brown underneath is the Border Leicester; the white is Rambouillet, the white fluff in the box of the first picture.  Soft, oh, so soft.  The Gothlet didn’t believe it was wool when she touched it.  A little harder for me to spin, but not hard, not like the felty stuff, and makes a totally different kind of yarn.  Lovely.

Since Friday night, the Gothlet also has been stealing my spindles and spinning with them too.  (She put the brown stuff over the pink stuff on the first spindle; she didn’t like my ‘authentic’ spindle.)  She gets highly disgruntled when she gets slubs.  Me, I’m accepting my slubbiness etc.  My goal is to keep spinning, keep practicing, so my hands figure out drafting and coordinating, so the motions become smooth.  So I look like I know what I’m doing! I know my yarn will get better, and I’m not stressing about it, the way I was the first time I spun.  I am planning to try to spin daily from now until then.  Thus it looks as though in exactly four weeks, I will be sitting or standing with my (temporarily adopted) sheep and my daughters, and perhaps a random shepherd husband, as well a little extra wool — drop spinning and greeting visitors to a small Judean village. Yes, of course, there will be subsequent photographic evidence!  (Not that you’ll recognize me with no glasses and hair all hidden.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish writing this post and pop over to eBay.  I have some Corriedale coming….


I mentioned earlier that I come from a long line of crafters.  My mother and both her sisters in particular crocheted and knit when I was growing up.  (Some sewing happened too, as I recall.)  My maternal grandmother also knit and crocheted.  I treasure the baby blanket she made for my older daughter….she was in her 80s.  Unfortunately, besides the love of crafting and the ability, I seem to have inherited the family joints, but oh, well.  We can’t pick and choose!

My older daughter, the RockStar, knits when she feels like it (think big needles, fast projects, funky yarn).  My younger daughter, the Gothlet, has inherited not only the genetic craftiness (as applied to not only knitting and crocheting but ANYthing crafty; when she was about 5, she made laptop computers for everyone in the family out of paper, tape and yarn) but has also inherited what one might call ‘practical engineering’ genes (analytical, interested in figuring out what makes things work and not work) from grandfathers and great-grandfathers, a gene my brother got in spades. And I should mention that the girls come by it honestly from both sides; my husband’s mother crocheted them absolutely beautiful bedspreads before her death.

Anyway, a very tangible reminder of this crafting legacy came along when my maternal aunt visited a couple months ago.

Another of my aunts passed away earlier this year after being in poor health for a very long time.  Among other issues, she had diabetes, which for years and years she had ignored, with unfortunate but predictable consequences, including loss of vision.  Sadly, a couple of her joys, reading and the computer, were slowly stolen away by the diabetic vision loss.  But one pastime left to her for a long time, even when her vision was almost gone, was crocheting; and knitting when she had a little more vision.

My semi-namesake aunt brought down a sample of a number of knitted squares she had just found, that her sister, my Aunt Barb, had knit sometime in the past — who knows when?

Look at this:

Look at them together:

There are SIXTY of these squares! Each is roughly 11 inches square. The gauge varies a bit (though because much of it is garter stitch based, I think it’s not critical as they’ll stretch to fit and the number of rows is the same on each).  Some were dirty and a little whiffy.  Some looked like different colors of yarn.  The ‘poofs’ are not as poofy as they look in the picture, as I stuffed them to make them show; but I’m afraid the yarn is acrylic, and the poofy bits would probably take blocking to show to their best advantage.  So they will be floopy poofs.

After consultation (I thought washing and drying, then joining with mattress stitch in a coordinating cream acrylic, should make a twin-bed-size afghan roughly, 66 x 110 inches), my aunt washed the pieces and they cleaned up beautifully.  Except one.  She thinks my Aunt Barb’s eyesight was already going, because 59 pieces are cream-colored, and one is grey….


Well, I guess they could make an afghan that’s 7 squares by 8 squares (77 x 88 inches), with a few squares left over.  A throw pillow with two squares?  And then the grey one is still the odd one out.  (As you might guess, the pattern has vanished into the mists of time.  My aunt doesn’t remember even having seen these before.)

Still, it’s pretty amazing to see these appear after so long.  These have to be pretty old, because Barb hadn’t knit for a long time.

Quite a legacy.


Of course, the real legacy is the crafty love passed down through generations, isn’t it?  I am thankful for the generations I know and knew, and those I didn’t, who said “I love  you” with the work of their hands every day.  Just as much as the Gothlet did when she made me a paper laptop computer!


And, today being Veteran’s Day, I am also thankful for the legacy of those who served; those I know and knew, and those millions I never will.  Years, tears, health, and life, all spent in the service of our country.  A legacy indeed.

Thank you.

More Yarns of November

Yes, I know, I’m really on a November kick, aren’t I?

Perhaps it’s because it’s the natal month; perhaps it’s because it’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Or perhaps because I’m always very aware that November marks the transition to the longest season up here — winter.

But I find it fascinating that there is yarn — more than one — with colorways named after November. Given that it’s such a brown, gloomy, dreary month, generally speaking.  I realize I’m sensitized to November, but, for example, I don’t recall seeing a number of yarns with May-themed colorways (as delightful a month as it is, much more so than November).  I suppose I just might not be paying attention.

Last year I showed you some November yarns I had found.

Here are a couple more I have discovered and collected (most of these ARE collector’s yarn; I am not planning to knit these, and if I did, it would probably be for me.  Or possibly another November baby.  Maybe.)  I showed you the Dream in Color November Muse last year, but in the Smooshy sock yarn; this year’s collector yarn is the same November colorway in Baby laceweight.


I probably will knit up the Dream in Color Baby at some point, actually.  When I find or design a pattern that seems appropriate.  And the ZenString “November” on the right is just gorgeous; I think the colors in Austin in November are a little different than up here (and maybe that’s a little blue-gray sky mixed in).

The Malabrigo on the left mystifies me a little, though.  Wouldn’t “Noviembre” in Uruguay inspire a different color palette, one would think?  That’s spring in Uruguay.  Maybe it’s early spring.

I put the yarn down in an autumnal part of the garden,


& noticed that the colors of the November garden truly were reflected in the yarn.

See?  Truth in advertising!


I guess November can be beautiful, after all.  I believe I occasionally may need an attitude adjustment!  Anytime I feel dreary this month, I should come look at my November yarns.

Farewell Eye Candy Friday


Okay.  I realize this may not look like Eye Candy to you.  Usually I have Eye Candy for you that looks more like this:


But what you may not realize is that the first scene above, which is what I saw last night upon leaving a downtown restaurant, is almost unprecedented for November 6th, or 7th as it now is.

Not only blooming flowers, and a freely flowing Mississippi River in the background,  but GREEN GRASS.

GREEN GRASS, people!  That’s usually a thing of the past by now.  And that’s one of the reasons that being born in November didn’t excite me as a kid; it is usually a month of brown leaves (they’ve mostly fallen and all the color is gone), brown grass, brown hills and bluffs, snow in the air but (down here in our southwest Wisconsin river valley) usually not much on the ground to cover up the brown.

So I had to take a picture, because by this weekend, I suspect the green grass will be gone.  The “S” word is in the forecast for later today.  I even heard a rumor of ‘up to an inch accumulation’.

So, farewell Green Grass and Chrysanthemums!  It’s been nice visiting with you longer than usual!


Last Look at Rhinebeck

(I love this logo, lifted from a souvenir tote bag I brought home.)

I had a few more pictures that I had to share with you.  Since I still have my Rhinebeck virus and its companion sinus infection, I really haven’t said ‘goodbye’ yet.  Part of Rhinebeck is still with me!  (That’s not even mentioning the yarn that followed me home.)

I told you about the beautiful train ride up and back along the Hudson River, but here’s some more visuality:

Starting at Grand Central Terminal, which totally made me feel as though I was in a movie.  I didn’t mind gawking like a tourist.



(Actually, I started feeling like I was in a movie before that, when I awoke as the plane was descending into LaGuardia, and looked out the window I had been sleeping against to see the frickin’ Statue of Liberty in the morning sunshine!  I think my jaw dropped open.  I haven’t been to New York as such, just flown through it a couple times, and one of those times, I was little.  Lady Liberty was gorgeous, and fairly moving.)

Down into the hot depths of the tunnels, and onto the correct train, leaving the rooftops of New York City behind,


and on up the beautiful Hudson Valley.

hudson-river-bridge bannermans-island-castle hudson-basalt

pseudo-espalier hudson-valley-geologic-form flock-obirds-hudson-valley

(As always, click to embiggen as desired, especially if these geologic formations fascinate you the way they do me.)

The end of the Metro North line was the very cool Poughkeepsie Station, which of course was no Grand Central Terminal but was very cool.


At Rhinebeck, I showed you some of the wonderful fiber people earlier:


but there were also four-legged fiber ‘people’.  Some of them were very cute.





Camelids above (llama and alpaca) and their ovine distant relatives below.




Some of the fiber-bearers even did things:  jumped


or just watched from the audience.


There were non-fiber-bearing animals too:


I did find that kangaroos should not be photographed with a flash unless you want a photoillustration for a possessed demon ‘roo:


The incredible fall colors greeted you at every turn:




And where there weren’t fall colors, there were flowers.


The area around Rhinebeck was gorgeous too.  Below is the countryside around Red Hook; Red Hook was where the Ravelry party was, and the outskirts were where my Sock Camp friends were staying and had their chili party.



Just the drive out and back from where we stayed in Hyde Park was a gorgeous prelude and coda both days.  (Luckily, Lisa was driving, so I didn’t have to risk life and limb to take photos.  Much appreciated.)





You know, I was also going to show you some of the yarn that followed me home.  But since that yarn is not AT Rhinebeck any more (and this post is extremely long already…..) I think I’ll save that for another day.

Last Look At Rhinebeck (for this year):


Sunday Morning Moon.

A New Day


Sunrise, November 5th, 2008.  Either way, this day was going to dawn on a different America.

As it is, it seems it’s quite a new day indeed, says voter number 1510 at her polling place.  (It was great to see all the college students there.)


I’m just glad my mailbox won’t be stuffed full of double and triple copies of scurrilous attack ads any more.  (Republican Party of Wisconsin, I’m looking at you.)  And glad that an unprecedently long and expensive two-year plus campaign is over at last.

TIme to move ahead and try to work on some problems here.

Tomorrow – back to regularly scheduled knitting and randomness!

Vote Today (if you haven’t already)

Do it for Future Voters like this one.


(The Gothlet, age three, helping her father vote, as seen in our local paper.)