Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Vacations and catching up

After a very long absence, I am finally back to blogging. Last fall, I had it all planned out. I was going to purchase a new ipad and take it with me on vacation so I could keep the blog updated with all of my fabulous adventured in South America (herinafter, SA), and would also be able to take a full complement of patterns along for the ride. Well, needless to say, things did not quite work out that way.

But let's back up to those dilemmas from late October, since I feel like I kind of left everything hanging.

Dilemma 1: I had just satisfied myself that it was not worth paying double what I originally paid to ship one more skein of Bremont from the UK or Germany, and that I would live with my almost-knee socks. Then a wonderful thing happened: a friend of mine from the international swap I participate in offered to get one and send it as part of a swap package. So I am eagerly anticipating it, and will re-do my socks yet again once it arrived.

Dilemma 2: I decided to start fresh on Umaro with one skein each of the 2 new colors held together. I have not yet done it, but I swear I will.

Dilemma 3: In the end, I caved and bought more yarn. It went something like this: LL offered a limited edition colorway through Jimmy Bean's Wool called Christmas at Downton. I love all things Downton Abbey, so I was all over that, and ordered, well, let's say a few. As long as I was ordering and getting free shipping, I figured I should see if there was anything else I "needed" and 2 skeins of BSA cotton in pink materialized in my cart. I also started researching Japanese stitch patterns as I had envisioned a lotus-inspired edging. After much hunting and studying and several failed tries of edgings that looked wonderful in lace weight but failed to translate to a heavier gauge, I took the best elements of several different patterns, and put them all together to make an edging I am very proud of. Really, I could not be more thrilled without this turned out, and I think the edging really elevates the project to something really special. I am so proud of it, in fact, that I am writing it up as a pattern. I improvise all the time, but I usually hesitate to call something completely original. But this time, I think I earned it. Look for an upcoming post called "Hey, I wrote a pattern" or something along those lines.

Dilemma 4: What can I say? The answer is always Rhinebeck! I went, I saw, I shopped, I had a good time. I love what I bought, don't feel I overspent, and enjoyed myself despite the rain.

Then came the vacation of all vacations. Just as I was preparing to blow town, a little storm called Sandy started heading our way. I priased my foresight (or was it luck?) in having decided to head to Peru a day early, as the airport in Boston closed about 6 hours after I left. I ended up taking my trip electronics-free--no computer, no ipad, and only occasional data service on the smart phone. There is simply not enough time and space to write about all my adventures, but I will try to summarize briefly, as I expect no one will read a post this long.

It was fabulous beyond belief.

I am in love with Peru.
Macchu Pichu is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Learned colorwork and dyeing techniques. Made many wonderful new friends. One word: ceviche!

The Chilean Fjords are among the most spectacularly beautiful things I have ever experienced. Patagonia, icebergs, and walking with Penguins at the end of the world.

Argentine beef, Argentine olive oil, and Argentine yarn all make me very, very, happy. Buenos Aires is a city not to be missed. I can now be counted among a relatively small group of people who have navigated Cape Horn, Tierra del Fuego, and the Beagle Channel and I can truly say I have been to the end of the world and back.

Uruguay: The best yarn experience of my life. Abuelita, Malabrigo, and Manos all in one day, and a beautiful art deco-inspired city.

The only thing better than experiencing SA was doing it from a fiber perspective. Andean colorwork techniques, 17 micron merino, natural dyes, Chilean cotton, and wonderful people were the hallmarks of this trip.

I am sure I will be referring to my adventures in SA for a long time to come. I know I would not do it justice trying to summarize quickly--there was just too much. But here are a few pics.

Cuzco, Peru

Macchu Pichu, Peru

Jessica and her lamb, Juanita
Knitters in Sallac, Peru working on my Hamantaschen socks

New friends in Chinchero, Peru

Barba del Viejo waterfall, Patagonia, Chile
Walking with penguins at the Punto Tombo reserve, Chile

Iceberg alley, Chilean Fjords

A beautiful day in Puerto Varas, Chile

Fresh fish market in Puerto Montt, Chile
Cormorants, penguins, and sea lions sunbathing in the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Argentina

Colors of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

The tip of Cape Horn
Floralis Generalis, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dilemmas, dilemmas

Well, since my last post, I have managed to survive September and make it most of the way through October, and now it is back to knitting in more ways than one.

I had a quick trip out to Charleston, SC the end of Sept, where the weather was beautiful, and the town charming.  I managed to work in a little shopping, and a quick trip to a shop called K Knit where I managed to spend way too much on some yarn from Copper Corgi.

I was seduced by the colors, and ended up paying nealry as much for 50g as I usually pay for 100g, so I am anxious to knit this and find out if it is made from spun gold or something else to justify the crazy price :) I bought two pretties--one in green/pink called "stormy marsh" and one deep blue/black with lighter blue streaks called "Clifftop." And did I mention the shop owner seemed super relieved and excited when I made the purchase? Times must be hard in the Charleston yarn market.

I was glad when I had 2 back-to-back trips to Western Canada in early October to allow me some time to actually knit some projects rather than just buy yarn. I had started a pair of Shur 'Tugal socks in a SG rust and denim blue colorway I found at Rhinebeck last year during one of the summer concerts in July, and had yet to make it past the cuff.  I completed this pair and ended up making the feet sized for a man. Not sure who I have in mind for these, but it seemed such a masculine pattern I went for it. I also finished up the lace Camino Alpaca kneesocks I started nearly a year ago at long last, using every last bit of yarn from both skeins.

So here is my first October dilemma: as much as I love the lace knee-highs, they don't quite make it to the knee.  I would adore them if they were only ~2.5 inches longer. However, making them longer would require buying one more skein of yarn. Bear in mind this is a yarn I found in northern Germany and have never been able to find a place to buy it in the states, so I would pay as much to ship one more skein as I paid for the other two together. I think I can hide any differences in dye lot by ripping out the ribbing, continuing the lace until I run out of yarn, then doing new ribbed cuffs in the new color. Or I could just live with them being high-calf-but-not-quite-knee socks. Or hope I have a German, Austrian, or Swiss swap partner who might buy a skein of Camino Alpaca in Teal as a swap goodie. But that last one seems like a long shot.
October always makes me want to finish up projects in preparation for winter, so I came back to my Umaro blanket and the second October dilemma: I started this with 2 skeins of Cascade Eco wool held together, and neither skein had a dye lot or color listed on the label. I got to exactly the middle of the blanket when I ran out of yarn. I bought more yarn from a different store (original store no longer carried it) that is also color and dye lot-less (which I am told is the same color, though Eco has 6+ shades of undyed) and when I hold a strand up to a strand I think it matches, but when I hold a skein up to a blanket, I don't think it matches. I bought 2 more skeins in the next darker color, and skein to blanket looks right, but strand to strand looks too dark. So do I take a chance on the lighter of the 2 knowing I may have a color line across the center, or do I start a new blanket from scratch with my four new skeins and hold one darker strand and one lighter strand together? And if I do that, what do I do with my half-Umaro? Rip out and find something to do with the 2 original skeins? Or bind off, felt it, and call it an entry rug or make a pillow/cover of some sort? Help!
Dilemma number three: I bought a bunch of Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton on clearance (which makes it close to affordable) and decided to whip up a quick baby blanket. I keep feeling someone close to me is having a baby girl, and even if I am wrong, I figure it never hurts to have a gift on hand.  I chose to do a color-block afgan using the Moderne Baby Blanket pattern, which I have made before and absolutely love, but I wanted to add a simple crochet edging to dress it up.  Sure enough, I ran out of all four colors just shy of being able to finish the edging. So do I leave it plain or buy one more skein? I swear that what I spend in purchasing yarn to finish projects outweighs what I save on sale yarn. So do I save money or finish it how I envisioned? I already had to buy a little more of the purple and the green just to finish the color blocks and never dreamed I would run out. I also have one full skein of white, which is nowhere else in the blanket, that I could use for a border, but I am not sure I like adding a new color just for a border.
And now the fourth and final October dilemma: to Rhinebeck or not to Rhinebeck? In case I had not mentioned it before, I decided about a year ago to do something completely and totally out of character, and take a real vacation. One could argue the first real vacation of my life. So I am taking a knitting tour of South America in November, and the departure date is only about a week after Rhinebeck. I know I will spend too much money at Rhinebeck. I know the weekend would be better spent packing and putting my house in order pre-trip. I know I still have shopping to do.  I know I have enough yarn, and then some. But I really love Rhinebeck.
Oh what to do!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


From the second I landed in Dublin, I knew I was going to like this place. Maybe it was that the Aer Lingus portion of my travel was ever so much better than the RyanAir portion (they would not even let me knit--meanies!) or that I also managed to complete another 3 inches or so of stockinette knitting on my Strafford Tee. Either way, I loved Dublin and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. 

I started most mornings by walking across this

Samuel Beckett Bridge, in the shape of a harp, over the River Liffey

On my way here

Dublin convention center
View from the top of the circular escalators in the convention center
The convention was very successful, I had a chance to reconnect with an old friend, and there was even some free time for exploring the city.



Saturday afternoon, we were left with about four hours free time after the exhibition closed, so armed with my list of LYS in downtown Dublin, I made my way to the city center to explore.  I really loved strolling along the shopping on King street, and taking in the sights on the River Liffey. Sadly all but two of the shops on my list were no longer there or no longer sold yarn, but it only takes one to be worth the trip, right? That one was "This is Knit" in a small shopping mall behind the cathedral.  A beautiful, bright, open shop, I quickly found some local-made goodies, and after nearly an hour of drooling shopping, I finally made it out of the shop with four skeins of sock yarn but without the donegal tweed I was trying to very hard to justify.
I ended up with two skeins of Hazel Knits, one Skein Queen, and one Laura Hogan. I am told all are dyed in Ireland, and I can hardly wait to give them a try.

Scenes from "This is Knit" and my new treasures.

I did a little more shopping, and picked up an Irish crystal snowflake ornament, then made my way back to the hotel to get ready for the conference finale held at the Guinness factory.  I am not a drinker, but I have to say that was the most impressive factory I have ever seen, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening there. 

Cutting loose with our Swiss VP to '80's music.  Doesn't get better than this!

On the flight home, I was able to relax, catch up on movie watching, and work some more on the Strafford Tee.  I got up to the 10" point, which was to have been the start of the waist shaping, but realized I really should have done some decreases before that point.  So I am putting that on hold while I try to decide to rip back a couple of inches and do dart increases, rip back a couple of inches and do waist decreases, or not rip back and fashion some sort of pleat because just changing needle size as the designer suggests will not work at all. 
Back home, a few hours sleep, and I am off to Boston for another conference. At least this time I get to sleep in my own bed :)

La Via de Santiago

The next stop on my pilgramige through Spain was Santiago de Compostela, site of the famous cathedral and final stop on "the Way". After the most harrowing flight of my life (note to self--never, ever again fly RyanAir. No amount of money is worth it!!) I finally ended my 36 hours of travel from the US. I arrived too late to catch the shuttle to Laias, so I spent the night in Santiago. I chose a hotel right downtown, and I think this hotel was the best thing about this trip. El Parador is a 4-star hotel built in an old 16th century hospital, and is right next door to the cathedral. I sunk into my very comfy bed and finally slept after an appropriate amount of time spent admiring my new Greta and the Fibers yarn.

One of four courtyards in the beautiful El Parador Santiago

My room--medival charm but with with a comfy 21-st centry mattress

I awoke the next morning abruptly to the sound of...cannon fire and bagpipes? Nothing like cannons and bagpipes to wake you from a sound sleep and possibly make you hallucinate that you are actually in Scotland.

I reluctantly got out of bed, packed and dressed and headed out for the cathedral, which was conveniently about 10 steps out the front door of the hotel.  I can only say, what a sight! It is as magnificent as I have always seen in the movies. I made my way to the rectory and knelt at the statues of St. James with the other pilgrims, even though I felt a bit like I was cheating by flying to Santiago rather than walking. After the cathedral, I spend a hasty 20 minutes or so shopping at the markets behind the cathedral and came away with some awesome earrings that sadly broke on the way home before I even got to wear them :( Then I had to head back to the airport and my shuttle to Laias and Arnoia.

I finally had a chance to start my Strafford sweater on the bus ride, which I had avoided in favor of sleep on the trip over, and got through the t-shirt hem plus an inch or so when we arrived at the conference venue.

The conference was good, the hotel was hot, and we enjoyed some Spanish delicacies such as gazpacho, merluzca, and pulpo. I liked the pulpo so much I had it again as my final meal at the airport.  All too soon it was over, and I headed out to Dublin for the second conference of the week. I realized I really love Spain.  Why don't I come here more?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The beginning of September saw a return to travel. Now some of you may wonder if I ever really stopped traveling, and the answer is no, but I had told my bosses no travel over the summer and I like to pretend that only four trips in two months was practically no travel.

September through November is what we like to call "conference season" with nearly every major scientific discipline holding a meeting of some sort during these months.  That meant 3 conferences in 3 countries in 11 days for me, starting in Spain (which in my opinion is never a bad place to start).

The first conference was held in northern Spain and travel was surprisingly difficult to arrange.  The closest airport was 90 minutes away by car and only four airlines serve it, none of which have connections to the US. In the end I had to choose a major city to fly into, book a connection on a commuter airline, then take a bus. I chose Barcelona, partly because it had the most logical connection, and partly because in 1995 I had a really great day in Barcelona and I have been in love ever since. 

This left me with an 8.5 hour layover in Barcelona. While my first instinct was to find a nice lounge where I could sleep the day away, I decided instead to stow my luggage in an airport locker and go explore a small quadrant of the city.  I will admit I also had a secret motive; I do an international sock swap on Ravelry, and in the last round there was a new member from Spain who posted about some really cool yarn she picked up in a shop called "All You Knit is Love" in Barcelona. As long as I was coming that far, I figured I had to stop by, right?

So I hailed a cab and had him drop me near the main cathedral in what is known as the Barri Goti, or Gothic quarter. I was immediately greeted with two of my favorite things about Spain

yes, Gaudi and Picasso. I found myself really noticing a lot of the motifs in the stonework and in the wrought iron in the cathedral and surrounding neighborhood.  I keep thinking someday I will translate these into lace or twisted stitchwork. 


Can't you just imagine these as lace edgings or motifs in a shawl or sweater? I spent a couple of hours wandering through the cathedral and down La Rambla. Most interesting find: a Boqueria--quite literally a meat market--and yes, people were eating what I can only describe as meat-sicles on sticks made from chorizo, jamon serrano and other cured meats.

A real meat market, European style
Walking down La Rambla
From there, I made my way to the yarn store, which took me on a great path through some side streets and some souvenir shopping. Funny story there about bargaining for a good deal on a t-shirt and adamantly explaining why I did not need one for my husband.  They did not buy the I-am-not-married-and-therefore-have-no-husband excuse, so I finally had to tell them he is a mal hombre and not deserving of a gift. Now why they would believe I have a bad husband over believing I was single is beyond me, but I just went with it. The things I won't do for a discount on a t-shirt. But I digress.

I finally found the yarn store after several twists and turns (cursed Google maps!) and met Jennifer, the owner of "All You Knit is Love". I had wondered why a LYS in the middle of Spain had such an American name and sure enough it is because Jennifer is an American.  Her parents actually live in Cape Cod, only a couple of hours from where I reside, and Jennifer promised she makes it to the states at least once a year and could hook me up if  I decided later I needed more yarn.  I ogled the big basket of the locally produced "Greta and the Fibers" sock yarn I had come in for, and after promising to limit myself to 2, and deliberating for over an hour on which two, I eventually left the shop with four. I know. I have no impulse control whatsoever when it comes to yarn.

Jennifer, the owner of "Knit"

Wall of Malabrigo and Greta and the Fibers. I spent a long time here...
 After that, it was a quick lunch of tapas--yes, that is a meat and egg salad, chef's speciality of the day--and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the lobster risotto that followed.

After my late lunch, I decided I had better get back to the airport, and my wonderful day in Barcelona was at an end. I claimed my bags and headed off to Santiago de Compostela and some well-deserved sleep, but that is a post for another day.

Spoils from my day of shopping in Barcelona--a scarf, a Gaudi t-shirt, and four skeins of Greta!