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!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


There are some places that just nourish your soul, and AVFKW is quickly becoming one of those places for me. 

I "discovered" this shop shortly after a pattern was published in Twist Collective using one of their yarns.  It is located in the north part of Oakland, CA, so far north in fact, I would actually consider it Berkeley, and I try to stop by whenever I am in town on business, which is quite a lot lately.

The simple reason is, I always find something there to inspire me.  Aside from her own yarns, from which I had made several great pairs of socks, Kristine carries a great assortment of unique yarns (this is where I first dicovered Pluck MCN Primo and Fiberspates Scrumptious, after all) but also a great assortment of fabrics and new techniques from her travels.

Case in point, I was in here the first week of August after a trip to my favorite customer in South San Francisco (yeah, the summer of no travel thing is really not working out as I had hoped). A while back I got it into my head to make the Crane Creek jacket from a yarn a bit lighter than what the pattern calls for (both are fairly scratchy natural wools). I had a flash of crafting brilliance and decided what this jacket needed was a spot of color and softness, and that what I should do is hold two strands together--one of the neutral colored wool I had already purchased and one of, say, raw silk. So I headed out to Verb to look at some Habu Tsumugi silk I had seen on my last trip.

Kristine, the owner of AVFKW, consulting with a customer on a dress design

I found my silk and more, finally settling on a denim blue to complement my brown wool (though once I start knitting I fear it may obscured the diamond textured pattern a little).

I also could not resist some of Kristine's signature Creating in this great geen and purple colorway, plus the matching green and purple colorways.

But the truly inspiring piece of the day was some wonderful fabric recently arrived from India discovered during Kristine's recent travels. Apparenlty, this is made by local artisans in India who first take the length of fabric and create a design by knotting thread in a certain direction or randomly. The fabric is then dyed, dried, and the yarn removed, leaving a star-like pattern where the thread was removed and in some cases shirring as though the fabric were smocked.  I fell in love with this yardage, and then with these scarves, but I could not think of a single practicle thing I could make from it, so I resisted, thinking I would be back in 2 weeks and if I still wanted it I could come back then and get it.

Well, I did go back to the bay area 2 weeks later this time traveling with a colleague, and despite my best efforts, I was not able to find the time to drive across the bay to Verb. I had been madly debating all week--tea stained fabric or purple scarf?--but alas, since I could not make it to the shop, I feared it would be neither. I was bitterly disappointed since I also wanted some more Creating in the Octavia colorway when I I realized I was just being silly. I just picked up the phone and gave them a credit card number, and a week later the gorgeous purple scarf was mine.  The workmanship truly is amazing, and I am already plotting my Octavia sweater with alternating purple/green ribbing border. Or perhaps a baby blanket? Right after Crank Creek...

Summer recap

At long last, the repair work on my house is finished.  Or rather, I should say was finished this summer.  I moved back in the weekend of July 4, and I still don't have things completely straightened out, but at least I have a kitchen! Someday I am going to be one of those people whose home is company ready in 10 minutes or less, but for now, I think it may be a while before I have things back together.

I had planned to take the entire summer as a travel-free time and just get back in the swing of things, but work and life always intervene.  First, a short trip to Quebec City.  It is only a 6 hour drive--and a beautiful one at that--so when an opportunity for a work trip arose, I grabbed a friend and we made the drive.

I never did find a yarn store in close proximity, but I did plenty of other shopping. I managed to return with some pewter jewelry, a Canadian leaf Christmas ornament, and some artwork.

We also made it to Chute Montmorency, a waterfall higher than Niagara, but with less water volume, though I delined to climb to the top. In reality, we were in a hurry to get back for a concert that night, but I will admit, the climb looked a little bit daunting.