Monday, December 22, 2008

Pharm knits

My friend Angela recently asked me to do some custom spinning for her. A Canadian friend of hers has hit a bit of a rough patch, to put it mildly, and Angela wanted to create a one-of-a-kind scarf steeped in sentimentality. She had very specific colors in mind: greens and golds of a summer field with hay rolls, sunshine yellow and sky blue, dawn and sunrise colors, bonfire reds, oranges, and smokey grays and browns, midnight blue with patches of white for the night sky and a little Glitz (fireworks and sparklers), and black. All of the colorways requested would progress from one end to the other, representing on some level the escape and solace in friendship and memories from life's darkess (the black).

Since finding pre-dyed fiber to match that order wouldn't be easy, I sent a request to my favorite dyer/supplier: Amy King. Considering the final project would have to be soft and hardwearing, I went with my current favorite fiber, superwash Corriedale. I gave Amy my instructions, allowed her some creative freedom, and in a matter of just a few days, had 8 oz of perfectly dyed fiber:

angelas roving2
Top arranged in anticipation of final knit - green progressing to the black and the the black moving back out to the green. Two nearly identical, perfectly dyed bumps.

I couldn't wait to start spinning, but still had a little more planning to do. One, Angela requested a bulky yarn. Two, she wanted a 2-ply. Finally, she wanted the two plies to sort of play off each other with the color - rather than have big chunks of color, she wanted something that would fade out of one color and into the next. I split each hunk of fiber into two equal strips and then exchanged one strip from one hunk with one strip from the other. This was sort of my control for the final yarn and I hoped that it would be enough to even out any discrepancies that might be glaring in the finished knit. Then, I spun the fiber on my Matchless using the 9:1 ratio and a supported long draw. I did very little pre-drafting and ended up with lofty, lovely singles.

The spinning went so fast that I never got a chance to take pictures of the singles, plus I was on a deadline! In a matter of days, though, I'd managed to plow through all 8 oz. I plied using the same ratio (9:1) and then wet-finished the yarn with a thorough soak in Eucalan, hot water, and some hand agitation once the water had cooled. The resulting yarn fluffed out to about 5-6 wpi. I calculated the yardage and want to say it all totaled somewhere over 200, but I can't find the receipt scrap that I scribbled that information on... Anyway, yarn!

angelas yarn7

angelas yarn black

angelas yarn6

angelas yarn

Angela's been knitting on the scarf for the last 8 days. When I saw her last Sunday, she'd managed to get through the greens and into the yellows and golds. By Thursday, it was reported she'd reach the halfway point. She's promised to take tons of photos of the finished scarf and I cannot wait to see them!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

From the edge

I'm at the edge of just jumping and calling this year (calendar or fiscal - not sure yet) done. Things were going great until the middle of October - since then, I've been sick. I've have head colds, sinus congestion, ear aches (debilitating, too), fevers, chills, and now, most recently, severe gastroenteritis. Whee? Through it all, I've tried to take as few sick days as possible and only when necessary. That there could be part of the problem - not allowing my body enough time to recuperate. But the other factor to consider here is my daily proximity to Children, many of whom Love Me.

I've been working as a public librarian for over three years now and expected the first year to be plagued with illnesses, and it was, complete with my first ever case of the flu. The Flu - oh, people, I had no idea that the Flu was that bad! All this time, I'd thought that coworkers or friends or family or strangers that complained about having the Flu were just weak. I mean, what's a little snuffle, eh? Well, I learned the hard way that year that the Flu? The Flu wants to make you its bitch, so STFU and suffer.

The next year, I got a flu shot (woot!), and managed to avoid any real, interfering illness. Yeah, I got lots of colds and probably took a few days here and there, but I really thought my resistance was building, the germs were losing, and I was on my way to being Super Girl.

Instead, I've spent more time sick than not in the last two months. And I'm learning, whether I like it or not, that I do need to take day(s) off to truly get better. I'm also learning that without cable, there is nothing on television (we have antenna service which means we pay $12/month and get all the channels you'd get with an antenna, plus some public access channels, home shopping channels, and Spanish language channels - all without static). For instance, this last round of illin' has found me tuning in to NBC for much of the day. Public television has loads of kids' programming or food programming - I couldn't stomach either of those. Home shopping channels annoy me - I think I've watch any type of home shopping channel a total of one minute in my entire cable-television watching lifetime.

Anyway, I've been exposed to a lot of commercials these last few days.

  • Hair Cuttery's new ad with Nick Gilder's Hot Child in the City. Is it just me, or does this chick look like she's tweeking out on some bad high? Dear Hair Cuttery - I do not want you anywhere near my hair even more now.
  • There's the ad about how your local car dealers have access to all kinds of different credit to get you in the car you want. Um. Where to begin...
  • Progresso vs. Campbell's. Who knew this was the latest heavyweight matchup? I saw one for Campbell's on Tuesday (I think, I looked away when I saw it was food) wherein Campbell's claimed to not have MSG in any of it's soups, but Progresso? OMG, MSG! THEN, yesterday, I saw a Progresso ad that claimed some 20 varieties of their soup have no MSG and they're working to remove MSG from all of their soups, unlike MSG-laden CAMPBELL'S. I am so confused.
  • CD commercials - I don't care that Toby Keith has a new album out. Plus, I only see these CD commercials, like, ever 6 months. It's like some weird cycle. Fortunately, it's not the same CD being offered each cycle. That would be awful.
  • I like butter as much as the next person. But the absurdity of this commercial?

  • Dear NBC - Momma's Boys is not, I repeat, NOT the most eagerly anticipated show of all time, or whatever claim you are making. I'd expect that type of "entertainment" from Fox. Now that the show's debuted, the commercials for that event are over, but I'm dreading the weekly pixel-barf touting the next episode.
  • The Jewelry Exchange in Norristown suggests great stocking stuffers, such as pearl necklaces. Am I the only sick mind that snerks like a schoolyard boy at both stocking stuffers and pearl necklaces, especially when the two are used in the same sentence?
What commercials bug you these days?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I had a dozen or so wannabe titles for this post, Bats in the Belfry, Batt-ers Up!, Batt-shit Crazy, Batt-tastic, and so on. But, I think calling it what it is, plain and simple, is sufficient.

After one pass through the drum carder:
batt first pass

Two passes for a blended batt:
batts 3

And the resulting yarn:
84 yds batts

78 yds batts outside

The fiber is shetland and was the November installment of Spunky Eclectic's Fiber Club. The colorway was Raisin Wannabe and originally had broad splashes of purples, pinks, and bright green. After seeing some batts on Ravelry, I felt inspired to lug the drum carder downstairs and experiment. I passed the fiber through the carder twice and during the process added a pinch of glitz - I wanted there to be just a hint of sparkle. Once the batts were ready, I spun the fiber using a supported long-draw technique - wow, spinning that way is FAST. I'm satisfied that I was able to spin the entire 4 oz using that technique, but I definitely feel like I'm not in control of that skill. Guess this means I have to practice more ... Oh darn! I did a 2-ply yarn and have 162 yards of light bulky weight yarn. The longer skein (84 yds) has been wet finished - an overnight soak with hot - cold water (that is, I put the skein in a sink full of hot water and some Eucalan, and then forgot it was in the sink until morning...) and some slight hand agitation before a few thwacks on the side of the tub. It's remarkably fuzzy and lovely. The shorter skein has not yet been wet finished, but I will give it the same treatment.

I'm eventually going to make myself a hat using this yarn - funny, but for as many hats as I've knit, I don't have one to call my own! I might also try to get another 4 oz of the colorway and do another batt for a pair of mittens.

Chico approves of fiber. Actually, Chico approves of sunbeams. He couldn't care a fig about fiber...
life of glitz 2

Monday, November 24, 2008


I've been, to put it mildly, under the weather for the last two weeks. This weekend, instead of working as scheduled, I remained wrapped in blankets and drank a lot of tea. And, I managed to get some images uploaded to Flickr. Finally. I mean, I probably could have uploaded them weeks ago, but I had this huge imaging project looming overhead and I just didn't feel right working on other images until it was done.... And, while it took much longer than I expected, it's done and I can now resume taking pictures of yarn, fiber, and stuff.

Here's a Mystery Bump I picked up at Rhinebeck. It's about the size of a 2L bottle and promises to be an interesting spin.

mystery bump

mystery bump inside

mystery bump inside 2

I got some other fiber, but haven't taken a photo of it yet. My stash has been experiencing some growing pains and I've decided to sell some of it - I'm sure you can understand. I'm on the fence still about putting up my sweater quantities, and I remain hopeful that if I give it one. more. chance., I'll be able to knit a sweater *and* love it. Anyway, here's a link to the destash on Ravelry. I'm in no rush to move everything out - it really just feels good to have an idea of what stays and what goes.

After Rhinebeck, I found myself motivated to finish up the spinning I'd started on the Jensen. After months of trying to make our relationship solid, I admitted to myself that me and Mr. Jensen were just not going to be BFF. So, early on the first day of Rhinebeck (the line at The Fold was only about 10 deep), I made a deal on a Schacht Matchless - the wheel that I originally wanted before having the Jensen fall in my lap. I could not be happier with this wheel and feel like it complements the Fricke perfectly. Here's some yarn I spun on the Jensen and plied on the Matchless:

helleborus wine stain 4

helleborus wine stain

It's just over half of the 8oz of merino from Black Bunny Fibers, colorway Helleborus. I think it was my first installment in Carol's fiber club... It's really a scrumptious fiber and spun up without any problems. I Navajo-plied the singles and once I fulled and finished the yarn, found that it reminded me of the stains red wine leaves on white tablecloths.

Mr. Fricke is still getting loads of action - I spun up Spunky Eclectic's Acadia (FOTM) and then Navajo-plied those singles, getting 422 yds of lovely, fingering weight yarn. The fiber is Finn and the end yarn is called Dream It's Over.

don't dream it's over FINN

Did I blog about this?

special event 10 - 1

This is SW merino, custom dyed by Amy King. I spun it as part of a wedding blanket project and regret not having ordered more of this fiber and color. It's so squishy and perfect. The recipients, that dynamic duo Anj and Sue, will surely be warm all winter and every winter.

special event 84 - 2

Finally, the cats. Oi, the cats. Things continue to be interesting. Just this week, in fact, we've woken up more mornings than not to discover two cats snuggled in bed with us. And, the other day, I found both Chico and Penelope practically sharing a windowsill (alright, so she was on the windowsill and he was on the table, but they were mere INCHES apart), drawn together by the Power of the Sunbeam. The Sunbeam is so powerful, little Miss P follows it from the floor to the bookcase:

dartboard bookshelf 2

And if that doesn't make you want to go home and snuggle, then I don't know what will. For those that will be celebrating, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Very Knitterly Birthday!

This past weekend, Mom and I drove alllllll the way up to just outside Boston, MA to surprise my little sister on her 30th birthday. And while the weekend's festivities were definitely subdued (Big Sis has the flu, or something very much like the flu), I'm pretty sure the Birthday Girl still had a blast. Here she is modeling garments from Twist Collective at The Yarn and Fiber Company's Fashion Show:

That's part 1 of 3 and my sister is Amy, the first (and BEST) of the models. Everything she wore was amazing - in fact, everything that was modeled was amazing to see in person. I feel like my Ravelry queue just exploded a little from all the recent growth.

If you haven't checked out the latest issue of Twist Collective, do so now! Mittens, shawls, sweaters, and more - there's definitely something for everyone!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Every time I think of you

It's been emotion central these last few days in Sparks Land and Monday might be the best day yet. But, to bring you up to speed: my little Ghia, Miss Bertha, has come home with a valid inspection sticker and a clean bill of auto-health.

In case you're newer to the blog, Mike bought the car for me a couple of years ago (it just happened to be around my birthday). I think the plan had been for me just to drive a Ghia that year as my birthday present, but I'm rarely one to go only part of the way. One short drive under my belt and we were making the arrangements to make the car mine.

Of course, whenever you buy a used car you can expect to encounter some problems. Guess how much those problems increase when you purchase a car that was built in 1974 and is known for its rusting abilities? If you guessed A LOT, you are right! And, if you've been reading this blog for the last two years or so, you'll probably remember the first failed inspection, the disappointing estimates for body repair, and then the horrific year of a car that would pass inspection, if only we could get the thing to run.

Admitting defeat was hard - it meant not only acknowledging that we weren't able to RTFM (I'm sure there's a joke to be made out of the idea of an engineer and a librarian looking under the hood....), but also preparing for yet another handful of cash thrown at the car. While my mechanic is highly esteemed among VW owners, both classic and new, it was hard to finally decide to make that call to him and then the tow company, if not for any other reason than it meant we would have to push the damn car out of the garage and onto the street and somehow manage to park it legally-ish...

But all of that is now history. All of that is now just another chapter in my sweet car's long history, a history that includes incomplete carburetors, asshole body mechanics, and, at one point between the factory and today, eggplant metallic paint. All of that is history because after a week of speaking with Howard the Genius every other day, I was able to drive my car for the first time since March 2007 last night. And while I was nervous to be on the road in my car - unfamiliar after all this time, plus, you know, I WAS IN MY CAR AND IT WAS GOING! - I was, to some extent, complete. Having Little Bert pass inspection finally? Well, it's been a long time coming.

Since picking her up last night, I've driven the car a short 20 or so miles just around the neighborhood, picking up dinner last night, getting gas, and trying out driving with the top down. I have to tell you, it's fucking awesome. I don't have any new pictures (yet), but here's my favorite:

Ghia on the bridge

We're far from done with our little project - paint job, new top, seats... The list goes on, but now? Now we can really start checking things off!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Peanuts and crackerjacks!

I'm really much more of a football-and-hockey kinda gal and will tell you, whether I'm asked or not, that I hate baseball. I don't mind going to the occasional game because there's lots to look at while not watching a bunch of chewing-and-spitting men scratch themselves and run in circles. Plus? The number of non-hits in a game? Booooooooooooooring. I want action! I want hitting! I want the satisfaction of a well-aimed pass landing in the outstretched arms (or stick) of a receiving teammate and the resulting points to go up on the board as the crowd goes wild. If you catch a ball in baseball? That's usually an out.

So, I hate baseball, but I secretly love (and by love, I mean "if I have to") the Phillies. As a young girl, summer weekends always had the game as background noise, whether it was static-y on the TV or buzzing from the AM dial. I don't remember the 1980 season or victory, but I'm sure I listened to the game from somewhere in the house. I do remember team members, household names then and now: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw, Garry Maddox, Larry Bowa. These names are so vivid that just thinking of them brings up still-images of televised game coverage, the colors of the away uniforms seemingly remembered as a much more pleasant combination...

The Phillies became the team to love/hate and my only connection to baseball. I didn't care a lick about the Yankees, the Sox (White or Red), the Dodgers, the Royals, the Orioles, the Mets, or any of 'em. I avoided the Little League games of my siblings and wouldn't date a ball player in high school just so I didn't have game obligations. I mean, come on - the only thing stupider than baseball was tennis. (Except I've also seemed to develop a serious interest in tennis lately)

But, despite this aversion to baseball, I always knew where the Phils were in the standings, maybe not exactly, but relative. Winning? Losing? Middle of the road? If confronted in a sports bar, I could have held my ground enough so that I wouldn't be mistaken for a fan of the other team (and beaten to a pulp, some might say).

But recently, all of this has changed, and it's not just because we're the mother-effing 2008 World Series champions. No, not really, because I would have gone back to secretly enjoying my Phils if we'd stretched it out to 7 games and given up the go ahead run in the 9th of the final game. I do the same for the Eagles every year they disappoint. It's not a bandwagon'ing type of affection - it's more like the rocky relationship of two people forced together and maybe, just maybe 20 years after having to listen to the same thing again and again and again, until finally one or both give in and say, FINE, we're not getting any better or any worse, this is just how it is.

Anyway, maybe it's a sign of aging, maybe I've accepted that if I've liked (relatively) a team for this long (more than 30 years), it's ok to go public. Maybe it's something else, but over the last few years (since Bowa's last season in '04, for no particular reason), I've followed the Phils a little more closely and cheered a little less privately, and refrained from calling the Boys the Sillies, and instead have sought out 950 AM and have not argued when the TV's been tuned to the game. I've root, root, rooted for the home team, damn it, and I'm so proud of our Phillies that I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat last night.

We did it, now let's have a parade!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Goats go to hell

If nothing else, climbing on my second mountain has enabled me to discover something about myself: I do not like climbing mountains! I like hiking with mild elevation changes (say, 100-500 feet, spread over the length of the hike), I enjoy nature, and I really love spending time with Mike.

nor making lovers

We'd planned to climb Hunter Mountain, the second highest peak in the Catskills, via an old fire tower access road. But, we ended up taking the wrong trail. Twice.


Once we got on the right trail, we faced a fairly strenuous climb along a narrow, rocky, and leaf-covered trail.

narrow trail

I twisted both of my ankles at least twice each, Mike got bit by a snake (thank goodness for high-top boots!), and I pulled a gecko move when I laid flat on an overlook and hung the camera over the edge to snap a picture, scaring Mike more than I'd anticipated.

i like laying on a rock in the sun

And while we hiked the mountain via two wrong trails and never summited Hunter Mountain and spent 10 hours (including travel time to the trail head) away from flush toilets (not that I needed them because whatever I drank, I sweated out and whatever I ate, I burned up), I wouldn't say the hike was a complete waste.

final view from the wrong trail

sky through leaves

Mike, descending

red leaves in water, 2

All told, we hiked about 10 miles, had an ascent of about 1500 feet, and peaked just below 3700 feet. As we were leaving the trailhead, we passed the trail we'd intended to take, the signs nestled among the trees. And for whatever reason (let's call it pride), I vowed to return next year and climb the right damn trail. Of course, Mike didn't argue.

i haz a stick

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Just checked the Rhinebeck forecast (for the Nth time today, bringing the total times checked since the 10-day included Saturday up to 11,000) and it looks like we're going to be sunny and brisk! Who can't wait? I CAN'T WAIT. I am so glad that Mike is willing to go with me this year - we're surely going to have a special 12th anniversary celebration.

Here're our plans so far:
  • Get up early Friday and drive an hour and a half to the trail head for climbing Hunter Mountain. At just over 4,000 feet, it's the second tallest peak in the Catskills. Mike's treating it as a piece of cake, but I think summiting a mountain is a big deal. It's not like we're strolling up a hill.
  • Spend Saturday strolling the festival. I've already looked at the event schedule and have marked off anything that is strictly non-fiber for Mike's enjoyment. This includes: canine Frisbee demonstration, pumpkin chucking, and a hand-drawn map of the wine and cheese barn. I expect I'll have to text him hourly just to make sure he's not trying to catch a Frisbee in his mouth or in a cheese coma.
  • Have a lovely dinner that may or may not involve banana ketchup outside of the house. If you're not familiar with banana ketchup, get some at your local international supermarket.
  • Play some disc golf as we make our way home.
Now, if you're keeping score, you'll see there are THREE THINGS on that list that are basically all for the benefit of Mike - mountains, cheese comas, and banana ketchup. And I only have the one measly day at the festival as my prize. I'll just muddle through, though. The things I do for that man!

Say hey if you see me! I'll be toting this bag again:

you will know me by the squirrels on my bag

And, if all goes well, I'll be wearing a modified version of this sweater:

anastasia sleeve block
(Apparently I don't have any finished pictures of this sweater?
Anyway, I'm taking off the sleeves and seeing what happens...)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

0-60, sometime in the future

Parked at the Library!

I'm exercising my right to be Bad Ass (it's in the Constitution!). Rode my motorcycle to work for first time on Saturday and consider the trip to and from an overall success - no crashes, no problems, and it was FUN!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

True or False

It is better to have knit and frogged than to have never knit at all.

My Hey Teach didn't make it - but not for my usual reasons! This time I knit it entirely way too big. Here's hoping I can churn out a vest using bulky yarn and US 9s. If not, I'll just have to be content with strolling the barns at Rhinebeck. Darn.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Still no photos!

My camera is resting after shooting 550+ shots for a wedding last weekend, which reminds me... I really need to sit down at some point this week/weekend and go through those shots. Anyway, that's my lame-o excuse for not having progress shots of my overdue Ravelympics knitting. Yeah, I didn't think you'd buy it either.

Here're the deets, though, on the sweater as is - the body is complete, the shoulders are seamed, the neckline is done. I'm weaving in ends (I needed something relatively mindless to do last night after a long day at work) before starting the sleeves. I thought if I focused, really FOCUSED, I'd get the sleeves done by this weekend... But, there's other stuff keeping me from my knitting.

First, the car? She might start tonight. Don't ask me what was wrong. It might have been the fuel pump. It might have been the spark plugs. It might have just been bitchy. After we get her started, the plan of attack is: re-insuring, re-registering, re-inspecting. Dear Ghia Gods: please let her pass. I can't afford much more in terms of repair costs. A paint job is necessary, but will have to wait until we have that kind of dough to spare.

Second, I'm test riding a motorcycle tonight. Pretty freakin' excited about that. It's a '76 Honda CB200T and aside from being Bright Orange, is perfect for what I need in a bike right now. We tried to get the '73 Honda CB350F to work for me, but I was just too short for that set up (and lowering the bike? Probably not a good idea. I really hate when people fuck with what works on vintage vehicles.). I've sat the '76 a couple of times, it's narrower and lower. If all goes according to plan, I'll be buying boots and a jacket this weekend. I'd love to take the Safety Course that PA offers, but my Saturdays are about to be jacked by work. I will have to settle for being taught by two motorcycle nuts - Mike and the Mighty Swede.

Cat update (for those that have asked): Chico has left the downstairs! It took MONTHS of waiting, but he's now back in the habit of coming to bed with us at some point in the night and as soon as the alarm clock sounds, getting all snuggly up in my face. Awww, Chico. The trick? Last Thursday, I carried his fat as up to bed when we retired and after an initial WTF on his part, he settled down and purred himself to sleep. SEE - HE'S NOT THAT MEAN. Penelope shows us her belly at least twice a day and continues to be one of the sweetest cats ever. In her brief time with us, she's earned a whole slate of nicknames: Piglet, Princess, Girl(ie) Cat, Slut, and Bad Girl. The two of them are co-existing and that's really all I ever asked for.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad

You'd think I'd finish that with something about being aroused for an educational professional. I tricked you. Instead, the badness I refer to is wheel lust. Hello, my name is Heather, and I'm a spinning addict.

Rhinebeck's on my mind, even though I have two major weekends between now and then. I just can't get the scene out of my mind: the crispness to the morning air, the vendors, the random alpacas strolling by in scarves, the bunnies, and the people. It really is among the happiest places on earth. And that's why I wanted to go this year, not because I had some list on the side or an urge to wait in line for one of the prize-winning fleeces or even to buy anything (except wine and cheese and pie to keep the Pieman from running after Our Lady of Boog).

Except, in the last two days, I've suddenly developed the notion, nay the desire to acquire a third wheel. And this third wheel would be something completely different than the other two (not a stretch to accomplish at all). I want something portable, more portable than my Fricke. And I want something that's less than $300. I want something cute and easy to use and compact. So, I've narrowed it down to two possibilities: a Charkha spinning wheel or a HitchHiker.

I know, I know. I really shouldn't compare apples to oranges. And, I should be wholly honest with myself (and you) and just say that I probably also just listed one of those as my potential fourth wheel. So, the question becomes, which do I need more at this time? I'd love to spin on a 100:1 ratio - that would be CRAZY, I bet. But, I don't often spin cotton and other short stapled fibers. Still, how Zen'ed out would I be, sitting somewhere with my little book Charkha, and making fine, fine thread. I suppose I could really go nutso-like and make my Mom custom embroidery cottons... Drawbacks - I'm not familiar with the Charkha, I don't know anyone that has one, and it's hand-cranked as opposed to treadled.

Then, there's the HitchHiker. Where the Charkha is refined, the HitchHiker wins for cuteness - foot-shaped treadle, hitchhiker cut-out handle, and teeny! The ratios aren't great in terms of range, but it's nothing a little fiber prep can't handle. I can see myself taking the HH many more places than the Charkha if only because it would allow me to do the kind of spinning I'm most used to right now.

Have any of your tried either of these wheels? What's your opinion? Have another recommendation for something inexpensive and portable?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

FOR SALE (baby not included)

alex seekle 5

Mike's officially put his 1973 Honda CB350 up for sale. It's been a fun few years, complete with breakdowns and rebuilds a-plenty. Overall, the bike's not a bad little thing to tool around town with. The biggest reason we've hung a For Sale sign on it is Mike wants a 750. If you know of anyone interested in a vintage Japanese motorcycle, let me know - I can give them any information they might need or put them in touch with Mike.

More photos, if you're interested, are here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


While I failed to finish the Sweater Sprint event of the Ravelympics, I have gold medaled in spinning. 94 yards of delicious superwash merino in a heavy worsted weight 3-ply. It's soaking now, so pictures later.

Where I failed with the Sweater Sprint - I don't knit fast enough, I don't knit often enough, and I modified the pattern so much that I went from the recommended US8s to US4s. Part of that was yarn substitution, no doubt. If I weren't such a tight knitter, I'm afraid I would have been knitting miles and miles of stockinette on US3s.

I lied in my last post when I said there wasn't much other news to report in the land of Sparks - I'm going to Rhinebeck! It took some trickery and some convincing and the promise to do something "special" for him (namely, climb one of the Catskills). Rhinebeck's always tough for this household simply because it's our anniversary weekend. The last two years, Mike's been very wonderful about letting me go away with girlfriends for the weekend. I told him after last year that I'd not go this year and instead do something with him for our anniversary.

Except, as the chatter about RHINEBECK! grew louder, I found myself really wanting to be there. When my little sister announced she'd be making the trip down from Boston, I started brainstorming. While Mike is highly fiber-tolerant (this morning, he served as a human Kate), he initially refused even the idea of going anywhere near the fiber festival. Slowly, though, I brought him over to the dark side around. It took the wine and cheese barn, deep-fried artichokes, and promises of pie. And, it also took the prospect of hiking a portion of the AT or climbing Hunter Mountain. It may hardly seem like much, but I think this is the largest compromise we've ever had to make in our relationship. Something tells me he's going to find the festival to be so much better than he imagined. Also, I now anticipate spending more on food than fiber that day, but such is life with a human garbage disposal.

Are you going to Rhinebeck?

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Tail of Two Kitties*

two kitties
I don't doubt that either one is unaware of the other. In fact, recent cat news is Chico left the dining room and kitchen this week and joined us in the bedroom. Consensus is he's seeking snuggles what with the cooler overnight temperatures.

Not much else to report in Sparks-a-lot Land. I'm knitting, spinning, and enjoying as much time outside as I can!

*awful, awful, awful, but it begged to be written.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Speed bump

Dear Carol,

I really tried to spin last night in an effort to finish up the first shipment, clearing off the third bobbin (with some difficult since I don't have a kate for the Jensen and my Fricke kate doesn't work with the Jensen bobbins - OF COURSE):

spunky spun
Uncounted poof of a skein that came already spun on the bobbin thanks to Ms. Boogie.

I knew if I could get started on bobbin #3 last night, I'd be in good shape for the luscious yarn you're threatening promising for this next shipment. I fixed myself a tall, ice cold glass of water, lined up a ration of Swedish fish, and got my spinning outfit on (pajamas. DUH.). Just as I was ready to finally sit and spin for a couple of hours, I found myself facing an obstacle:

spinning obstacle
Miss Penelope is pooped out after sleeping and eating all day.

Now, I know what you might be thinking - why didn't I just move the wheel and spin from a different seat? Well.... I didn't think of that option until just now. So, instead, I booted the sleeping cat off of the couch and finished the second bobbin before starting the third:

two bobbins full of BBF
Two down, at least one to go!

Anyway, I promise to work hard and get this all spun up so that I can be ready and waiting for the next squishy package.

Spinningly yours,

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Blood, sweat, and gears

Ladies and gentlemen, I am back in the saddle!

It's been since December '07 since I've ridden my bike outside (the trainer counts, but then again it doesn't since I can't seem to force myself to use the trainer no matter how many carrots I dangle in front of me). Today, to celebrate and break in Mike's new bike, we took a quick ride on West River Drive. And I made it! I'm sweaty, there's grease on my shirt and on my leg (had to lube the chain, etc), and I've no doubt that I'll feel stiff tonight and tomorrow. But, shit, I'm back on the bike and that feels so freakin' wonderful!

I'm going to medicate, ice, and monitor my knee(s), but our plan is to take a couple of more rides over the next few weekends and then, by September, get back into bike-commuting 3-4 days a week.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Birthdays and everydays: a photo post

drum carding
Mike bought me a drum carder for my birthday.

laura spins
Homegirl learns how to spindle spin.

voted most likely to succeed
Her rubbery street ears are now soft and silky.

bobbin fiber
On the left, STR silk/merino in "Loch Ness"; on the left Spunky Eclectic's FOTM for June, "Flowering Weeds"

bobbin str fotm
Pairing the two together - a perfect match.

hank o 572
572 yards, dunked, thwacked, and abused. More pictures if you click over to Flickr. I finished plying the rest of the 3 oz of "Flowering Weeds" and "Loch Ness" and eked out another 150 yards. Total yardage - 722. That's some mighty fine spinning I done did!!!

Friday, July 25, 2008


I'm in the middle of plying up yards and yards and yards of some fiber and can't help but sit back and watch as the two strands ply together. The yarn itself is coming out just as I suspected, yet, it's coming out better. I have pictures trapped on my camera that I might get to tonight or tomorrow morning (fingers crossed).

Other news/updates:

* Miss Penelope has fully adjusted to the pampered life and Mr. Chico has stopped pooping on the kitchen floor. He still won't spend much time out of the kitchen, but he is creeping to the basement as necessary. So, that's progress.

* I'm getting my motorcycle license at some future point. I tried to convince Mike to fix up the Honda and let it be mine, but he is on the verge of hating that bike (see all previous mentions of the damn thing). I say it's a good bike, even if it does occasionally have hissy fits. Anyway, the bottom line is I don't fit on the '73 we have, but I do fit the '76 the Mighty Swede has. Guess I'll just have to wait until he's ready to sell it. Or, grow 2 inches.

* We're moving along with the house - the patches have been painted, the wall's repaired (ish), the gate's being made (new tools!). We still have to rewire the study and the kitchen, relocate the kitchen sink, and install a ceiling in the dining room. But, we're making progress, people! That's excellent.

* The Ghia's still sitting untouched since last year. Every weekend, I think about rolling her out and making a list of what we need to fix her. Sadly, I think we need one small thing and we just haven't gotten motivated enough to have that one small thing shipped from California. I really think I need to figure out if that's it, order what's needed, then schedule a week off from work to get her running, registered and inspected.

* My grandmother has been in and out of surgery and is currently recuperating in a nursing home. We're not clear on whether or not she will be released and allowed to go home or if she's going to require 24/7 care from now on. She's in mostly good spirits and I'm planning on visiting her Tuesday night (I've got the Swede's Soob while he and Homegirl are out of town).

Tonight's plan: gazpacho, Portuguese bean salad, sangria, and crafting - all with some of my closest friends. I cannot wait!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nobody puts Baby in the corner

By now, most of you know Bob, the overgrown fern that we inherited when some friends of ours blew this two-light town and headed west. At the end of last summer, we made the mistake of splitting Bob into 4 (or was it 6?) plants. Don't get me wrong, Bob was due for some aggressive changes, but I think we would have been better off if we'd waited until April to split him. Bob and the gang of Boblings has been looking pretty sad.

what about bob

I'm hoping that'll all change, though, since we recently moved Bob and the gang out to the front porch (I'd love to have him in the back yard but we're still waiting on the masons to finish fixing our fucking wall). Life in the back yard has typically been very, very good to Bob (ignore the wine in the foreground and focus, instead, on those voluptuous fronds).

So far, Bob's been pretty content sittin' on the porch, which is good because I kinda needed his old corner for something new:

My creation

Just like all the good things in life, I wasn't exactly looking for a Jensen spinning wheel (a Matchless, maybe)... it just sorta found me. And, I couldn't be happier! Most nights, I come home from work and while Mike works at the dining room table (60+ hour weeks are starting to wear him out), I spin a few ounces. While I'm spinning a fairly consistent and thin single now, I'm saving up to buy the high-speed kit to further improve my lace-spinning skills. Some people try to get more miles to gallon; I want more yards to the ounce.

In other spinning news, my spindle collection has exploded in the last few months. When I visited Amy and her shop back in May, I bought a couple. Then, just a few weeks ago (as in, when I picked up the wheel), I bought another spindle. Last night, I taught my neighbor to spin on a drop spindle, effectively reducing my spindle collection by one. And while 7 or 8 spindles isn't much, I have in mind at least that many for purchase. And let's not talk about the 3rd wheel (it has been found and it might just come to my house to live for free)...

In completely unrelated crafting news, I cut off all my hair. I'm sporty a sassy, fresh 'do and I can't tell you how much cutting off 10" of hair has done to improve my attitude! Besides needing the style change, though, my hair was getting hard to handle (tangles!) and dried out (tangles!) and was just generally becoming a pain in the ass (TANGLES!!!). I've yet to get a good picture of my sassy self, and ETA - apparently I don't know how to make Flickr cooperate right now...

Happy 4th to my fellow Americans! We'll be spending part of the holiday weekend cleaning the basement and the other part of the weekend celebrating my birthday. It's good to be an almost firecracker baby!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Customer Service, #1!

Years ago, I cut my customer service teeth spending summers working for Home Depot. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I applied for the job other than I would be working in the nursery and making the most money of my life. Prior to my job at the Depot, I would often declare that I hated people and never wanted to work with or talk to or deal with people - it was my excuse for not being a bank teller or a grocery store cashier or anything remotely social. For whatever reason, though, I applied at Home Depot and my life actually changed. I know, that sounds so dramatic and so propaganda-y. But it's true!

Before my Home Depot days, I never gave customer service a second thought. And, even when I was actually working at the Depot, I don't know that I fully appreciated customer service from the other side. Sure, I earned merit badges for outstanding service and co-workers throughout the store knew who I was, the lowly seasonal employee that was outstanding in outdoor garden. My department dubbed me the Garden Angel after one particularly satisfied customer wrote the store manager and described me as such. And while most mornings, I dreaded going to work (5am, with forecasts for 95+ degrees, and everyone and their brother guaranteed to come to the store that day and buy buy buy), I did my job and I did it with pride.

I think a large part of the reason I'm now in public service is because of my time at Home Depot - for better or worse, I discovered that I excelled at helping people and that their satisfaction was the ultimate measure of my success. I strive for the same today, though my customers are a much more varied bunch. And, I expect outstanding service wherever I go - I feel like I can truly demand it given that I'm a leader in customer service myself.

So what's this all leading to, anyway? Well, a fiber-y customer service story!

Rhinebeck 'o7 found me searching for a pair of hand-carders. I have to confess, I did very little price research and instead focused on what brand I thought I wanted. A number of bloggers had written about Ashford carders, so I figured that was the way to go. With minimal searching, I found a pair of hand-carders at Fiber Kingdom's booth (they were in the Building 22, the white and green barn sorta in the middle of it all). The salesperson told me I was getting a good deal on last year's model and that I was paying last year's price. Satisfied, I forked over my $65 and bagged the set.

rhine fiber kingdom carders

I wandered the festival grounds once more and where I'd previously not been able to find carders there suddenly seemed to be hand carders everywhere. Curious about the price difference (I mean, if I was paying last year's price, then surely this year's price is a doozy!), I started picking up random Ashford hand cards. And, I quickly discovered that most other places were pricing their sets $10-15 less than I paid for my deal. By the time I finished my last go-around, I knew I'd paid way more than I should have. I convinced myself, though, that it was okay (partially because time had run out and the girls I was traveling with were ready to head home), stuffed them in the few spare centimeters that remained in Jody's trunk, and rode home on a fiber high.

Later, as I was photographing the Rhinebeck haul, I realized the carders I'd bought were in less-than-new condition. Under the price tag, the wood was a different color, the effect of being covered from the damage of sun, dust, and hands. There was also some white paint splatter on the cards. Knowing that I'd already paid a lot for the set, I was fired up enough to compose an email to Fiber Kingdom. I fired it off and saved it to my drafts, reread it the next day, made it more civil, took a deep breath, and hit send. The worst that could happen, I believed, was one of two things - my message could go ignored, or the response would be a curt "too bad".

I waited for a response and a few days went by with nothing. Knowing that most of the known world does not have nearly the same email obsession that I have (my cell phone is now email capable and oh dear god, how did I live before this?), I vowed to wait at least 2 weeks before giving up or trying again. That time passed and I got no response. Happy enough (but not satisfied) with the purchase, I proceeded to blend some of the small batches of different fibers I'd purchased at Rhinebeck - bamboo, rayon, and merino:

custom blend bambraymohair

By Christmas, I'd partly forgotten and mostly given up that I'd ever get a response from Fiber Kingdom. I told myself that the pricing discrepancy (I later found the same hand carders for as low as $42.50 new online) was forgivable, that I'd done my part to support a small business, and that maybe next time, I'd be a little more selective. And then I promptly stopped carding, bitter about the whole thing because I thought I was a better shopper than that...

Fast forward to April, when out of the blue, I get an email from Sylvia, proprietress of Fiber Kingdom. For whatever happy reason, my original message had been overlooked. Sylvia, having discovered and read my message, was prepared to exchange the over-priced, stained carders I'd bought with a pair of Louet fine hand carders. She wrote that she wasn't sure how the set I bought ended up at the booth, but that they weren't supposed to be there and she wanted to make it right. After much back-and-forth on email, as well as along the Northeast coast (I went to Massachusetts and Maine for almost a week), I arrived home late last night to my brand new Louet fine hand cards. I was so ecstatic that I nearly forwent sleep for fiber blending...

You'd think the customer service gone right story would end there, but it doesn't. Inside the package, Sylvia had enclosed a check to cover the shipping for the set I'd returned! That's the extra step that restores my faith in Fiber Kingdom, completely and totally. I mean, as soon as I saw the Louet package on my dining room table last night, I was prepared to blog about the wonderful turn of events. Finding the unexpected shipping refund was, well, unexpectedly wonderful. Sylvia and the bunnies at Fiber Kingdom can count me, finally, as a wholly satisfied customer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

13 weeks later...

... and we are officially a two-cat household.

penelope dining room

It's hard to get a good picture of Penelope because she's always moving. Also, because she's so tiny and light-footed, it's hard to know where she is until she's right up on you. That's not a problem for Mike or me, but it is a huge problem (still) for Chico... So, we put a pretty belled collar on Miss P. Now, every time the bell tinkles, Chico slinks away to hide.

Aside from the fact that the Little Girl wants to eat eat eat all the time, the only other problem we've experienced is, well, not really a problem so much as it is just typical cat behavior:

penelope laptop

It's been tough dealing with two cats, and we're still not 100% integrated - Chico continues to be thoroughly miffed that he has an intruder in his house. That intruder? She spent last night sleeping in-between us all night. For the most part, though, the fighting and attacking have stopped (also, the random "I'm scared shitless" literally has stopped. THAT'S good...). Penny recognizes Chico as top cat and the worst confrontations now involve him hissing at her and her tucking her tail down and backing away.

This weekend, we'll reclaim the study - that's where we've had Penelope set up the last few months. And once we've got the work on our bedroom completed (another few days!!!), we can make plans to update the electrical in the study. Progress, people! We have progress!!!