Have Ewe Any Wool?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thank You Secret Pal!

Wahoo! Yesterday, I received my first Secret Pal package for Secret Pal 14. It was a wonderful package!

My Secret Pal did a fabulous job putting together the perfect package for me. I love everything! There are some Jalapeno sticks (I LOVE spicy food!!!); a planner pad (something I definitely need!); and a notebook where I can put all kinds of stuff about where I live (favorite/nearby stores, restaurants, etc. - I can create a personalized directory of my little corner of the world!) She also included a copy of a pattern that I've been wanting to make - "Eastlake" by Norah Gaughan. She had scoped out my queue on Ravelry....what a sneaky girl!!!! (I've already added it to folder of "Projects-in-Waiting", so it "missed" the photo-op!)

Also included were some very cute "Smoochers" coasters - very cute! There was also a photo mousepad - decorated with sheep AND a very useful 2010 calendar!

The best part of the package is the colorful bit you see in the center of the photo. My pal hand painted some Corriedale roving for me in absolutely stunning colors! Wow! She definitely did her research! The first bundle of roving is in a colorway called "Antique Rose" - a gorgeous dusty pink rose color with golden brown. The second bundle is in a colorway she called "Bejeweled". It's a fabulous blend of many purples (deep blueish-purple all the way to lavender) as well as some mauves, rose, and a hint of red. The colors are fabulous - I can't wait to spin these fibers up!!!

Thank you so much! I feel totally spoiled!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Weekend with Wendy....

Last weekend, I spent an incredible few days on Solomons Island in the company of several wonderful fellow knitters and the very knowledgeable and entertaining Wendy (on left with me). She has authored two fabulous books - "Wendy Knits" and "Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits".

Many thanks to our hostess, Marie(on right with Wendy), who provided the lovely location and the fabulous food for the weekend.

The workshops were held in Marie's beautiful Victorian home that overlooks the Cheasapeake. There are spectacular views from the very comfortable front porch - it's hard not to linger there and just stare out at the water. It's so peaceful...you feel like you're in another world.

Marie provided a fabulous spread of food for breakfasts and lunches. We went out for seafood on Saturday night at the the Pier Restaurant. The entire day had been overcast and became a bit stormy in the mid-afternoon. The evening graced us with heavily overcast skies as well. The clouds did manage to part for literally a minute or two - just long enough for us to get a glimpse of what a full sunset would look like.

Now, on to the knitting....

Wendy laid out samples of all the socks contained in her book. Wow! The socks were so much more beautiful in person! Imagine all these lovelies resting in your sock drawer...waiting patiently to adorn your feet. A sock drawer full of gorgeous hand knit socks...that must be the definition of heaven!

The Sandvik Faroese Shawl that Wendy has been working on was finished just prior to our weekend. All of us in attendance at the workshops got to "see it first"! Awesome - the debut of Wendy's latest creation! Vicki, one of the girls in our group, modeled it and is featured on the pattern. It's a gorgeous shawl...and a must knit! Check it out on Wendy's blog - Wendy Knits - and look at the August 26 post. (Vicki has been trying to convince her to publish a shawl book. We've all got our fingers crossed, but so far, Wendy has declined.)

The weekend included three sets of classes all focused on the creation of toe up socks. There are so many ways to cast on and do the heel. It was wonderful to try some of them out and compare both the techniques involved as well as the resulting appearance. After all, part of the appeal for specific techniques is the resultant appearance and the ease with which the garment or sock is constructed!

First, we explored the "toes". We learned "Judy's Magic Cast On" as well as the "Easy Toe" which uses a provisional cast on. I liked the "Judy's Magic Cast On" the best...and I think this may help me "over the hump" and convince me to try my hand at toe up socks. (I'm a die hard top-down sock knitter...at least for the moment!)

Next, we moved on to the heels. We all groaned at the thoughts of picking up the wraps and turns of the short row heel, so we skipped that one. Instead, we concentrated on the gusseted heel and the slipped stitch heel. I really like the gusseted heel - MUCH easier than the short row heel...and it has a much nicer appearance!

Lastly, we spent Sunday learning about sock design. We had a preview of the socks that will be in Wendy's next book. There were no socks, but she had the sample swatches of the designs that were crafted into her next series of socks. We tried our hand at designing a sock as well. We completed (or nearly completed) the sample swatch. The next step is to take the swatch and craft it into a sock.

I learned so much and have been so inspired - both by Wendy and my fellow knitters! Wendy was an absolute delight to chat with and has a killer sense of humor. We laughed so much this weekend that our cheeks hurt! We hated for the weekend to end.

I must confess, I didn't ONLY knit this weekend. I did manage to work in some spinning as well - primarily in the evenings and early mornings. It's so much easier to chat with people while spinning - I have to concentrate too much when I'm knitting and tend to miss out on much of the converstations! Early morning spinning allowed me to catch a nice view of the water shortly after sunrise. I reveled in the quiet morning and was blessed with a gorgeous view.

The evening spinning was done in a room next to the dining room. It has a fireplace and a lovely pressed tin ceiling. Here, you can see how the flue of the fireplace flowed into the ceiling. Such an elegant design! I just love the ornate ceilings that were the standard in Victorian homes.

I spun up some lovely natural, purpley-pink, and green roving that I'd received from my Ravelry Birthday Swap partner. I believe she said it was BFL. I decided to make a two ply skein as the colors would blend nicely without real obvious "barber poling". It's LOVELY! The resultant yarn is so soft - I think I'll make myself an elegant neck scarf for the winter - perhaps a lacy design?

Sadly, the weekend had to come to an end. BUT....we managed to delay the inevitable end just a bit by stopping at "Crazy for Ewe" - a lovely yarn shop in Leonardtown, MD. I love the painted exterior of the shop! Ellen, the owner, graciously opened the store for us on Sunday...her day off. I think we made it well worth her while - you know how knitters are in yarn shops! I managed to pick up some angora/merino on sale and a treasure trove of Louisa Harding pattern books - a wonderful find.

After the long drive home, it was back to the rat race. The weekend was over. I still have my memories...and now, an autographed copy of Wendy's book. I wish the weekend could have lasted forever. Sigh...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Off to Prison.....

Saturday, I spent a fabulous day hitting a few yarn shops as well as heading off to "Prison". Part of the former Lorton Prison has been converted in an arts center - the WorkhouseArts Center. The workhouses have become artist studios that house woodworking, fiber arts, ceramics, glass work, painting, pastels....you name it!

There are still a couple of guard towers that remain on the grounds reminding you that this once was a prison. The rear of the workhouses look a bit rustic, but once you walk to the courtyard, you're met will a lovely view of the brick workhouses connected by arched walkways. One workhouse even artwork decorating it's exterior. This is an excellent example of "recycling/re-purposing" - converting a prison into art studios!

We visited all the studios that were open. This is still a work in progress, and more studios are opening all the time. The best time to visit is the 2nd Saturday of the month. At that time, all the existing studios are open and they have somewhat of a mini festival. This September will mark their first anniversary, so they're planning even more special events to celebrate that as well.

Mia and I started our tour with the fiber arts studio - surprise, surprise! There are 10 artists that share this space and the room is just overflowing with inspiration. On Saturday, there was only one artist working in the studio, but she graciously allowed us to photograph her and her inspirational surroundings.

I would love to meet Luann Sievers, the weaver that's working on this piece! It's a phenomenal creation that combines weaving and cross-stitch. The artist weaves a row and then adds cross-stitching to it. It must take forever! It's double the work, but what a lovely result! The photo on the left shows the work in progress. On the right is a photo of one of her finished pieces - it's absolutely stunning! (Be sure to double click on the photos for a closer look - you'll be amazed!)

There were so many fascinating items in this room and in the halls it was nearly overwhelming. My fingers are just tingling from all the inspiration!

I fell in love with this felted bag - the magenta and teal look wonderful together! (I'm still thinking about it, but so far, have resisted the urge to buy it!)

Check out this display of fiber heaven - handwoven, hand painted, and hand knit - all providing a feast for the eyes. I fell in love with the felted flowers I found on a nearby table and was intrigued by the silk-paper bowl. Everywhere I looked there was a fascinating explosion of color!

The artist manning the register for this workhouse was busily hooking a Persian style rug. It was fascinating to watch! She hooked a short single row of one color - this prevented the twisting and warping of the cloth. She then had to "snug up" each of the loops. She then cut the loops to expose the open edges. Finally, she trimmed the ends to even them out. One tip she gave us was that you really need to cut the loops as you go...otherwise, if you cut them when you're done for the day, they'll tend to retain the curve from when they were in a loop. Wow....what a tedious process! I have renewed respect for those that craft handmade rugs!

I did manage to pick up a t-shirt, tote bag, and travel mug as souvenirs....as well as some lovely hand crafted items. My first purchase was some lovely hand spun yarn in a gorgeous deep purple....yum! The depth of color in this yarn is just fabulous! Thisyarn was hand spun by Luann Sievers - double click on the photo for a close up view of the stunning color. The shading really gives the yarn depth.

I purchased a lovely watercolor "sheep-scape" that shows a view the artist had of a sheep farm in Loudoun County. The artist, Catherine Hillis , also travels around the area teaching workshops and classes. She had some lovely greeting cards with prints of some of her other works - of course, I "needed" to purchase a few of those as well! The sheep and the building were local views...the flowers in the mason jars were inspired by her mother. I love them because I have a couple of the antique blue jars. The cards will not be used for correspondence, but will instead be framed and used for decorating my home.

Another artist, Grace Kettell, creates the most awesome flower paintings using pastels.....They're just gorgeous! I picked up a set of her cards as well....they too are too beautiful to use for letters and will instead grace the walls of my home. I really want to find a triple frame for these....I want to keep all three of these together.

My final artist purchase was a glass votive holder. It reminds me of flowers and flower petals. Unfortunately, I didn't get to speak with the artist that designed this as she wasn't there on Saturday.

This is a fabulous place to visit and it has something for everyone! Prepare to be inspired...or just come for the fabulous shopping.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sundays are for Knitting!

Several of us got together at Panera in the early afternoon on Sunday to knit - it's been a while since we'd all gotten together, so this impromptu get-together was just what we needed. Unfortunately, I only had a couple of hours to knit as I was going to Wolf Trap to hear Bonnie Raitt. (The concert was fabulous! Taj Mahal played as well - gotta love those blues!)

Gretchen had a gorgeous shawl to show off! It's completed, but not yet blocked - it's the "Fountain Pen Shawl". I just love the pattern and have added it to my ever growing list of "must knits"! Gretchen, Lisa, and I all LOVE fountain pens.....and there's even an annual fountain pen expo that we can go go. (It was last weekend, so I missed it this year, but I'm definitely planning to get next year.)

I'm continuing to work on my "Merging Colors Adagio Shawl" by Candace Eisner Strick. It starts with deep purple-blue and transitions gracefully to a pink ruffle. It's a lovely pattern. I purchased the kit at Nature's Yarns. It comes in other colorways as well, so you can select one with your favorite color combination!

And now for some natural beauty....

I managed to get a couple of shots of the elusive fox as I was walking Sandy. This guy usually darts off to the woods long before I can get the camera out. Today, he seemed ready and willing to pose.

And I FINALLY caught a shot of a Swallowtail! These lovely creatures would always pose so beautifully when I didn't have my camera with me. Of course, whenever I DID have my camera, there was not a Swallowtail in site!