Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Doggie yarn

I needed a break so I sat down at the spinning wheel the other day with a bag of fluff I'd combed from Ralphie, the English Shepherd. At the time, his sheddings were mostly the soft, fine white undercoat, though there were enough of the longer buff guard hairs mixed into give the yarn an interesting variagation. The yarn on the spindle itself is from Ralphie. The fluff to the left is from Bebe, who's a Rough Collie & English Shepherd cross. I was comparing the color tones and trying to decide whether to include her combings in the Ralphie yarn.

It took about an hour to spin what's on the spindle, and that's much longer than it would take me to spin that much from sheep's wool. Dog hair handles differently, though, and thus I had to learn the subtleties. It's not so slick as the Angora from my rabbits, but enough so that I found some of the finer techniques I learned on Angora worked well on Ralphie's 'wool'. The yarn on the spindle has a very tight twist, much too tight for knitting as singles. I plan to ply it with a strand of sheep's wool singles, and that process will absorb much of the twist to leave a yarn that I hope is just right.

Usually I prefer a finer singles so the end result with two or three strands plied together isn't too bulky. This time, that wasn't happening. Ralphie's yarn is about worsted weight thus far, and has the typical beginner bumps and thick-and-thin spots. That's the learning curve at play, but that's okay. It'll definitely have that handspun look, even after plying with the smoother strand of sheep's wool. I expect the end result will be a bulky yarn that's stronger and holds its shape well. It should knit up quickly in a simple scarf pattern.

The project has earned me eye rolls from the dh and a couple of my children, including the daughter who last year requested that scarf made from Ralphie's combings. They called me a goober. Oh well. I can live with that. And I don't have to share my scarf. So there!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Laura's 7 Random Facts

1. My three kids are so close in age that I had 3 in diapers at once, 3 in high school, and now all 3 are in college.

2. Like Cindi, I’ve had goats in the house. I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up on a goat dairy, but we’ve had our own small herd for ten years now. At any given time, I might have lambs, goat kids, a sick rabbit, injured duck, or a box of just-hatched chicks. Once I even kept a wounded wild turkey hen in the bathroom overnight. The current indoor tally is three housecats and 68 eggs in the incubator.

3. My favorite color is green.

4. My favorite summer is the one I spent traveling with both my daughters, then teenagers, in an RV. We hit several western states, crossed Canada, toured Alaska, and had many adventures, some of which we still haven't shared with the rest of the family. (The guys say they don't want to know, but I know they really do.)

5. I used to peel a lemon and eat it for for lunch every day in the eighth grade. It began as a prank, and after a few days I started to like them a lot. Before long, it became clear I’d started a trend.

6. My first blue ribbon win was for a lined crochet purse entered in the county fair. I was 11, and my grandmother had to convince the judge that I really had made it all by myself. That part took 2 minutes. It took another two hours to pry Grandma away from her new-found friend.

7. My most embarrassing moment occurred on a windy day in downtown Kansas City, and it involved a full circle skirt. Remember those? A gust of wind caught me surprise as I was getting out of the car, and it blew my skirt high and wild, exposing my less-than-best undies to a group of businessmen on a smoking break, a salesman in the next car, the window-washers (also on break not ten feet away) and whoever happened to be looking out the window of the 12-story mirrored glass building behind me. The next day, I made it happen to the heroine in the book I was writing.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day!

That's my Darling Daughter playing "Taps" for the memorial ceremony. I always cry, not just because it's D.D. (although that makes me cry harder) but because it's such a moving moment. The Master of Ceremonies reads the name of every serviceman from Glen Ridge who died in a war and then the lone trumpet rings out with the haunting melody of farewell.

Okay, I need to go find another Kleenex.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Abigail's Lace (for all of us 1776 fans!)

It took me awhile to find all the photos but my perseverence (read: stubbornness) paid off! Actually at one point I had found everything but the photo of Abigail's lace and was feeling pretty despondent when I had the sudden urge to look in one of the soup tureens in the dining room. Why did I look in the soup tureen? Beats hell out of me but I did and guess what? Yep. The photo was in there. (Along with one of the hot air balloon that landed in front of my parents' condo years ago.)

Without further ado, I bring you my beloved Adams Chronicles. (For non-US readers: John Adams was the second president of the United States. Abigail was his beloved wife. The letters exchanged during the course of their marriage are an amazing window into the 18th century, into their passion for freedom, into a partnership based on love and respect and shared goals. Abigail wasn't just his lover and wife, she was his intellectual partner--something very rare in the late 18th century.)

Abigail's lace:

When I snapped this photo I had no idea that the guide would actually let me hold this beautiful piece of history in my own hands. When she did, I was crying too hard to take a photo of anything but tears!I wish I'd asked more questions . . . and remembered the answers to those I did ask. It was such an emotional experience that the sense of wonder and connection dwarfed everything else.

These are photos of John's desk and chair. If you look closely, you can see his spectacles. Again, if I remember correctly, I believe he died on July 4, 1826 while sitting in that wing chair. His last words (I'm paraphrasing) were, "Jefferson still survives." In truth, Jefferson died that same day.

John's library and the dresser that held the lace, followed by a photo that speaks for itself.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Seven facts about Cindi

This seven random facts challenge is fascinating. And it’s made me dig deep to find things about myself that are half as interesting as everyone else, but I’m game to try:
1. I grew up on a goat dairy. Nancy had horses wandering into her kitchen, we had goats who learned to open the door and trot down the hall to my bedroom, searching for someone to play with.
2. Though I always wanted to be a writer, at one time I also thought about becoming a professional singer. A friend of my family’s offered to pay for me to record a demo tape and to put me in touch with some professional music promoters in Austin, where I lived at the time. It was tempting, but I decided I’d prefer to write. I’ve never regretted the decision.
3. I met my husband on a blind date and we were engaged six weeks later.
4. I was once the only female employee of a travel agency where the four other employees were gay men.
5. I never belonged to the SCA, but I had a lot of friends who did. Every year during the Renaissance Festival, my husband and I attended in costume.
6. I used to sew a lot and made my own wedding dress, and the wedding dress of my brother’s first wife. (Sadly, I think it took longer to make the dress than the wedding lasted.)
7. I have two tattoos and am contemplating getting another one soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

These are about as random as they come

I’m having the best time reading everyone else’s Seven Random Facts and now that I’ve been tagged (darn you, Barbara!), I guess I have to come up with a list too.

I won’t tell you that I love the New Jersey Devils, that entrelac is my favorite stitch, and that I write romance novels because you’ve already read those things on this blog.

Instead I’ll confess that:

1. I’m a Lady of the Order of the Golden Horseshoe, having been knighted by the governor of West Virginia back in eighth grade when I got the highest score in my county on a test of state history. I still have my pin. Go ahead, ask me anything!

2. My senior thesis in college was a book of original poetry. While all my friends were slaving away in the library over 80-page research papers, I was sitting under a tree with my yellow legal pad propped on my knees writing about magnolias.

3. Barbara likes Liam; I like Pierce (BTW, there’s a movie with both of them in it!). Barbara likes John Adams; I like Thomas Jefferson. I also know all the lyrics from the musical 1776 because that’s my favorite period of U.S. history (and West Virginia was just an unpopular part of Virginia back then).

4. I’m a trekkie, original cast only. Captain Kirk was underpaid.

5. As a child I had a pony named Papoose who lived in a field behind our house during the summer. We didn’t have a barn so during really bad thunderstorms, we’d bring him into our attached garage. One night he got lonesome and walked right into our kitchen. I thought it was cool but my mother wasn’t so happy.

6. I went to an all-girls’ boarding school from 9th through 12th grade and loved it.

7. In my teenaged years, I was a Scottish country dancer and once did an outdoor public performance wearing the most gorgeous costume borrowed from a professional production of Brigadoon. If only the guys had looked more like the heroes in my favorite historical romance novels, I’d probably still be dancing today.

(I’ll get back to you on tagging other folks. I have to decide who will enjoy the game and who might stick pins in a voodoo doll shaped like me.)

I’m looking forward to reading more of YOUR fact lists!

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Seven Random Things About Me

I've been tagged! It's my first time (she says, blushing) and I'm actually quite excited. Steel City Knitter wants to know Seven Random Things about me and while none of the seven things are earthshaking, I'll tell you anyway.

And consider yourselves tagged too. Romancing The Yarners can blog 'em right here. The rest of you can let us know where to find your answers in the comments section.

In keeping with the rules stated on Steel City Knitter's blog, I am officially tagging Nancy, Dallas, Fran, Cindi, Jamie, Elizabeth, and LauraP who (I hope) will share 7 random facts about themselves here in the blog. SCK says, "Those tagged need to write in their blogs the 7 facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag 7 others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and to read your blog."

So here we go:

1. I am probably the only English/Swedish/Romanian/Chippewa Indian you'll ever meet.

2. I thought the whole world cast on the way I did until I saw somebody do the long tail in 2003 and almost fainted dead away from the shock. Turns out there's a whole world of cast on methods out there and nobody (and I mean nobody) had ever used anything even remotely like my weird way.

3. In the spring of 1986 I was walking from the parking lot to the supermarket in Copiague on Long Island when I heard the sound of bagpipes. I was cresting a little grassy hill. I was all alone. I stopped and I swear to you a man in a kilt seemed to appear from nowhere. I literally couldn't move from the spot. Still playing, he marched right past, turned around and winked, then continued on past King Kullen like there was nothing unusual about it.

4. I love John Adams, second president of the United States. I'd probably have been a John Adams groupie if I'd lived in the 18th century. (Those pesky Alien & Sedition Acts? Pish tosh. A mere lapse in judgment.)

5. I am deeply moved by needlework. I can't explain it but there's a strong emotional connection for me. A few years ago Goldisox and I visited John and Abigail Adams's home in Braintree and I was so overcome with emotion over being in their home that the guide ushered us into another room and unlocked a dresser drawer. I didn't know what to expect. She reached in and reverently withdrew Abigail's lace wedding veil. She laid it in my arms and I started to cry. I should find the photo and post it. I swear to you I felt like I had somehow connected with Abigail through that beautiful length of lacework.

6. My mother's father was engaged to my father's mother when I was a baby. They broke up when Grandma had the engagement ring appraised. She would have been Grandpa's fifth wife. He would have been her third husband.

7. My grandfather Fuller was born in Halifax Nova Scotia. His governess was Anna Leonowens of The King & I fame. She worked for the family after her time in Siam. The family gave her this brooch when she left their employ and she willed it back to my grandfather, with affection, upon her death.

Friday, May 18, 2007

We Have Another Winner!

I am absolutely delighted to announce that Maureen in New York is the winner of the 27 skeins of Noro gorgeousness.

Thanks to all of you who visit us regularly and take time to enter our contests. We're coming up on our first anniversary in July and promise bigger and better things to come.

(Maybe even some more frequent posts from yours truly who has truly been a lazy slug the last few weeks . . . )

Hooray for Maureen!

Goin' to Kansas City (shameless self-promo)

To the first-ever Kansas City Literary Festival, that is. It's on Saturday, May 19, from 10-6. The location is the world-famous Country Club Plaza.

Interesting stat: Kansas City is the 14th most literary city in the nation. Wow! I was born and raised there and only live a ways east of there now, and I didn't know that.

Anyway, Delphi Books will be at Booth 408 on Nichols Road (in front of Brooks Brothers) if you and/or anyone you know in the area would like to come by and say "hi."

Wish me luck, and I'll see you next week!


P.S. We're offering a great one-day special on Delphi Books: 1 book/$10, 2/$15, and 3/$20.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The MIL Sweater

I'm making progress on the MIL sweater. Most of the exciting parts (the pocket) are behind me so it's now endless rows of stockinette stitch(back and sleeves) until I have to add the collar and sew things together. Here's the front with the pocket. I'm going to find three really cool buttons to decorate it since that's a lot of black (her request for the color--sigh). I've started on the back but there's not much of that to show and it's not much to look at anyway. One good thing: this is a perfect watch-Stanley-Cup-playoffs-on-television pattern since it's so mindless.

Here's the original sweater she asked me to copy. I have to admit that I got my LYS Lady to come up with the pattern. I wasn't gutsy enough to attempt that on my own.

I hope to have the whole project finished by my MIL's birthday in September at which point the weather will be more appropriate for the sweater anyway. I'm wondering though how much I'm going to want to work with heavy wool yarn all summer long. What's your experience with that? Do you switch to lighter projects when the weather gets warmer?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

CONTEST! 27 skeins of Noro Gorgeousness

To celebrate that 1) the #*@(!@ book is done and 2) I'm no longer under house arrest and 3) there are two new books yet to be written, I'm holding a Very Special Contest. (You know, like those Very Special sitcom episodes where Fonzie Explains Nuclear Disarmament to Chachi.)

NORO Implessions – a wonderful Kid Mohair/Wool/Silk/Nylon blend with Noro’s legendary color sense and unpredictable thick/thin texture. Teals, burnt oranges, purples, blues—you know how breathtaking Mr. Noro’s yarns are and this one is no exception.

I’m offering 27 (if I counted right) skeins of Color #5 (lots A & B). 40 grams per skein, 48 meters (approximately 50 yards.) US#8 needles work well. (So do larger needles. As with everything in life, it all depends on what you’re looking for.)

There’s a story attached to this yarn. (A yarn with a yarn?) When I eased back into knitting at the end of the summer of 2003, I was shocked/amazed/thrilled/delighted to discover that there had been a revolution when I wasn’t looking. Remember that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps out of her black and white house and into glorious Technicolor Munchkinland? That’s how I felt the first time I saw what was out there, almost drunk on color and texture and possibilities.

I also fell madly in love with thick yarn and big needles. Now we all know that big stitches made with big yarn on big needles really aren’t the most flattering look for just about any woman on the planet. (Especially not women with breasts larger than a double-A cup.) And, let’s be honest again, they’re not particularly flattering to those of us over 50. (Okay, okay. Over 55. Are you satisfied??) But that didn’t stop me from buying the needles and the yarn to make exactly that: a big thick woolly sweater for myself.

Like I said, I should’ve known better. Actually I did know better. The months passed . . . and then the years . . . and the gorgeous Noro yarn languished in my closet waiting to discover its destiny.

Well, almost four years have gone by. The yarn has been discontinued. It’s also thoroughly marinated. And me? Well, I’ve finally faced up to reality: I’m never going to knit a sweater with this yarn. I’m never going to knit a shawl with it. Or fifteen scarves. Or a whole lot of really bad hats.

But I’ll bet you can think of something wonderful to do with it. So, because no good yarn should go unknitted, I’m offering 27 skeins of NORO Implession to one lucky winner who will be selected by our handy-dandy Random Number Generator on Friday May 18th. Entering is easy: send me an email at with NORO in the subject header and, while you’re at it, I’d love it if you left a comment here on the website with some of your best ideas for this beautiful, beautiful stuff.

Good Luck!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

2 Laptops, 1 Book, 2 Sales, Much Frustration, and Some Random Knitting Content

Is it possible to have an entire month of full moons? Or at least full moon behavior? Because I'm here to tell you that it's been a bit of a wild ride since I last posted.

Remember the Blue Screen of Death? The one that tolled the death of poor Inspiron 1000? Well, that was only the first computer disaster to befall me as I struggled toward the end of the Book That Wouldn't Die. I killed an Averatec too. Now I'm used to burying a laptop every spring but two laptops in a three week period is a record even for me. I also killed the television. The same television we bought last spring after I somehow killed the other television. (All I did was push the ON button. Honest.)

By the time I was galloping toward the finish line (a timely Kentucky Derby reference) I was so paranoid about dead computers that I had a removable hard drive in the PCMCIA slot, three thumb drives sticking out of the USB ports, and an external floppy drive in use. I wasn't taking any chances.

I finished it about ten days ago. Then changed it. Then finished it again. Then tinkered with the ending. Then untinkered with the ending. Then added an epilogues. Then ditched the epilogue. Then wrote a new epilogue. Then ditched that one too. Lather rinse repeat. Seventy extra pages later I came to the conclusion that the book ended the way it was supposed to end and no epilogue was necessary. Now I wait to see what my editor thinks about that decision . . .

And in the middle of struggling with dead laptops and a book sorely in need of a last chapter, I sold two more books to Berkley. The books will feature Chloe Hobbs, owner of a very special Vermont yarn shop where yarn never tangles, sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge. (It's tentatively called The Sorcerer's Daughter for reasons I'll tell you about soon. )

I did pull out my own (tangled, uneven) knitting last week to celebrate. Remember the grey Step socks I've been working on for two or three years. (Okay, so maybe it's only six months. It just feels like two or three years.) I had two Magic Loops going and was whizzing right along. Finished the leg(s). Finished the heel flap(s). Finished picking up the gusset stitch(es). Ooops. Forgot the turn the heel(s). Bad knitter. Very very bad. And may I be the first to tell you that ripping back Step wasn't any fun at all. I tried to salvage the heel flaps but the slipped stitches kept bobbing and weaving and generally tormenting the needle until I gave up and ripped back their arrogant butts right up to the leg and redid them.

I now officially hate these socks with every fiber of my being and only an irrational desire to have the last laugh over a hunk of knitted fabric keeps me from consigning them to the bottom of a parrot cage.

Oh, and did I tell you I fell off my yarn diet? Last month I bought Rowan Denim. I swatched it and almost swooned from its general wonderfulness. After washing and drying, I remeasured and it lost nothing horizontally but did shrink 25% vertically. But oh how soft! How strokable! How purely luscious it is.

Which, of course, awoke the slumbering Yarn Beast who now wants to ravish and pillage WEBS and Elann and Patternworks and frolic naked in a mountain of Noro . . . any Noro will do.

Speaking of Noro, are you ready for another contest? How about a I Finished the Book and Only Lost 2 Laptops in the Process contest? Sounds good to me. Come back tomorrow and there'll be pictures of some glorious vintage Noro Implessions (10+ skeins) and details.

I'm so glad to be back!

OT: Ginny and I are depressed

There was no joy in Jersey last night: the Devils lost 3-2 and were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Their last game in their own Meadowlands "barn" (the players' term for a hockey rink) was pretty dismal. Ginny and I won't be driving to the swamps anymore because next fall the Devils move to the brand-new Prudential Center in Newark.

The Star-Ledger printed an eloquent photo of Zach Parise slumped on the locker room bench without his jersey but with his skates still laced on. Discarded equipment litters the floor and seat around him. The air of defeat is almost palpable.

Myself, I went home and cleaned all this year's ticket stubs out of the pockets of my (not-so-lucky) Devils jacket, then solemnly hung it at the back of the coat closet until October rolls around.

The great thing about sports is this: there's always next season. My husband and I spent a delightful fifteen minutes this morning discussing which free agents we think the Devils should sign for the fall. I'm already looking forward to the new line-up.

Where there's a team, there's always hope.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Do you knit when you're sick?

I call this "Still-life of my Beside Table". It's a graphic illustration of the flu I've had for the past five days. I'll spare you the gory details but I've been down for the count (and it hasn't helped that the Devils are now down 3 games to 1 against the Ottawa Senators).

One thing that interests me is what's missing: no knitting. I just didn't feel like doing anything that required moving more than my eyeballs (note books and television remote). Yet I so often find knitting therapeutic. What explains my sudden aversion to needles and yarn?

Does anyone here knit when they're sick?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Soft & simple

The yarn - 100 percent acrylic mohair type, Jiffy maybe? I lost the label a very long time ago.
US 10 needles.
Seed stitch.

I began this simple scarf last fall at a monthly meeting for my writers group. I'm not good at sitting still, and I never have been. So I have various no-brainer projects in progress for those times when my brain is engaged but my hands need something to do. Otherwise, my fingers will fidget, tap, twiddle, and otherwise annoy the more controlled and self-contained persons seated near me.

This weekend, my writers group had its annual retreat. That's four workshops, hours of open critiquing, and even more hours of unstructured time during which we mostly talk about writing. That's a lot of idle time for my fingers. So I knitted - lots.

I also had the opportunity to test a theory about how my brain operates. I've suspected for a long time that knitting makes me more thoughtful and controlled. When my hands are busy and a portion of my mind is monitoring the stitches and the pattern, the rest of my brain slows down just enough to be carefully considerate instead of impulsive. I don't pop off at the mouth with the first thought that enters my mind. Instead, I allow myself a deep breath, an instant to switch gears and focus fully on what I'm about to say. Trust me when I say this is a very good thing. The first thought that comes to my mind is often not the best one -- in fact, it sometimes makes no sense at all. (This would be why I'm a writer and not in radio!)

I've always known knitting calmed me. Now I know that knitting helps me focus. I haven't figured out why, but for now it's enough to know that it just does.

Any thoughts?