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Rhinebeck Balls

Who knew sheep had such huge balls? Manly, hairy, and pendulous indeed!

There were more colorful balls all over Rhinebeck, no longer affixed to a sheep. I neglected to take any pictures of them. I was too busy gawking at the current and future-wearable eye-candy.

How to describe Rhinebeck? Well, if you are a fiber enthusiast, the annual pilgrimage to Rhinebeck, New York, home of the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, is akin to a religious event. I mean no slight or disrespect to any faith-based religion that also lends themselves to pilgrimages. The fervor, the awed tones of those who have and haven’t been, always describe this event in reverent tones.

Local hotels and B&Bs are sold out months in advance. Long lost relatives are sought out and camped upon. There is a nearby campground and it is filled to capacity long before this weekend. Busloads of people swarm the Duchess County Fairgrounds and snarl up traffic for the two-day event. Carpools of Ravelry devotees cluster in groups large and small. The French Artichoke food wagon quickly forms a line. (If you haven’t tried, you really should! It is AWESOME!) Smells of fresh popcorn and maple cotton candy saturate the crisp fall air. You should bring an extra bank account just to eat a simple meal and purchase a few yarny, fibery ‘snacks,’ too. Or plastic. Plastic works, too.

Llama snacks

All this low-tech, hand-made, organic wholesomeness took advantage of what technology can do. Everywhere I looked I saw high tech merchandising – iPad apps and QC codes took the place of most cash registers. People whipped out their tablets, Nooks, iPads and iPad minis to show photos, diagrams, charts, and web sites where you could sign up for newsletters. Electric cords snaked everywhere behind the tables.

You’d think that with all this speed-of-light techno wizardry the lines would have been shorter, or moved faster. No such luck. We arrived only 20 minutes after it opened and at the first building we came to there was a line extending outside over 20 feet and growing!

Lovely, silky fiber!Planning what to wear to Rhinebeck is a whole process in itself. Many people knit – crochet – weave – felt up something drop-dead gorgeous (fiber, stitchery, etc) just for this. People refer to the ‘Rhinebeck Sweater’ as an entity in its own right. Bloggers feature the sweater they plan to wear throughout its construction. Absolute strangers will then accost said blogging knitteratis with compliments and sundry other witticisms. There are buttons you can buy that say ‘My Rhinebeck sweater is still in the skeins.’

Some years there are a few patterns that captured the fancy of many people so you would see the same sweater pattern on multiple people, in varied colors and modifications (some knitters – like some chefs – simply cannot execute a sweater recipe exactly as written). This year I saw a lot of cowls, shawls and ponchos. The game was how many patterns could I recognize and name? (Answer: quite lot, actually.)

We left when they closed for the day. My aching body had been upright and moving for 97% of the day (don’t bother checking my math… trust me on this one). Nineteen hours after I left home (in the dark), I returned home (also in the dark). The smile of anticipation I wore at the beginning of the day was now a smile of satisfaction. Totally worth it. You should go.

I'm ready for my close-up, now

It is finished, she sighed.

This project was over three years in the making. Granted, for 2 1/2 of those years it was in time-out, but still! Here is is, modeled by Blue:

I used a plain cotton worsted yarn from The Hub Mills in Lowell. Easy wash and dry fabric that might shrink slightly at first, but not enough to worry about. There was no fancy fair isle color work, or complicated assembly (according to the directions). It was a devil in the details, however.

Clarity in directions is so important, but rarely found. Remember the last time you tried to read a user manual or an assembly instruction? (Ikea seems to manage it well, but they don’t do knitting patterns—others follow their style with humorous instructions for science fiction assemblies) But I digress… )

In real life, people reading patterns are not able to ask questions on things they think are obvious. Why would they, anyway? It’s obvious! Then again, what you think is obvious and what others think is obvious are *so* different! I once worked on a newsletter where the admin was horrified at the finished peice. I agreed. It was awful. The printer substituted fonts, causing text reflow, messy rags, and an almost ransom-publishing look. It was not the file I sent them. The admin continuted her rant. “The pages have wrinkles and creases in the wrong places!” “But what about the text?” I asked. “What? That’s fine. I can read it okay.”

So when I read the instruction for the Tree of Life Afghan, I remembered to read them all the way through for the main portion before beginning, because I know this can alleviate frustration later on. The directions clearly said to take into account that there was a 4-stitch garter edging on the sides of the afghan and that these were not included in the stitch count of the main pattern areas.

So I added them to the left and right of the afghan as I knit it up.

I really should have read the edging instructions along with the body pattern notes.

By the time I got the to the third section (which was a repeat of the first section), it was very obvious that my count was off by 8 stitches too many. No errata is given for this several-years-old and made-hundreds-of-times afghan. Therefore, I must have (oh crap! not again!) made a mistake.

Remember those four stitches I added to the left and right of the afghan? They were supposed to be part of the edging, which is done last. The edging included a leaf and four garter stitches that would go all around the edges of the afghan, not just the left and right of it.

Now, I *could* have frogged the 2/3 already done and start over (I really didn’t like that option). I *could* have continued and left the leaf edging off (it would forever look unfinished). Or I could figure out how to meld on the leaf border once the main part was done (howzat???). I *could* put it in time-out until I could decide/come up with an option I could live with. Yup. Done deal. Time out, back of the closet. I wouldn’t bring it out until it behaved better for me (read: until I figured out how to handle the edging).

Ditto (grandchild #4) is arriving at the end of the month. I have made baby afghans for his older 3 siblings. He deserves a special blanket as well. I looked at my stash. I thought about the afghan in time-out. I pored through patterns. I looked at the afghan in time-out.

I got out the offending afghan, determined to figure out how to meld the garter and leaf edging. Being a a stubborn sort, I did manage it. I reused to allow myself any other knitting until the afghan was done.

See? You can’t tell I futzed with the edging.

*FO=finished object

Behavior Modification: Changing how you react to something to increase the probability of success.
Behavior modification is something we demonstrate for our children to emulate (actions/language). How to respond to gifts? How to handle compliments? Criticisms? Frustration? Challenges? Dining etiquette? Crossing the street? Thinking ahead/planning multi-step projects?

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I became an adult in a home where I didn’t have to be a constant ‘good example’ for the children. My social and safety skills were sufficient for just the four of us (hubby, two dogs, and moi). Unfortunately, driving solo appears to have deteriorated my driving skills. Unless dogs were in the car (they do not wear seat belts, so I am very careful of how the car leans, shifts gravity-wise, decelerates, etc.) I drove knowing my balance was compensated by pressure on the brake, knowing when to lean in, etc., plus I wore a seat belt. I forget to do the same for the rare human passengers. My son commented. Ouch. My mother commented. Double ouch!

Knitting Modification: Changing how you create something to increase the probability of success/fitting/enough yarn.

Select yarn (in this case, light worsted weight superwash marino stash from Tangled and Warped).

Select basic pattern. My go-to resource for raglan everything is from Spinnerin vol. #309, page 17 (c)1963. Out of print. My original was photocopied from a co-worker. I found one on eBay last year in mint condition. It replaced the deteriorating 35-year-old version that I used for almost every sweater I made for my kids (‘way back when they still wore things I made them).

Guestimate result. I was an English major, so it’s a ‘you do the math’ thing. Guess wrong. Call to get child’s height. Decide it will be a top that will fit her until she is at least four (she is 18 months old now).

Select stitch pattern to insert/add to the basic pattern. Curse stitch pattern. Look for errata online. Finally locate it but it doesn’t cover your situation. How could it have been missed? It has been duplicated and promoted on several blogs. How could they miss this major issue?

Rant to all and sundry on errors. Books in general have errata these days rather than correct patterns from the first printing. Having to check for errata before beginning a project is annoying and unprofessional! Be sure to stress this inconvenience to knitters and non-knitters alike. Grump. Grump some more.

Realize you have converted the pattern to be knit on circular needles rather than back and forth. You compensated by changing the knits to purls every other row, but you neglected to reverse the sequence of stitches as well.

Oh. Um…

Center leaf pattern from Knitting on the Edge, page 121—a really great book with very few errata after 5 years on the market. My apologies to Nicky Epstein. I own a few of her books and this is the first (admittedly self-induced) problem I have ever had. (Not the first self-induced one, and definitely not the last.) (sigh)

Behavior Modification: Accepting that changes are multi-step processes will increase the probability of success. Remind self to assume children are always present and act accordingly (said child may be a shortsighted self…).

End result: A jumper dress for Docious that will grow with her from 18 months (as a dress) to 4t (as a top). Modeled by Blue. (Human model not available at time of photo session.)

Vogue doesn’t ‘do’ swag

Writing the promotional content for these seminar/conferences is a delicate balance of what the organizers think will be of interest and who they can get (presenter/instructor-wise) to commit to the event. What Vogue wrote last summer for course titles had different titles when I got there, and different content as well. Then again, things I was interested in last summer changed by the time of the conference, so I guess that’s a fairish exchange.

I was wildly psyched about two classes. Two color brioche knitting led by the mistress of all that is brioche, Nancy Marchant, and knitting with mawata (silk cocoons/handkerchiefs) led by the knitteratti genius of The Yarn Harlot. I had a migraine during the former but did learn enough to carry on. The latter was much better situated room-accommodations-wise, and I seriously scored terrific mawata for future playtime. (If I didn’t purchase it, she would have to cart the 30 grams back across the border. I am nothing if not helpful. Okay, I wasn’t the only one being ‘helpful’ —but I did my share!)

As I mentioned above, classroom accommodations were not always ideal. Many classes were held in regular hotel rooms into which a large table was crammed with seating for 16. Lighting was abysmal for knitting. Squeezing behind seats to show samples was uncomfortable for all. The only place to store samples was in the bathroom!

On to the Market Place

When you have a premium product such as ‘luxury’ yarns, apparently you do not need to have swag to offer the masses that descend on your conference exhibit location like locusts (or lemmings?). Fiber artists will pay through the nose for the good stuff! Example: Yak is expensive to collect and process for use. They charged a whole lot for little bits of it. Cashmere is a highly desirable fiber, too. In this case, ‘inexpensive’ is a relative term.

One place gave out fingernail files but did not have their logo on them, so I can’t say who was so generous. They were very fine grain, which does help keep your nails from snagging on the yarns. Lion Brand Yarn gave out large paper/fiber totes but as they were not selling any of their yarn at the conference, there was nothing to actually put in them (from Lion Brand, at least).

Two yarn companies had decent conference sales (BOGO and 50% off selected 10-pack bags of Noro, Debbie Bliss, cashmere, silk, etc) Those two places were MOBBED from Thursday evening when the market opened until midday on Sunday, just before closing. Even then, there was a solid line around the bins. I dithered, pondered, and had skeins lifted out of my hands (may I?) by other, presumably more organized shoppers. Reminding myself of the six bins of string already in my possession at home, I reluctantly took my self (and my slim wallet) to other booths. It must be my disappointment clouding my memory as to which companies were offering the deals.

Most of the companies did not offer any conference ‘deal’ (printer conferences, educational supplier conferences, and consumer electronics conferences give serious swag) other than not charging tax and rounding the retail price down to the nearest whole dollar. (I was greedy spoiled by the fore-mentioned conferences.) This no-tax-rounded-down was the big offer at the booksellers who mostly had books by presenters who signed them for you.

But not the book *I* wanted (Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch by Nancy Marchant). I put it on my Amazon wish list. I’m just sayin’….

I do not wish to imply that the participants were anywhere near as frugal with their time and their efforts as the merchants were. This large bin was empty Thursday evening.

I took the picture Sunday at noon. Quick knitting no matter how you look at it!

Classic gorgeous shared spaces with weird off-the-wall impractical designs. People who attended the conference sported their best work in color, cables, entelac and fine fibers. I saw lots of heathered colorations in sweaters, jumpers, vests, scarves, felted hats, and yes, socks. (Franklin Habit was gifted with bobble socks by an admirer. I saw them. I touched them, even! Gorgeous!)

Some companies have almost religiously devoted followers. Blue Moon has built their reputation on fair prices for gorgeous, quality product. It was also mobbed the entire time the Market Place was open.

People passed one another, pausing to admire handiwork worn (which was why you wore it there, of course!). I was surrounded by eye candy in all shapes and forms. Exhibits showed many examples of what could be done with the yarns on display. The mochi mochi exhibit was a delightful play town, fully landscaped and inhabited with droll animals and adorable houses:

But wait! There’s more! Not today, though.

Honest. It hasn’t all been mad cleaning, resume researching, and job search mania. My main sanity and coping activity (outside of music/singing) is knitting.

I have a photo of the recent charity knitting I have done that I put on this post, but it’s gonna take a while to load, so I put it below the text so you would have something to do while you waited for it.

(please wait for it)
I numbered them for some reason.
1 ) Kermit is modeling a blue and white stripe scarf
2 )  The Star-bellied Sneech is sporting a plain vanilla roll brim hat
3 – 6 ) Blue buddy, skunk, polar bear and rubber ducky are modeling more hats in various sizes, sporting one or more leaves or flower on top
7 ) His Pigginess is lounging with a super-soft angora and mohair blend scarf
8 ) The rectangle is an ascot-style scarf with removable flower
9 ) There are matching mittens
10 ) Test knitting is great for making a pair of cotton dish clothes
11 ) I love this cowl/hat combination (pull drawstring to close up cap top)
12 ) Bamboo-silk blend yarn is a dream to knit for this lace-trimmed chemo cap

By this time you should see the image.
It was worth waiting for!

Lest you think I am Mother Theresa reincarnated, every one of those donated charity items gets me another raffle ticket to win an Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom. I *want* that loom. I have serious competition for it, unfortunately!

This is not all of my knitting. A few projects got frogged. There are various stealth projects both completed and in the works (Christmas is coming in less than three weeks, people!), and there’s the stuff I knitted and delivered without taking pictures. (gotta work on that)

So… what have you been up to?

I was worried that my adjustments to the leaf cardigan would result in insufficient string supply, so I scarfed up another skein via the internet (ahem, *not* on sale, but not retail, either) and then ended up with that full skein plus the rest of the contrasting color. What to do with it? There wasn’t enough for a matching sweater for her mom. There was too much to waste on just a hat.

So I browsed…. and browsed… and found the perfect pattern at Lion Brand. It was a freebie, to boot.

This was a quick and easy knit that I converted to knitting in the round until reaching the upper torso. I used up almost all of the yellow, and every single bit of the contrasting color. As in, I was being very careful to leave only the minimum amount of yarn to weave back in… and it was touch and go whether or not the top ties would be striped!

After I delivered it last Saturday, we went to the Portsmouth Market Day (drizzly, grey, but a good outing with the grandkids) where I saw another child (toddler) sporting an almost identical outfit. I may have started the poor child when I darted after her, touched the fiber, and asked her mom, “Did you knit this?” Fortunately the child forgave my rude behavior as her mom raved about the aunt who knit it.

I think I’ll knit another one!

Detail #1
Baby blankets, booties, and cardigans all take longer than you think they will. Knitted items are smaller, t’is true, but they still require fiddly bits prone to making ones fingers feel ogre-sized and ogre-clumsy.

Detail #2
Babies grow. No matter how impossibly small they start out, they get bigger very quickly.

Detail #2b
Knitting rarely ‘grows’ once completed. Shrinking is more likely.

Detail #3
Saving patterns for future use may require ‘adjustments’ because said infant did indeed, get bigger faster than the knitted apparel could be started completed. If the child on the cover of the totally cute pattern booklet looks to be about 12-ish months, it is reasonable to expect their patterns inside to be similarly sized. The front cover model surely wasn’t 3-6 months! (But the inside patterns maxed out at 6 months.)

The devil is in these details!

Fortunately, I was able to recognize the difficulty early on and make the needle sizes larger. Then I had to rip back 10 rows when I realized that the sleeves and bodice needed more depth to cover the child without pinning her arms back like a woman’s figurehead at the front of pirate ships of the 1800s in order to get it on.

Children I have known hated being dressed even when things went on easily. (They all do seem to enjoy stripping, however.) Better to adjust and go online to see if additional skeins (King Tut cotton in yellow #424) are available. They were (three times what I paid for the original skeins, but needs must when the devil drives, yes?).

Her body double is blue and doesn’t mind contortions:

She loves to preen but not so much into the photo flash in her face:

With a little help from her mom and tapping into her new-found standing skills, I got the front as well.

There are grammar police out there cringing. Oh well…

I don’t just work at work and knit endless knits and purls without actually finishing things. I have completed two pairs of socks in the past month. The unfinished items are… still unfinished, but look!  Socks!
temperance socks
This was a toe-up pattern freely available on Ravelry. I agree that once I completed a cycle and a half, not only did I have the pattern memorized, I was able to see where I was at a glance after I put it down, and picked it up again. This is a *good thing* (as Martha would say). This pair used the popular Regia Stretch Yarn in my stash. So far I see them as good summer socks, but the stretch part seems over-rated.

And more!
Again, Charlene Schurch does it again. I love this book! It is not just possible, but EASY to convert a top-down pattern to a toe-up sock pattern. Since I have discerned a problem in my calculations regarding heel-to-toe length, leg length, and yarn supply, this is a very *good thing* (yes, more Martha… we have little else in common, but this we agree on—good is “good”).

Match it with my favorite bamboo sock yarn (Regia Bamboo) and you get a great pair of socks!

Following a great idea shared by my mother, I took my paperback pattern books to Kinko’s to have them spiral bound. I paid for the cut to remove the perfect binding, and a whopping $4 per book to have them spiral bound. Now the books lay open flat. On the negative side, I have lost the spine information, so I have to pull them out a bit to determine which book it is. I can live with that.

I may have already mentioned this, but I really, REALLY like having pattern books open flat.

One way you know your knitted gift was appreciated is when they wear it. They wear it a LOT. They wear holes right through it because they wear it a LOT. They were only worn indoors, but everyday indoors does add up to a lot of wear. She nicely asked if they could be repaired.

If the item (slippers, for example) was knit and then felted, repairs pose a bit of a puzzle. You can’t knit a patch in the hole because the fiber is different after felting. What to do? What to do?

Worse case scenario: find the yarn and make another pair. Patton Classic Wool is inexpensive yarn suited for felted knitting projects and the original colors are still available. Do-able… but…

I have a needle felting kit and some roving in a similar color range to the toe area of the slippers. Could I wet-felt the roving, needle-felt the original wool yarn to it… and then needle-felt all together as a patch?

Yes, I could. Yes, I did. I felt it all betterer and now I am so full of myself! <g> You can see the repairs if you look closely enough. The holes were at the big toes, each approximately the size of a quarter or so. The feel inside the slippers is good with no big welt or clot to disturb when walking in them. Yes, I checked.

I made several pairs of felted slippers as gifts this past Christmas. One recipient (coughcoughJeff) was so enthralled with them that they were worn not only in the house as shoes, but OUTSIDE in the winter in the snow (quote: “they are practically waterproof!”).

No surprise that his pair sprouted holes. He deserves to keep his holes for a bit, I think.

Right after this successful experiment, I ran across a recommendation for a felting enabler supplier with seriously cheap great felting fiber and tool supplies.

I will get you for that, Suzan B!

While I am not a chocoholic, I do appreciate Snickers and Heath bars and things of that ilk from time to time. Seasonal addictions for candy corn at Halloween don’t tempt me away from my carb slut focus. But when Easter rolls around…

I am totally all about the jelly beans. My current favorites are the Starburst jelly beans, but I love the original Brach ones, too… pure sugar with a touch of flavoring, crunching the coating and getting to the business end—the jelly part. Now, why I never really got into the gummy bear craze, I cannot say. Maybe it is the missing crisp sugar candy coating. I like contrasts, you see. Or not.

In my attempts at being a ‘good example for the children’ I have hidden camouflaged my addiction by focusing on the other celebration aspects of the holiday, namely, the Easter Egg Tree, and non-candy treats in the Easter Basket(s). (Don’t have a cow, mom, the religious aspect, the music, and the Christian faith all come before this part.)

As you may have noticed, my coping skill du jour is knitting. A *lot* of knitting. So the basket for our grandkids this year included just these and nothing else. What you saw above was Liam’s view. This was mine.

And this was Docious’s :

p.s. All credit for Eastery knitting patterns and ideas go to CCR who originally posted her versions of bunnies, birds, and eggs last month.

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