Fiber Corner

Daily life of a knitting designer/publisher of handknitting patterns

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cookie update

Haven't updated my list of cookie baking adventures in awhile. Unfortunately I only have one picture to share. The rest of the batches were made during the hurried days of pre-Thanksgiving preparations.

I tried 3 more recipes from the Martha Stewart Cookie mag. Two successes and one failure. The successes were Snickerdoodles (hard to wreck those) and Chocolate Crackle cookies (made with bittersweet chocolate. Yum!). The total failure was a Oatmeal Applesauce Raisin Cookie. They all ran together on the cookie sheet so were basically unusable.

Then, yesterday I received a call from a cousin saying he was going to stop by on his way from Chicago to MN on the way to visit his mom. My aunt is living in a nursing home. She was the absolute BEST cook and baker. And, it was all intuitive; she never used recipes. When you visited at her house, she always had fresh baked bread and cookies for dessert--even for breakfast. So, I whipped up a couple of batches of her favorites for my cousin to take along with him--a date drop cookie which I call Aunt Vi cookies and the perfect Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie (which she said she had learned from my grandmother). I learned how to make both of them as well as how to bake bread when I stayed with her one weekend years ago. I hope they bring her good memories.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nighty Night

On a rare November day with temps in the mid 50's, I couldn't put off some seasonal chores any longer. The first was putting the garden to bed. Since I live in such a cold climate, roses and other tender perennials need a little extra protection from the winter winds and freezing temperatures. First, I cover the roses with some ground (usually what's left from the flower pots) and then with a styrofoam cone. A brick on top helps secure it from the winter winds.The lavenders just get a covering of pine boughs. You don't want to do this too early in the year so that mice find it a cozy spot, so lots of time I miss the window of opportunity and the poor plants are left to fend for themselves. Sometimes they make it through, and sometimes they don't. It depends on whether the winter is mild or particularly harsh and if there is a decent amount of snow cover by the time the below zero temps arrive. Hopefully, they'll survive this year.

The other chore I had to tackle was a very necessary one--turning off the water to the outside faucet. If it isn't done, then water would freeze in the pipes and that's would mean BIG trouble. I knew from the spring that the knob I needed to turn in the basement was obstinate (in the spring, I ended up having to ask the neighbor to help me with it).

And, the placement of it, defies explanation. See it? No, not one of those right out in the open.

Up there, in the rafters where someone needs to climb on a chair to reach it and all the other pipes are in the way. I tried having my nephew help me last week when he was visiting for Thanksgiving but the weather had been so cold that the outside faucet had already frozen and couldn't be turned. Luckily, we had a couple of warm days so it thawed. After several unsuccessful attempts which made the palm of my hand rather swollen, I had the bright idea to use a screwdriver through one of the holes of the faucet to give me some leverage in order to turn it. It worked!

Nighty night to the garden...see you in spring.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Oh Wow!

Here are some pics of my Oh Wow! mittens from the Fall 2004 issue of Inknitter's magazine. They're knit with white Romney handspun (wheelspun) and merino dyed by Lisa Souza in a colorway she calls Wild Things. The cuffs were spindle spun and the rest of the roving was split lengthwise into the size of a super bulky yarn and then knit without spinning. They are very warm!

This pic of the in progress matching hat shows how the inside looks. Lisa does a fabulous job with her colorways. So much so, that I'm tempted to use the inside as the public side of the hat since it looks so pretty.

Now you know why I spindled that skein of yarn yesterday. It's just what I need to finish the crown of the hat. And just in the nick of time, too. Baby, it's cold outside!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Hope you all have a great day!

Besides eating, here's what I made.
That's about a half oz skein of Lisa S's Wild Things merino spindled on my 1 oz Mielke handspindle.

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Spindle

Since my spinning wheel tends to spin lighter weight yarns (Ashfords are like that), I've been looking for another way to spin a soft, lofty, near worsted weight single. Found the perfect method with a spindle I used in a class last month. It was a bottom whorl Turkish spindle that also had a hook on top so a half hitch wasn't required. So began my search to find a similar one to purchase. I scoured all the spindle websites and received recommendations for spindle carvers but none of them were like the one from class. Now, maybe they would have been much better, but I was set on finding one that I knew would work and didn't want to deal with choosing from the wide variety of woods and weights and such.

Finally, I remembered seeing a little sticker on the underside of the whorl which said it was Russian/American. Maybe that could mean Peace Fleece. Sure enough, they carried the spindle. The only difference was the lack of a hook but I thought I might be able to live with that.

So, after receiving it and giving the half hitch method half a chance, I decided I'd still much rather have a hook for it. Went over to the hardware store to try to find one a proper size, but theirs were much larger than those on my other spindles (which is maybe why spindle carvers make their own) and I was afraid they'd split the wood. Finally found a tiny screw eye that I thought might fit but I needed to open up the eye first to form the hook. A little work with a pliers and carefully inserting it in the top of the shaft and voila! It even seems to be centered so as not to throw off the balance of the spindle.

Yeah! a new spindle!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Is this me?

Your Birthdate: April 17

You tend to find yourself lucky - both in business and in life.
And while being wealthy is nice, you enjoy sharing your abundance with others.
You put your luck to good use: you are very ambitious and goal oriented.
Often times, you get over excited and take on more than you can manage.

Your strength: Your ability to make your own luck

Your weakness: Thinking you can do it all

Your power color: Bronze

Your power symbol: Half Moon

Your power month: August

Not sure about that "lucky" thing AT ALL! And, what's up with bronze as a power color. Is bronze really a color? I thought it was a alloy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Ughh! I should have known that snow was really on the way yesterday when I drove past the lake and there were only a half dozen or so geese hanging out. In the last six weeks there have been a couple hundred. Guess they could sense the change in the weather and headed down south.

Winter is upon us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

To Block or Not to Block

Many knitters ask that question. Here's a prime example of why you should.

This is a sleeve from the Elizabeth (from A Season's Tale) sweater I've been working on. See how the knitting on the upper portion of the picture looks kinda shriveled with the stitches looking all misshapen. And, on the bottom portion the "V's" of the sts stand in nice little rows. That's because the upper portion, the sleeve cap, hasn't been blocked yet. I wanted to make sure the sleeve would be long enough so I blocked it out before knitting the cap. It's a prime example of how a good blocking sets the sts and makes everything appear more evenly knit.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cookie of the Week

Since I bought the cookie issue of Martha Stewart Living last Tuesday, I've decided to try to make one (at least) new cookie every week. Martha used to have a segment called Cookie of the Week on her old tv show so that's what I'm calling it here.

First off is a Chocolate Waffle Cookie. Was very fun to make and the batter was simple, simple, simple. It took a couple of tries to get the timing of the waffle iron down, in other words, the first cookies are slightly darker and drier than the rest. And, mine are not so perfectly round as those in the photo but all in all I'd call it a success.

Oh, and they taste good, too. Probably wouldn't be my first choice for a chocolate cookie but they'd be a interesting one to include in an assorted box for a holiday gift. And, I bet they'd be wonderful for summertime ice cream sandwiches.

Maybe I should just check that out.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Spinning for Gossamers

Since I posted yesterday about the great spinning/knitting class I took at Michigan Fiber Fest last August, I thought I'd share some pics of what I learned in the spinning portion of the class. My teacher, Galina Khmeleva, learned her skills in her native Russia and this class was about making traditional Orenburg shawls.

The Orenburg region of Russia (think Ural mountains and what it looked like in the movie Dr. Zhivago) is famous for its shawls. They are traditionally spun from goat down and plyed with silk thread, then knit into light as air lace shawls. The process of spinning goes like this.

First take the best cashmere you can find.
Actually the Russian knitters might start with combings from their own goats but since I haven't any of those, I used some beautifully prepared Mongolian cashmere top.

The fiber is spun on a long narrow tapered spindle which is supported in a bowl or cup of some kind. After enough twist is added, the single yarn is wound onto the spindle.
This pic shows one of my authentic Russian spindles and maple bowl with the beginnings of a new bobbin.

After the spindle is full, it is transferred to another larger, heavier spindle for plying. As the cashmere single is wound onto the second spindle, a strand of silk thread is held next to it and wound along with it. At this point the two strands are only laying next to each other not twisted together. Here you can see how much shinier the yarn looks with the addition of the silk. And, you can also see my cone of silk thread, which Galina says "will last the rest of my life".

When plying, the two strands are twisted together and loosely wrapped around a small cardboard circle. This makes the bobbin of finished yarn.

After all the bobbins are steamed, the yarn is finished and ready to be used for knitting. The one little bobbin pictured here weighs only about a half an ounce and at least 3 ozs. will be needed to knit a shawl. The Russian knitters produce enough handspun in a weeks time to knit a shawl. This one bobbin took me several months.

Guess more practice will be needed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lily of the Valley shawl

Last week I finished my Lily of the Valley shawl designed by Galina Khmeleva from the Summer 2004 issue of Knitter's.

The photos in the magazine were lovely, but after seeing it in person at the class I took from her last summer at Michigan Fiber Fest, I knew I had to make one for myself. Her sample was knit from Belisa Cashmere. I used one skein of 30/2 silk/angora (55%/45%) from Treenway Silks and size 2 (2.75 mm) needles. Galina says that the Russian knitters use dpn's to knit the Orenburg shawls, so I decided to try it out and see if the short length caused any problems. I used some rubber bands on the ends of the needles during the first 50 or so rows just to make sure the stitches didn't fall off the end of the needle, but found that it was nice not having to move stitches around (especially past the join on a circ) to get them into knitting position.

Galina also had issues with the way the pattern instructions were given in the magazine. The method she works short rows is different than what they printed, the way the charts are presented make it look like the lace is St st based instead of garter st and the entire last chart is totally incorrect. Here's a close up of the bottom corner worked with short rows Galina's way which is similar to the Japanese short row method. The trick to knitting the nupps is just to keep the yarnovers extremely loose. That way it's not as difficult to K5tog on the subsequent row.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Afternoon adventures

Stopped by the little bead store in Appleton yesterday afternoon on my way home from getting my hair cut. Was hoping to find a proper sized bead to make a bead supported spindle the way Andrea Mielke taught us in the Handspindles class at the WI Spin-in last month. No such luck.
However, I did find this darling little mitten charm I'm going to make into a stitch marker. Thought it was serendipitous considering the name of the blog.

Also stopped by Barnes & Noble and found this issue of MSLiving. I may have gained weight just looking at the pictures last night!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The First Post

Well, every blog needs a first post, and so, here's mine. I'm still tweaking the look and discovered how very different it looks on each of my computers. On the iMac, it is pink and brown; and on the iBook, it's pink and grey. Doesn't seem to be a browser issue because I tried it with IE on the iMac and it looked the same as it does with Safari. (no stinking Internet Explorer mucking up the iBook!) Would love to hear how it looks on your computers plus it would give me a chance to figure out the comments section.

Boy, first post and I'm already begging for comments. Knitting content tomorrow. Promise!

Monday, November 07, 2005


testing, testing