Thursday, May 31

...and the living is easy.

Hockney inspired pool shot

It's that time of year when we get to dust off our restaurant French and relocate to Provence for a few weeks. Volumes have been written about this region of France and I won't bore you with my own musings except for mentioning that this is where the Anny Blatt/Bouton d'Or yarn outlet is located. Because that's what really got my SnB group all charged up last Sunday and now I have their wishlist which is top heavy with Kanpur silk with Merinosoie coming in a close second. Have I trained those girls well or what?

I will be working on designing a pattern for this sweater. There are a few very patient aran knitters that have been waiting for me to stop 'researching,' get off my bum, and just write up the damn thing. Oh, and I'll be knitting it at the same time to make sure it will fit somebody. Everybody, if I can help it, but at least it will be test knitted (what a novel idea!).

I'll blog updates whenever I get to the internet cafe in St. Remy. Pix will have to wait and will add a note of delicious suspense, heh-heh-heh.


Thursday, May 24

handspun merino/silk

handspun merino/silkmerino/silk handspun

merino/silk handspun
Handspun merino/silk

Zen Mama came to SnB last Sunday and plopped down three skeins of this merino/silk handspun that she was happy to put up for adoption. I was immediately drawn to the colors that ranged from a dark black purple to a tawny grey lilac. I thought of rich Italian silks and brocades which led me to think of...Casanova. The DH once wrote an unpublished mystery involving Casanova and Ben Franklin in Paris, circa 1783. Casanova was a character who was curious, intelligent and continually reinventing himself while he mingled with royalty all over Europe. He was always a step or two ahead of the law and various irate husbands. So, while he may have had commitment issues and a loose definition of the truth, his taste was exquisite.

Rowan Linen Print shawl, detailRowan linen print shawl
This is a shawl I just made for the truly marvelous, witty and infectious librarian at my kids' school. She has this ability to get even the most bookphobic kids interested in reading. And she immediately opened up my gift, wrapped it around her shoulders and said, "I can't believe you made this for me!" That's when I started grinning idiotically and practically said "Aw shucks, m'am."

Rowan Linen Print, col. 349 (70% viscose/ 30% linen)
15 mm/ 19 US needles
I cast on lengthwise and knitted up a few rows in garter stitch before 2 repeats of honeycomb lace. I switched to Turkish stitch with a garter stitch border on the sides before reversing my honeycomb repeats and working the final few rows in garter. It may be a bit clunky for you laceweight people, but the yarn makes for a nice wrap that will take the chill off when the AC is blasting. Oh, and the librarian said it was perfect for covering up her upper arms--I hear ya, sister.

Sago Palm, cycas revoluta
Sago palm

I enjoy seeing everyone's garden/flower shots, so here's a few more from the yard. I planted three artichokes as an experiment last year and they will not quit. They have big Jurassic leaves and send up a lone stalk with the choke. Here are the first tomatoes of the season that I found hiding deep in the bed. The dh rarely roams the property, so these babies are mine, all mine!
artichokeearly tomatoes 2007

Meyer lemon blossomThis little Meyer Lemon blossom has more scent than a spritzer girl at Nordstrom's.

Amy Singer was in town recently to sign her book No Sheep For You. You may also know her as the mastermind behind And so a bunch of us Knittyheads arrived at Hill Country Weavers to swig Shiner Bock, chat and knit on a hot spring afternoon. It feels a little strange to introduce yourself as 'Mary, Mary' to a grown-up woman who clearly has perfectly good hearing.

Her patterns are fun, but I really enjoyed the first section of the book where she explains the different qualities of non-wool fibers. It was her unabashed love of Hand Maiden Sea Silk that got me to indulge. Yeah, I'd say her taste was pretty exquisite.
Me and Amy Singer at Hill Country Weavers(notice how I cleverly cropped our arms? heh-heh-heh)

Wednesday, May 23

Guten Tag!

I've been tagged by the wily Erica and while I normally enjoy breaking chain letters and such, I thought I'd indulge her in the spirit of random trivia.

Here are the rules: Each person tagged gives 7 random facts about themselves. Those who are tagged need to write on their own blog those 7 facts as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven other people and list their names on your blog. Then you leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and to read your blog.


1. I'm a good shot, with pistols that is, but I don't hunt. My grandfather was a champion pistol shot and we all learned to handle guns properly at an early age. A Walther P38 is my current choice for target practice.

2. Back in the 90's I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in Peru and was sick with altitude sickness the whole time. I still enjoyed myself and will never forget the breathtaking views and ruins.

3. My oldest son was 9 lbs, 4 oz. at birth. Can you spell e-p-i-d-u-r-a-l?

4. I took jazz piano lessons when we lived in Paris and had my first and last recital at the age of 38.

5. I can cross my eyes one at a time and raise my eyebrows separately.

6. One time we went to a reception at the White House where I met the President(GHB) and First Lady. Later that night, I put some pro-choice stickers in the stall of the ladies' room (a friend dared me).

7. One of my first jobs after college was at a publishing house in NYC where I wrote jacket copy for science fiction, fantasy and thrillers. Arthur C. Clarke's phone number in Sri Lanka was on my Rolodex.

I hereby tag:


Monday, May 21

Bigger than a Bread Box

strauch 405 drum carder and bread box
Strauch 405 'Finest' Drum Carder

First, there was knitting and the amassing of one of the larger stash ranches in central Texas. Then came spinning and the resulting fiber hacienda with a special bunkhouse for 10 pounds of pima cotton. Now, this beauty has arrived and I've become fixated on carding blended batts of cotton, tencel and silk. Oh, and I've got a huge crush on Otto Strauch for sending me drum carder #3000. Three is my lucky number, so I'm convinced that this was a message from the carding gods. And did I mention that my maiden name is Batts? I'm on a mission, people, and handpainted lightweight cotton blends is thy name.

drum carder, detailromney batt and bread box
Romney batt

While I'm not mesmerized by the rhythmic cranking of the drum carder and listening to NPR, I've been working in the garden. A very rainy spring has made all of my tropical plants, vines and trees very happy. My tomatoes are setting fruit, the basil has survived the slugfest and the caladiums are popping up all over the place. I'm always surprised that anything survives my children and a 65-pound puppy galumphing all over the yard. I enjoy these days before the 100-degree heat sets in and the Yankees buy some new pitchers. Yep, it's a good time for us Red Sox fans.

banana leaf'tropicana' canna
banana leaf, 'tropicana' canna

confederate jasmineconfederate jasmine

fig leaffiglet
fig leaf and figlet

Table for one, please.

We had a lovely dinner party this weekend and got to dine out on the patio, decorated with hibiscus flowers and tiki torches. Our guests(old friends, soccer parents and school favorites) enjoyed the mojitos and were happily tucking into their lamb bobotie, orange carrot salad and ratatouille when someone at our table casually mentioned my knitting. It was a magic moment until I started waxing on about the marvels of my drum carder, "It's just like a pasta machine for fiber! How cool is that?" I watched their eyes dart around nervously and then glaze over, one by one, especially when I got into micron counts and staple lengths. I was just about to detail the joys and challenges of photographing yarn when I decided a wine refill was in short order for the table. Maybe I should leave the after dinner yarncave tour for another time, perhaps?

Friday, May 4

Anyone home?

Hand Maiden Sea Silk, 'autumn'
Hand Maiden Sea Silk, 70%silk, 30%seacell, 'autumn'

Why, come on in and sit a spell! Here, let me git ya some iced tea. Sugar or Splenda?

Here's another insanely soft yarn that makes you want to get kinky with it. AND it's one that I can actually wear here in the Texas heat, yee-haw! Speaking of heat, here's a batch of Tahki cotton classic that I ordered from Cotton Clouds. They have a cotton lover's special where for thirty bucks you get a selection of mill end cotton yarns. I also ordered 10 pounds of cotton fiber from them in anticipation of my new drum carder. Yessiree, 10 pounds of summer lovin' goodness from the fields of Arizona. Economically, it made sense at the time until this honking huge box arrived on my doorstep. Excuse me while I go buy more shares of Rubbermaid stock.

So, I decided to finish a WIP for every new project I cast on. I was digging around the nether regions of project bag purgatory, when I came upon this Sideways Striped Tank that I had started back in Miami, circa 2005. This was adapted from Rick Mondragon's sideways sweater calculator that ran in Knitter's Magazine eons ago. The colors were inspired by this rug I saw in a British magazine. And I'll give three guesses as to which yarn I used....yep, more Tahki cotton classic.
Did I keep notes? Did I jot down the details from my test swatch? Did I remember anything about this project? Hell, no. So, I just picked up the crumpled copy of the pattern with a few odd numbers written down and finished it. I sewed up the seams and tried it on. Now, if you ever consider knitting a sweater sideways, please take into consideration that this thing will stretch way more lengthwise than sideways due to the nature of stockinette. I'm speaking from bitter and humbling experience, people. So I tried on this striped project from the lawn chair&awning school of design and that sucker practically drooped all the way down to Mexico. I crocheted an edge around the whole thing which just made it look even worse. I was getting really tired of this mano a mano smackdown with some friggin' tank top.

So, I took a break and got the dog neutered. Then my new 2-year old cat, Fiona, went into heat and got loose. Not once, but twice that little feline hussy escaped from the friendly confines of the yarncave. The neighbors soon became accustomed to my roaming through their yards at all hours making the kind of racket that crazy cat ladies are known for. It's amazing the amount of crap people stash behind their sheds--old wood planks, remodeling leftovers, rusty baseball backstops, empty plastic pots... and that's just my yard. I did catch that little vixen and quarantined her until she was dropped off with my new best friends at the vets. Sorted.

Newly armed with the mental toughness acquired by dealing with a randy and irresponsible teeanger, I took one look at that top and got out the scissors. I lopped off about 3 inches from the bottom and sewed on one side of some zippy black snap tape from the fabric shop. I enclosed the bottom edge with black webbing, therefore eliminating the need to weave in all 10,000 yarn ends, and left a 3-inch split on the seams for ye olde hippos.

Ooooh,ooooh, another FO! Note the singular. This sock surfaced and I finished it using the Magic Loop method which I like but not love as it does leave ladders(until you stretch the dookies out of the sock). It's a standard sock pattern with eyelets thrown in, alternating every 4 rows. So, mark your calendars for its mate to show up sometime in 2008. Unless it gets loose and goes into heat or something.