A Wonderful Day in Maine

Yesterday we decided to take a drive. It’s an old-fashioned idea, I know. My dad used to take us on a drive on Sundays. We’d all climb into the back seat of his car (sometimes with the top down) and, though there was always some “Mom, he’s over the line” bickering, off we’d go. Once I recall my brother letting go of a cloth diaper when the convertible top was down. Not sure how he survived that one!

Anyway, I’ve wandered from my purpose here.

Yesterday we decided to take a drive. We had a slow, lazy start to the day with coffee on the front porch and then packed up the dogs and headed to Bath.

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My plan was to visit Halcyon Yarns. (N had his cameras and can always keep himself busy for a couple of hours while waiting for me to shop for yarn. And it was cool enough for the dogs to come with us rather than be crated in the house.)

Part of why I love to visit Halcyon Yarns is because it’s not just a knitting shop. I can while away hours imagining learning all the crafts that they carry the stuff for – needle felting, spinning, rug hooking, tatting, weaving, and crochet. I’ve probably missed a few. Aisles and aisles of fiber from warp (or is it weft?) to cotton, and wool and alpaca and silk threads and many different weights of each. Some are actually Halcyon yarns and some are from well-known companies like Noro and Cascade. And a room full of pattern books and mugs and yarn bowls and … well, you get my drift.

I carefully paced myself as it can be a dangerous thing, shopping for yarn. But this time I was “good”. I only bought a few things …

Noro Taiyo Sock - Color S17 Lot D Cotton, Wool, Polyamide & Silk 24-26 sts x 36-38 rows = 4 inches on US 2-3 needles

Noro Taiyo Sock – Color S17 Lot D
Cotton, Wool, Polyamide & Silk
24-26 sts x 36-38 rows = 4 inches on US 2-3 needles

Two skeins of  Noro Taiyo Sock yarn (in Color S17-D) for another (more colorful) Bermuda Shawl. And, yes, the two skeins are the same colorway! I can’t wait to start knitting with this yarn!

Noro Taiyo - Color 35 Lot A 100 grams, 200 meters Cotton, Silk, Wool & Nylon

Noro Taiyo – Color 35 Lot A
100 grams, 200 meters
Cotton, Silk, Wool & Nylon

One skein of Noro Taiyo (Color 35-A which was on sale) for a knitted lamb from the new Noro (Spring/Summer) Magazine. I also bought the magazine.

Hlacyon Gemstone Soft Twist Silk - Lot 15989 - 240 yards 100% silk, Sport weight 5-7 sts = 1 inch on US 3-5 needles

Hlacyon Gemstone Soft Twist Silk – Lot 15989 – 240 yards
100% silk, Sport weight
5-7 sts = 1 inch on US 3-5 needles

I bought a hank of Halcyon’s Gemstone Soft Twist Silk in a silver color (not sure what the gemstone is … diamond? I like diamonds!) This is to knit a necklace that I saw online … on Facebook, if my memory serves.

Indulgence Sock Yarn - Color 105 Lot 18411 426 yards, 21 sts x 27 rows = 4 inches on size US 3-6 needles Merino wool & Polyamide

Indulgence Sock Yarn – Color 105 Lot 18411
426 yards, 21 sts x 27 rows = 4 inches on size US 3-6 needles
Merino wool & Polyamide

And last, a ball of Indulgence 6-ply (also on sale) Sock Yarn with which I’ll make socks. I just loved the colors in the yarn (and it’s really soft, too.) The sample that was on the table was a tubular scarf knitted in all of the different colorways … I almost bought one of each. Almost.

Halcyon also has a bunch of wonderful-sounding classes available if you’re looking to take one! And the people who work there are very friendly and helpful … if you don’t mind wandering aimlessly, you can do it for hours at Halcyon Yarn! You’re going to enjoy the ever-changing samples at Halcyon, too! I saw no fewer than three sweaters that I would like to knit. Too bad I brought three projects with me from Florida!

And while you’re visiting Bath, it’s worth your while to visit the Bath Iron Works and the Maine Maritime Museum. For $27 (adults) you’ll get admission to both a 1-hour tour of the place where our US naval warships are being built. Some are so super secret that you’re not allowed to take photographs! Really fascinating! You can also visit Popham Beach (beware, the water in Maine is wicked cold!) and Reid State Park.

Parks, new things to learn and fiber. Just a few of the reasons that I return to the area every year!

Gone knitting.

Wet Blocking vs. Steam Blocking vs. Spritz Blocking

Some tools you'll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

Some tools you’ll need: Eucalan (or Soak) wash and stainless steel t-pins

It took me awhile, when I started knitting, to figure out just what blocking means. There are a few (maybe several) terms that knitters use regularly that are not really clear to those who are new to the craft. So, I’m going to try to give a general description of two often-used blocking techniques – wet blocking and steam blocking.

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Blocked Shawl – wool. Wet blocked.

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Close up of what happens to garments when blocked – the lacy details just come alive!

For most sturdy fibers, I like to wet block. Wool is a sturdy fiber (and if it has a little bit of man-made fiber blended in, it’s still sturdy enough). I would also suggest wet blocking linen garments. I’ve read that some people “whap” their linen once soaked … sounds violent to me but I know it does get “softer” when washed a couple of times.

To wet block a garment, you want to immerse the garment completely in cool water mixed with a little bit of wool wash like Eucalan or Soak. Gently lift your garment out of the water and gently squeeze the extra water out. Never (NEVER) wring hand-knit garments. I usually put the garment on a clean bath towel, roll it up and then press gently to get even more water out of the garment. Then lay it flat on a blocking board or a new clean towel on your guest room bed. Or on an infrequently traveled area of wall-to-wall carpet. Gently pull the garment to the right shape and measurements and let it dry. It may take a couple of days.

An alternate method is to steam block. I set my garment on a clean bath towel and with my steam iron set to the steam setting, Pin the garment into the shape/size that you want it to be. I hold the iron over (without touching) the garment and give it a jolt of steam or two or three. The heat and moisture will relax the fibers enough to make it possible to give it a little bit of adjustment. Let it dry completely. (Another way I’ve heard some people steam block is by using a wet (clean) pillow case on top of the garment and putting the iron onto the pillow, pushing the steam button, until the pillow case is dry. This is a gentler method than wet blocking and you should get the same result.

Note: If your garment is made of hand-dyed wool, and the color isn’t “fixed” and you see dye in the water when wet blocking, you can also add a little bit of white vinegar (a cap-full or two) which should help “fix” the dye. If color is bleeding, keep rinsing with cool water until the water runs mostly clear.

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette

Lacy edge of a mink & cashmere blend shawlette (it’s for sale, if you’re interested)

The last method that I want to discuss is spritz blocking. If using this method (which is good for any fibers you have doubts about soaking in water or steaming with an iron … in my house that’s alpaca, silk, mohair, cashmere and anything I’m not sure of … I pin it into shape and then spritz it with a plant sprayer. Make sure the sprayer is clean (hasn’t been used for cleaning chemicals or anything) and filled with water and just spritz the garment until it’s moderately damp. Leave it there until it’s dry.

There you have it. A primer, if you will, on blocking. I hope this helps!

Gone knitting!

Nuno Felting Class

I spent the day as a fill-in yesterday at the Orlando home of Terri Pike, Queen of Nuno Felting and all things felted. A pair of ladies had signed up to take the class and one needed to cancel, leaving a spot open … and I “nabbed”! Boy, am I glad I did! What a blast!

I’ve admired Terri’s creations over the months that we’ve been knitting together and listened to her felting stories.

We started the day with picking our silks and then choosing roving and other yarns, beads, etc. to use as decoration for the scarves in process! Decorating both sides of the scarves to make a reversible or two-sided garment/art piece.

Side one … my inspiration started out to be a Monet painting. More the idea of one than one in particular. Like a huge flower garden when you’re standing ten feet back and squinting (thank you Leslie for your theatrical perspective!) Anyway … you layer sheets of silk and wool roving and trips to make your design and then you carefully (with plastic wrap and long (I mean long!) pieces of insulation boards) flip it over.

Side two! This is the side that the fringe is on (if you want a fringe!) I decided to try it because I wanted to try just about everything possible to see how it’s done. And, you know, if I were a betting woman, I’d bet just about anybody with a pair of strong hands and a supplies list could do this successfully … IF (and that’s a big if) they were smart enough to use Terri’s videos!

So, here are some more photos of my scarf and Jane’s. It’s really fun to see how two people with the same teacher and the same supplies can make something totally different … and they’re both so pretty! Enjoy!

Jane’s beautiful scarf was on a rose colored silk with blues and pinks. More abstract than mine but I love the white “bobbles”  in the trip and on the other side she used a “sparkly” fun fur yarn as a trim.

 

 

 

On top of bubble wrap and under plastic wrap … getting ready to roll … and roll, and roll, and roll (switch) and roll, and roll ….

 

 

 

My scarf had to have a bee, of course! (There’s actually one on either side of the scarf!)

 

 

 

 

My scarf has been rolled (for nearly an hour and a half!) All the plastic wrap has been removed and it’s time to get it wet. The design is covered with a bit of netting while we get it wet!

After wetting and rolling and rolling, we shocked the piece with really REALLY HOT water and rubbed it by hand (more like wet felting). Then it was time to rinse!

What a great day!

Terri can bee (ha! Freudian?) found on Facebook and on the internet. Watch her videos, buy her e-book. Check out her website!

Gone to trim my fringe!

Home?

Back in the land of heat and humidity and the yard weeds are taller than the plants that we dug holes for. Go figure! At least the pots in the front yard aren’t dead and my (now) puny “jazz hands” palm tree is still alive and growing after a near death experience.

I’ve had a fun day today and am going to continue having fun when my girlfriend comes for dinner but I thought I’d take a few minutes to show you what I’ve been working on while I wasn’t blogging … it’s not “much” but it’s work, none the less!

I’ve finished the coveted “Turkish Bed Socks” (find the pattern HERE at Churchmouse Yarns and Teas) and it just reinforced to me how much I love knitting with Koigu wool. It’s simply wonderful to knit with … if you try it on my recommendation and don’t love the way the yarn feels and knits, let me know and I will buy the yarn from you. The colorways are endless, too … you’re bound to love at least one (hundred) colors! The construction was interesting and I only got a bit confused once … and when I stopped reading ahead, I was fine. They’re cute and I’ll be they’re super to wear with my clogs in the winter.

I have made two more pairs of fingerless “Gauntlets”. One is in a gray alpaca DK weight yarn from Village Farm Alpacas in Waldoboro, Maine. The yarn is absolutely the softest and it was good to knit with … nearly as good as the Koigu, just not quite.

The second pair is almost finished. These were knit with a wool and silk blend from Plymouth Yarn Company called Mulberry Merino in a dark emerald green colorway (color 686, Lot 531). The yarn is so soft and the fingerless mitten pattern is wonderful. The yarn is spun loosely and it’s not as much fun to knit with because it splits on the needles and then gets stuck which is annoying! These will either go up on my Etsy site or be given away when I reach 100 “likes” on the Queen Bee Knits facebook page.

My vest in coming along. I’ve finished the back and have started working up one side of the front but I have to be honest, I haven’t really done much knitting. The last few days I was playing with my “old” friends from college at Virginia Beach and there was no time for knitting … I was out riding the waves (body surfing) for over an hour on Saturday. I’m sunburned and getting that “I’m going to peel” itch but it was worth it.

So, now I’m home and I have an order for a baby hat for one of my former au pairs. She’s adopting a little Latino boy from Illinois in October. She’ll be present at the baby’s birth if she has enough time to get from her house to Chicago area in time. How exciting is that? So, I’m off to find some cute patterns for the baby hat and then will hit the shops in person and/or online for yarn. Any suggestions?

Gone knitting … or pattern hunting!