Friday, August 1, 2014

Knitting up Cephalopod Yarns: Cinnie in Spanish Shawl

I no longer remember how I found out about Cephalopod Yarns. I was definitely in the grips of Handpaint Many Colors fever. I built up a stash in no time. I was determined to crank out projects from newer yarn at that time as well, and so dove right in and MADE something right off, with the first CY skeins I got. The colorway is called Spanish Shawl (named for a species of aeolid nudibranch) (a sort of sea-slug).

This is the nudibranch.

This is the yarn.

Since I have an endless appetite for lace cardigans, I went and made a lace cardigan, using a recently purchased pattern called Cinnie. I liked the construction: center back panel first, then pick up stitches to knit sides, fronts & sleeves, then pick up stitches to make the whole business as long as wanted. It works very nicely, as an alternative to the top-down raglan sort of cardi I'm otherwise addicted to.

The leftovers made terrific lace fingerless gloves too!

I'm very sorry Cephalopod Yarns had to recently close due to the illness of its owner. But I've got plenty of their yarn to keep me busy, at current rates of consumption, for at least another 2 years.

A 22-Week Reading Challenge...

So there are 22 weeks left in 2014, and I've set myself a new goal that is kind of already 2 weeks old: to read and finish a book a week.

Since I've got 39 books in my To-Read section on Goodreads, and lots more than that just sitting on the actual shelves of the actual house -- and a few on my Kindle-for-Android app for good measure -- this ought to be easy. Especially since most of them aren't Huge Thick Weighty Tomes, but a bunch of reasonable length novels. (Aside from Vernor Vinge's "Children of the Sky" and the final 6 books of Neal Stephensons "System of the World", that is.)

I do most of my reading while commuting, so that's about 40-50 minutes of reading time a day. Last year I somehow only read about 20 books, but then 2 of them were enormous Iain M. Banks novels, one of which I only got through as quickly as I did thanks to some plane travel.

So far this year I've managed to start AND finish a whopping 15 books of varying lengths: from quick-read graphic novels Saga #3 and Girl Genius #13, to short story collection "Her Husband's Hands" by Adam-Troy Castro, to weighty "The Monuments Men" (less than 2 weeks, yay). "Annihilation" and "Authority" by Jeff Vandermeer only took like 1.5 days each. "Emma" by Jane Austen took a week. I just finished the last of the Diana Wynne Jones Howl books, "House of Many Ways" in just a couple of days -- quite a fast read like most of her books. "The Ghost in Love" by Jonathan Carroll, though ultimately disappointing (and I love his work), was a quick 4 days.

I suspect, though, that my current choice, "Cloud Atlas," might just sink my efforts straight off. It's a big thick tome. It's kind of like reading 6 books at the same time.

And I haven't quite decided what's next after that. I've got some nifty contenders. Guess it depends how I feel once done with this one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Good Year for Life Birds

Yeah, I'm a little behind on my posting again. I intended to do a whole series of posts about birding, starting with late winter/early spring migrants, but somehow that fell by the wayside.

My post that was BEGUN some months ago:

Birding fever gripped the land this spring. (Central Park for certain.) Winter rolled away, leaving us blue skies, lush lawns, trees decked out in dainty petals and showers of pollen, and the usual flocks of feathered migrants seeking food, territory and mates, not necessarily in that order. A few winter birds still lingered, even while the first newcomers make their noisy appearances. We haven't seen any Fox Sparrows in weeks, but the White-throated Sparrows are still here in large numbers. Eastern Phoebes already seem to be gone.

This Ring-necked Duck appeared to prefer a quiet life with the Mallards of the Lake. 

A pair of Baltimore Orioles made it through winter in the Ramble. 

One of those fat & sassy Fox Sparrows that were so abundant here this winter.

An Eastern Phoebe pursuing its prey right to the ground. Flycatching is hard work. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Knitting Up Rhinebeck 2012: TuckerWoods Twinkletoes

Tuckerwood Farm Bailey's Twinkle Toe yarn, "Black Orchid"

I discovered that it's helpful to approach a BIG shopping trip, whether Costco, Ikea or a craft fair, with at least a few actual goals in mind. It helps keep one from being completely overwhelmed by giant packages of croissants, tea lights or whimsical ceramic jars. Or yarn. Well, yarn is different, sort of like chocolate or earrings...

When I considered my Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool 2012 wish list, I felt I didn't have enough sparkly yarn in my life, though honestly I"m not the sparkly sort, and hadn't much felt the absence. I did have some sparkly yarn -- some rather nice Blue Heron rayon, for example -- but hadn't done much with it other than one rather uninspired "wear this on holidays" top I made from Patons' Brilliant. My dream list includes several shawls made of elegant but shiny stuff that I could fling around my shoulders for special occasions -- light ones for summer, dark ones for winter or dark outfits -- but after so many years of thinking about it, nothing had happened. I kept making sweaters. And scarves. And hats.

So I picked up a skein of pretty sparkly TuckerWoods Artisan Yarns & Fibers "Bailey's Twinkle Toes," in colorway "Black Orchid," which I found completely irresistible in both color and name. I like when fiber people give their products and patterns interesting names. It's a nice squooshy merino/nylon sock yarn with a bit of metallic sparkle spun in. The farm doesn't seem to have a website, but they have quite a large sales booth at Rhinebeck, filled with very nice yarns that include a few luxurious items.

So I found a fabulous amazing shawl pattern called Iron Maiden, that suggests using a yarn with a metallic "feel." Seemed a natural for the yarn! Alas. Oh alas. I knitted it just slightly too tight a gauge, AND the yarn fell short! So I ended up with a smaller shawl...more like a scarf. I do wear it like scarf, but I don't get to see the awesome design. So since I actually paid for the pattern, I'll have to make another one!

Iron Maiden Shawl

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dendrobium faciferum

As an orchid grower with limited space, I end up torn between wanting to stick to a (rather nebulous) wish list for orchid purchasing, and taking joy in serendipity. Attending at least 3 or 4 orchid shows/sales per year ensures a bit of both: I'll always find at least one thing I actually know I want, and several things I had no idea I wanted until I saw them.

Dendrobiums are so varied, so wondrously diverse, it's impossible to make blanket statements about them. I know several people who are sworn dendrobium fanatics for that very reason. You can experience such a variety of types of orchid all within one genus swarm! Monstrous things that resemble garden shrubs, tough little mats of nubby succulent leaves clinging to rocks, masses of slender leaves like bunches of upside-down onions, flowers that last for nearly a year, flowers that last for a mere hours, hardy beasts needing frost to provoke flowering, dainties that suffer the merest hint of cold...

Dend. faciferum was a happy happenstance purchase at a show just over a year ago, and kinda had me worried for a while that it didn't like me. This sweetie supposedly likes warm to hot temperatures and plenty of water (allowed to dry a bit between waterings though), which is no problem for me; I worried the light wasn't bright enough at the ends of the T-12 tubes. But once I switched to T-8 fluorescent tubes above it, the plant was clearly happier. Flowers commenced! Two growths made these lovely bunches of glowing orange flowers, which make quite pleasing contrast with the deep green ovary stems. They last about 10 days, so far.

Hoping for new growth soon -- repotting seems in order as the plant is a bit too deep in its current tiny pot and a couple of older growths recently yellowed and popped right off the clump.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Knitting Up Rhinebeck 2012: Spirit Trail Fiberworks "Birte"

As part of my program of impulse buying in a more "sensible" manner, at Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival 2012 I allowed for the possibility of non-variegated yarns. After all, some patterns just look better in a solid color -- especially cables. And I do like cables. And I do like hats, so I bought some heavier weight yarns that could be used for hats, and even mitts.

Spirit Trail Fiberworks makes some wonderful yarns using luxury fibers in wonderful ways. "Birte" is 75% Merino, 15% Cashmere and 10% Silk, squooshy and irresistibly soft with a subtle sheen. The lovely "Roman Bronze" color I got really looks almost metallic. Having it next to your skin is heavenly. So I made a hat. Logically, I made a pattern that shows off well in a bright solid color, and even makes sense in that particular color. I knitted owls, to wear whilst birding.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Knitting up VK LIve 2013: Lights and Lichens Shawl

I don't know how this yarn is created, but I had to have it. I'd seen similar yarns on Etsy and Ravelry, like Kauni, and was determined to someday get some. Before I could hit the PayPal button, though, I ended up at Vogue Knitting Live 2013 in NYC, and THERE IT WAS.

Knitwhits Freia. OMG. A whole booth of amazing color.

I bought lots. Well, I bought 7 skeins, at any rate. That counts as lots, when most of it is lace-weight.

First project was a lovely lacy shawl, that I still haven't photographed properly.

Second project was this very simple scarf-sized shawl, another free Ravelry pattern. I've come to admire simple arrangements of solid/eyelet knitting, and quite liked how the banded colors of this skein fell very naturally into the pattern's bands. Alas this skein of fingering weight only has 322 yards, and so the shawl came out quite small compared to other versions. But it's quite nice to wear as a scarf. And the weird gray and yellow combo works quite nicely with my spring wardrobe.