My Dad enlisted in the US Marines right out of high school in 1962 and was in Vietnam July 1965-July 1966. These are probably the most scenic pictures he took that I scanned; he probably took more or better scenic pics but I need to have his slides scanned to find out (and remember) for sure. He wrote “Danang Harbor” on the back of the last picture; I’m not sure if the first two are of Danang Harbor or of some other coastal feature.
Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is this weekend in West Friendship, MD, which is within easy driving distance. This is my 8th time going; I’ve gone every year since 2009. My friend Becky & I left my house at 7am, stopped for coffee at Starbucks, and arrived at the Howard County Fairgrounds just after 8.
We set up our camp chairs in the Pavillion area (between the Dining Hall & Barn 1) so we would have a spot staked out where we could rest and get away from the inevitable crowds and then high-tailed it to the Main Exhibition Hall. Becky wanted to check out the Miss Babs booth, but the line was already out the door at the back of the building, at least 20 people deep. We looked at the yarn and fiber from afar and moved on to the maple booth (Justamere Tree Farm? Checkmate Farm? I wish I had snagged a business card). I grew up in Vermont, so maple sugar candy is one of my favorites. This farm sells a limited amount of the candy and it’s the better, darker kind with more maple flavor. I got my 5 pieces and am wishing now I had bought some syrup or maple sugar as well.
Then we went to the Claymonster Pottery booth. Last year Becky got mugs and (maybe?) a yarn bowl there and both of us love the pottery; it’s very quirky. Claymonster was still setting up, so we formed a line behind a lovely woman named Ashley and her family. More people joined the line behind us. When it came time to open, Cat (I think that’s the name of the potter behind the monsters) teared up because there was a line of people waiting to swoop in & buy her stuff, a first for her. I absolutely love her stuff, but still haven’t found just the right piece for me. Becky got a Yarn Yeti mug. A yarn yeti, IMO, looks a whole lot like Cthulhu.
Next we wandered down into the field where the Lower Corral Vendors were set up. All the rain we’ve had (9 or 10 days with rain every day) made for a very muddy field. We stopped into the Dragonfly Fibers booth and I fell in love with her MDS&W exclusive colorway, Salt Marsh. It really is the color of happiness (her motto/tagline). I got some fingering weight sock yarn and some fiber to spin. I had to. A few booths down in Hobbledehoy, I found the Marigoldjen fingering weight/sock yarn. The skeins look very similar in the picture; they’re both in the Kaleidoscope colorway, but one skein has some subtle sparkle in it that’s hard to capture in a picture.
Then we made our way through the rest of the barns, stopped by our chairs briefly, and went back to the car to drop off our purchases. Becky didn’t want to lug around her Claymonster purchase or risk breaking it (that would be my luck). I also really needed to get my dirty chai from the car (chai with a shot of espresso). When we re-entered the fairgrounds, we walked through the Outside East & Outside North Vendors. The mud was really bad through these fields. So bad that they were putting down loose hay to help with traction. And I realized that the suede sneakers I had chosen to wear were a bad choice; cleaning mud off of suede is going to be interesting. But I’ve had the sneakers for (probably) 10 years, so it’s also not a big deal if they’re ruined.
We walked through the (I think) Bingo Hall, which is where all of the contest entries are – my favorite part of MDS&W. I wish I had taken pictures of some of the yarns & finished objects. There was a commercial felt bag with a square panel of hand-knotted wool sewn onto it, with a galaxy shape in the wool. There were a few shawls that were cleverly done, one that used art/novelty yarn mixed with regular joe yarn, another that had a really neat lace pattern & a deep blue color. There were other neat things that I can’t remember now. Next year: pictures of my favorites.
We stopped by the Bee Folks booth and after 3 years of saying I’d get honey from them because they’re local and I’m on their email list and buying in person would be way better than buying online from someone local, I finally got honey. There was a lull in the crowd and the crowd around the booth was light instead of the 4-5 people deep ring that’s usually around it. I can’t wait to tell my husband “Honey, I got honey!”
Then Becky & I got lunch and sat in our chairs while watching a hand-sewn fashion show on the stage in the Pavilion. I had an entirely unsatisfactory lamb sausage – $9 for lots of gristle – and a cup of sugar water + half a lemon (“hand-shaken homemade lemonade”). Yes, I’m bitter. Also, I did not walk through one of the lamb barns while eating lamb like I have in the past. And yes, I have a weird sense of humor – I do indeed think that’s funny.
We started talking about leaving. The crowd was getting thicker, Becky was chilly, I was running out of patience and, as an introvert, was coming close to my people limit for the day. We decided to pop back down to the Main Exhibition Hall and take a better look around since not all of the booths had been open on our first trip through there. I ran into my knitting & spinning & roller derby friend Karen, who I haven’t seen for a few months. I explored the Spunky Eclectic booth and almost got fiber, but then decided not to. I said to Amy (Spunky Eclectic proprieter) on the way out “I love your stuff! I follow you on Instagram!” which was made even more retrospectively awkward by my realization that I follow her on Twitter – she’s not even *on* Instagram. I went back later, just before we left, and got those 2 braids and had I nice chat with Amy & her husband when I checked out and was 100% less weird and awkward.
Becky wanted to pop into the Jennie the Potter booth and so I followed. I picked up one of the tumblers and immediately knew I had to have it. There are raised lines in the blue bottom part of it, so I got immediate sensory feedback I wasn’t expecting. There are also raised white dots that arc over the blue dots. Jennie actually ran my checkout and I told her how much I loved the tumbler – she was very appreciative because it takes a lot of process to make them.
And then Becky and I went back to the Pavillion, packed up our chairs, navigated our way through the now substantial crowd, and left just as the sun was coming out. Aside from the mud, I think this was my best shopping year at MDS&W. I usually don’t fall in love with so many things, I get yarn blindness where everything looks the same. But the things that I got all jumped out at me and all needed to come home with me. I’m grateful that I can afford these things and grateful that they popped out at me. Now to plan some projects and drink some tea out of my new tumbler while eating maple sugar candy (yum!).
Today’s my birthday – yay! I get to eat as much cake as I can! And also reflect on what’s happened in a year …
I’m in such a different place mentally; last year I was still recovering from something that happened in January and still struggling with drinking. I took my last drink in July, so I know I was craving it badly on my birthday – how else was I supposed to celebrate than to let loose? I’m happy to say I don’t feel that way this year. I can let loose any time, I just need to give myself permission to do so. I don’t need alcohol to relax, I can do that on my own in a number of ways, including fiber art stuff (knitting, spinning, even my nemesis, crochet).
I was also still playing roller derby. I was on two travel teams and the captain on one. The pressure I put on myself to be a good captain was really bringing me down last year. I had a hard time focusing and being happy about the things I was doing well and only focused on the things I was doing badly, and that applies to my derby skills as well. I think I hit my peak skill level at the end of 2014 and 2015 was a slow descent into still okay but not as physically strong as I was in November & December of 2014. I stopped getting MVP Jammer awards (I have 9 or 10 from my 4 year derby career) and also stopped playing in as many jams, partly because my endurance was down after January and partly because my anxiety was shooting through the roof. I decided to quit the team I wasn’t captaining in May and take a step back after the season was over in June. What I didn’t realize is that I’d be done (for a while or for good, I haven’t decided yet).
Last year I was also in the middle of my 100 day project. I designed and released two new patterns: Feathermoss and The Double Rainbow Scarf. I finished two hats, a sweater, two scarfs, three shawls, and did a lot of spinning. Luckily the project overlapped a bit with Tour de Fleece, so I got two birds with one stone. I also made felt and dyed it with false indigo; it’s the bright green felt I beaded & embroidered as the Moss Garden and this shmancy upcycled Sucrets box. And I felted one of my husband’s store bought wool sweaters (it no longer fit him) and embroidered on that with handspun naturally dyed singles (also what I used in the Moss Garden & the box).
This year, I was on the lookout for the start of another 100 day challenge but it seems that there are a number of them; I might as well start a new one on my own any time. Rather than being so formal about it, I’ve just been trying to do something every day either with knitting, reviving my etsy shop, writing this blog, or keeping up with social media. I feel really good about reviving the etsy shop even though I haven’t had any recent sales. I’m positive I’ve paid etsy more than I’ve made off the shop, but my traffic and favorites are up thanks to working on my SEO so I still have some hope.
I also feel good about designing – I will eventually move away from cowls to something else – and I’m looking into ways to expand my reach and become a little more professional about it. I found another designer group on Ravelry, one that actually has calls for submission. I’m working up the courage to respond to one of these and see where I can take this design thing.
My family is doing well; my oldest will be graduating from high school in June and has decided where he’s going to college next year. My middle son has his learner’s permit & is doing really well with driving. He’s also running track this spring and breaking his previous PRs. And he thinks he just aced the AP Psychology exam. My youngest son has adjusted really well to middle school and I’ve been squeezing in all the hugs and kisses on the cheek that I can before it gets too weird/embarrassing for him. My husband is stressed in his job and travels every week and I wish he had time to look for a new one that’s local, but overall I suppose he’s doing okay – our marriage is more solid than it’s ever been.
Lastly, pet-wise things are a lot different than they were last year. We had to euthanize our smallest dog, a toy fox terrier mix, last June. She badly ruptured a few disks in her back, lost control of her hind legs, and was in a lot of pain. Poor chick – she was a good dog, much more like a cat than our other two dogs. In November I started talking up cats to my husband (and myself – I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another pet) and in December we found the perfect cat for us thanks to some friends who foster cats for a rescue organization. Jeffrey Lebowski (aka The Dude) was just under a year old, is very calm/chilled out, and has fit in with our family so well – I post a lot of pictures of him to Instagram.
All in all, I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing! If you made it this far into my post, congratulations – I’d share my birthday cake with you if you were here, but you’re not, so go find some cake and have a happy Tuesday!
I practiced grafting in-pattern with mixed results. I’ve been designing & making a lot of infinity cowls this spring. Most of them start with a provisional cast on and end by grafting the working edge to the provisional cast on. I’ve grafted k1, p1 ribbing in pattern successfully, and moss stitch, and knew that grafting herringbone stitch was going to be just a little bit different.
To start, a lesson on grafting, aka Kitchener stitch. I’m not including diagrams – please feel free to find a video youtube or look at the tutorial on Knitty if you are unfamiliar with grafting and need a visual.
When you graft two pieces of knit fabric (knit 1 row, purl 1 row) together, you hold the backs of the fabric together with the live stitches on separate needles (or opposite ends of the same circular needle) with tips to the right, and thread a darning needle with a length of yarn about twice as long as the the width of your knitting – I usually just leave a long tail at the end. To set up, insert the darning needle in the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl (from back to front) and pull the yarn through. Then insert the needle in the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit (from front to back). To graft:
On the front needle, insert the darning needle in the first stitch as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle, then insert the darning needle in the second stitch (now the first stitch) as if to purl and pull the yarn through.
On the back needle, insert the darning needle in the first stitch as if to purl, pull the yarn through, and slip the stitch off the needle, and insert the darning needle in the second (now first) stitch as if to knit and pull the yarn through.
Repeat these two step to the last 2 stitches (one on each needle). To finish, on the front needle, insert the darning needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle, and on the back needle, insert the darning needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle. When you pull the needle through the stitches, you have to be mindful of the resulting tension of the grafting in the knitting; too loose and it looks loose and sloppy, too tight and it looks like the two rows are tied together with a tight drawstring. The goal is to simulate the same stitch size as your knitting so the graft blends in.
You may notice that to process the knit stitches on the front needle you enter them with the darning needle as if to purl first, process the next stitches, then when you come to the stitch again, you enter it as if to knit and slip it off the needle. Something similar is true for the back needle, which looks like purl stitches from your perspective of holding the fabric back to back. You insert the darning needle into purl stitches as if to knit, then then next time as if to purl and then off the needle.
Instead of following the steps, it’s easier for me to just look at the stitches as they are on the needle and work them accordingly, remembering to process 2 stitches on each needle before switching needles (except for the set up and ending steps). The first time you put the darning needle through a stitch you do it in a way that’s opposite the stitch type (as if to purl for knit stitches and as if to knit for purl stitches). The second time, you put the darning needle through a stitch the same way as the stitch type (as if to knit for knit stitches, as if to purl for purl stitches). This made it easy for me to graft ribbing and moss stitch – you just have to keep track of what type of stitch you’re processing and whether or not you’ve gone into it yet, not which step in the process you’re on.
Patterns that would be more difficult (impossible?) to graft are those with increases, decreases, or slipped stitches in every row. Lace and cables and just about everything else can be grafted using a wrong side row of purl stitches or a mix of knit & purl. But the herringbone stitch pattern I’ve been working on is difficult (impossible?) to graft because it has decreases in each row; it’s is a two row repeat of:
*k2tog TBL, slip first stitch off the needle* to the last stitch, knit.
*p2tog, slip the first stitch off the needle* to the last stitch, purl.
You’re essentially working each stitch twice before slipping it off the needle. When I tried grafting herringbone stitch, I thought this would be a problem, but it wasn’t too difficult to put the darning needle through two stitches instead of one and dropping one while processing the other with the next stitch. I think the yarn I tried with was too sticky for me to get better tension in the grafted row.
But there’s another potential problem with herringbone stitch: not being able to simulate the slant of the stitches. On my sample swatch, the two grafted rows and the graft all look like they’re not slanted at all, just extra long stitches. I don’t know if it’s the tension of the yarn or if it’s just not possible to graft herringbone stitch. I’m going to try it again with smoother yarn and see if a) I just need practice to get the tension right or b) it’s just not possible or c) it’s not possible but this looks better than regular grafting (already true, IMO).