Monday, May 23, 2011

another shortcut to more mushrooms

Nothing quite compares to the summer two years ago, but it's been raining so much in the Mushroom Woods (which is what I call a particular county park, because I see so many varieties there) that I knew they had to be popping up this year, maybe even a little ahead of schedule.

My posts back in 2009, like the original Shortcut to Mushrooms post, show an interesting array of groovy fungus that grew up in the damp earth that year. I even took a variety of photos of them that I offer prints of, like this one.

This year they haven't gone completely wild yet but I will take a break from shawls for a moment to show a few things that I saw today on a rainy woods walk.

I love these red-capped fellows. This one is just peeking up, looking around to see if anyone is there.

These wee yellow ones were much brighter in person but I do what I can when the light is dim to try to capture it.

Just some regular ol' brown mushrooms but still cute enough for a hobbit!

Oh and as a side note, I love tulip trees but they are so tall that you can almost never actually see the "tulips" until they fall to the ground and are squashed. So I was happy to find a low-hanging branch with some of the flowers intact on it. So strange and waxy and almost tropical looking!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How I came to love lace

Looking back over the last few months of spotty blog posts I've done here I see that I haven't chronicled a lot of my progress as I went from just knowing the knit and purl stitches, to being an obsessive lace knitter, so I thought I'd play catch up a little.

Along the way I learned entrelac, sock knitting, and cable knitting and learned basic shawl construction. I've seen on Ravelry that a lot of people are doing 11 shawls for 2011 and many did 10 shawls for 2010 so I was surprised when I counted and realized I think I've already done nine shawls this year! O_O Many of them are quite small though. One of the first that I did was the famous Citron. I used Noro Sekku, and although it was a bit of a headache (cobweb weight yarn with 500+ stitches on the needles at the end) it was gorgeous and is one of my joys.

See those stitches? They are tiny. I think being snowed in way the only way I did the whole thing in a week!

I also made a Multnomah shawl, but I didn't take a good photo of it at the time so I will wait till I can get that one in direct sunlight. I used Crazy Zauberball in "Tropical Fish," a crazy rainbow colorway, for that one.

Around that time, in February or March, I began to realize that what I really love are lace patterns. I get this tingly feeling in my brain when I look at them. I love intricate, complicated patterns especially. I made a sweater (I still have to stitch the pieces together but the knitting is done) with an elaborate lace pattern and realized: All you have to do, is follow the directions. It's like a computer program or a recipe. The information goes into your eyes and out your hands, and then you have something beautiful. The process of blocking items -- soaking them and pinning them out to dry -- makes the design set in a beautiful way. I adore lace. Utterly. Especially in heavier-than-lace yarns. I am pretty much expecting this will form most of my projects in the future, because it's what excites me the most.

A simple pattern that was easy to memorize was the Morning Frost wrap, which I did in Stitch Nation's Bamboo Ewe, the Beach Glass colorway. I really love it for reasons I can't completely explain, it just scratches the "blue" part of my brain just right.

And another I did in that brand of yarn, the Mercury colorway, was the Summer Flies shawl. This is such a wonderful pattern! It only took about 4 days, and I remember knitting it while I was anxious about the horrible situation in Japan this March, unable to concentrate on anything else. As for the shawl, though, it only takes a couple of skeins of this yarn and it changes pattern every couple dozen rows so it is always interesting.

Embarrassingly, I still have a lot more to post, but I will leave these for here now and upload more tomorrow. I do want to have shawls in every color I would wear, so I can have something to put over summer sundresses when freezing cold air conditioning does battle with the heat.

I still have a lot to learn, in lace. I haven't done "nupps" or attached beads and I haven't tackled Estonian lace. I prefer fingering, sport and even worsted weight yarns, though I like laceweight and cobweb well enough. This is where the whole "art" part of knitting takes hold of me and where I realize that it has a lot more potential for me than being able to make hats and scarves for the winter.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mystery yarn and lots of rain

It has rained nonstop for a week in New Jersey, where I have been during that time, after not seeing rain for quite awhile. Here on the tree stumps in her back yard, mushrooms are going crazy. Alongside this broken stone bird head it looks like we planned it, to look rustic. But we didn't, we just haven't been keeping up with the yard. I was hoping to get some outdoor work done up here, cleaning out the shed and organizing my possessions that are stored therein.

After a mostly dry season last year I am starved for mushrooms to photograph! The strangest thing in the back yard though was the fact that all of my boxes in her wooden shed seemed to be full of Rose of Sharon seeds. The things grow like weeds in the yard, but there weren't any IN the shed. There weren't any ABOVE the shed. How on earth did the seed pods manage to worm their way into my shoes, boxes and any sort of containment device, in the shed? It is a mystery to me. More on mysteries in a moment.

Now, on to blue things. Isn't it interesting when you can see the moon during the daytime?

Last week I got some mill-end yarn at AC Moore, a bag of five skeins of this stuff. Here's where the mystery is...I can usually identify any mill-end yarn because I spend an irrational amount of time in yarn stores and I know what brands usually wind up in the mill-end bin. I even recognized that they had Hobby Lobby I Love This Yarn! there, which was surprising since they don't even have Hobby Lobby around here. Which is a store that I love, because how can you not?

So here is the mystery yarn. Help identifying it would be greatly appreciated! Each skein is pretty hefty, and I've test knitting enough to know it's probably fingering weight. Using #4 needles I got about nine rows to the inch, and 29 stitches on the needle made it 4 inches wide. So that is 29 sts x 36 rows = a 4-inch square. But that was unblocked, stretched slightly.

The mill-end bags say it could contain anything from acrylic to nylon to wool, and I think that judging by the way it feels and knits up -- and sticks to itself I'm untangling it -- it must be at least part wool. I couldn't get it to "spit join" when I tried to felt it by rubbing the ends together wet, but to be fair I've never been able to get 100% wool to do that either.

Oh pretty skeins, what are you? How much of you is there? If this is fingering weight, then these are about the size of a ball of Noro sock yarn, which would mean there could be 300 or even 400 or more yards per ball.

So to test it out I am knitting the Out of My Head Shawlette -- or at least starting it, we'll see how it goes -- which uses less than 400 yards. So it won't take long and will be a good test of how the colors stripe out and if it blocks. If I can wet block it successfully to make the lace pattern set neatly, then I will be pretty sure it has wool content and I can make a larger, more complicated piece out of the rest. And I will know if I have 2000 yards of the stuff!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

For the sake of posting...

Just when I was thinking that it has been awhile since I posted here, because I am trying to stay away from computers these days, I sat down to try to post something and the computer froze up, kind of making my own point for me.

My little internet art shops are still active -- I am just in a non-horn-tooting mood and have been so for awhile. I am mainly interested in reading, and making things for friends/charity/myself, and being outdoors since spring started (which was in late February for me this year!).

Oh and that photo up at the top? It's from a pattern book I got called Ocean Breezes, which are all -- well, ocean themed scarves and shawls. I really love how it looks, and the ribbon kind of makes it. While I wait for some tie-dyed silk ribbon to arrive I used some cheap stuff from the craft store which actually...might look better than the expensive stuff, now that I think about it.

And I even dusted off the sewing machine (literally -- it was very dusty) to try to make a couple of dresses while at my mom's recently. I cut out this space dress on the right a long time ago and finally made it. Then I found some amazing jellyfish fabric and made the same dress with that. My love of jellyfish is also represented in things like this painting here.

Anyway, here are the dresses.

And here I am at an arboretum outside Houston.

My love of palm trees is well documented, but I still never stop being thrilled by them. If it doesn't grow in New Jersey, it is exciting to me.

A yellow-crested night heron. Pretty groovy!

Some kinda lizard!
Aren't my captions just incredibly informative and helpful?

And, um, that's a butterfly.

So there, consider yourselves up to date -- I'm making baby hats for a hospital all week so I will get back to that now, and whenever the computer lets me post something again I'll be back!