Saturday, July 27, 2019

Yarn and Knitting First!

My travels to Riga and Vilnius were amazing, and I will do a very short travel post (I hate long travelogues) about a few highlights, but let's get to the important thing first: yarn! These are cities where knitting is happening -- and with knitting history.

Wouldn't you know? There was a yarn store around the corner from my Air Bnb in Riga, Tines:
Mostly it has finished knitted sweaters, hats and mittens for sale, but I couldn't resist this colorful skein of Latvian yarn:
There was another store a block away, but I didn't even set foot in it!
If you follow knitting books at all, you've probably seen this very popular recent book about Lavian mitts and mittens:
Well, there is a store in Riga's Old Town that has dedicated a large section of the store to it, Hobbywool. This makes sense because owner is the author of the book! Hobbywool has the cutest facade ever, complete with yarn bombing!
The store is incredibly gorgeous.
 You can't stop looking at all the yarn and knitted items:
I was most taken with the small skeins made out of the very yarn used in the Knit Like a Latvian book. These 25-gram skeins cost about $2.30 each, and you only need three or four to make a pair of mitts or mittens. I came home with a few (arranged by intended project):
Don't worry, you don't need to travel to Riga. You can get these skeins from Hobbywool's Etsy store!  The owner assured me that shipping is very modest. I want to point out that you can buy mitts and mittens completed at Hobbywool -- for $35 and up! See, knitting is budget-friendly!

I had set up a sock project to travel with, but I made the same mistake I have for the last two summers: it was too complicated for travel knitting. Luckily, I only had to walk a few blocks to Midara in Vilnius, where I practically drowned in gorgeous yarn.

It's another gorgeous store in a charming old building:
I usually only buy souvenir yarn that isn't readily available to me in Madison, but I needed to be practical. She had an amazing selection of Opal sock yarn, which isn't sold here in Madison, and she had a line that I hadn't seen before: Impressionist. I picked up a skein from the Monet line and went home to relax and start some easy socks on my charming Air BnB balcony:
Before I went to Midara, I'd read online about a great book about knitting Lithuania, Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions by Donna Druchunas. Unfortunately, it isn't available in the States -- not even through Amazon. Imagine how happy I was to walk into Midara and find this:
Even though it is a large hardcover book, I had to haul it back home with me. I mean, how could I resist it when she covers Jews and knitting in Lithuania? This is not commonly addressed.

I am looking forward to catching up with you. I can't say that I'll read a lot of back posts, but I am going to jump back in today. I have missed my blog pals!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Lots of Fiber

My life has been filled with fiber these last few days. It's also been filled with intense heat and humidity. Personally, I prefer the fiber.

I coordinated a "play date" for my fiber group, which consists of reserving a room at Blue Bar Quilts and inviting the group. We had a fun and productive day
I'm trying to cut fabric with more precision.
Here Donna is making a gorgeous portrait quilt for her SIL. The talent in this group is just amazing.
Of course it is unbeastly hot because it's always horrible for the Art Fair on the Square.  Fiber art was much more common than in past years. This artist does amazing landscapes with needle-felting:
This panoply of fruit is also done in fabric. Look that those peaches at the bottom. Truly amazing!
A very young vendor upcycles vintage linens into gorgeous clothing:
Normally I would have recorded the artists' names, but it was just too hot to do even that little task.

I've been knitting while watching Stranger Things on Netflix. I am not generally a fan of horror, but this show keeps me riveted. I've been made it to the second color in my Free Your Fade.
I leave for my trip tomorrow. I'll try to post some photos from my phone while I'm gone, and I'll be back to catch up with you at the end of the month.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Unraveled Wednesday

I have been enjoying mindless knitting this summer, possibly because I'm working to improve my sewing skills -- and that is no easy task!

I finished a Hitchhiker made from a series of very-mini skeins. I haven't blocked it yet, but it still looks fine. I like the crazy colors, but I'd hesitate before giving this as a gift!
 And I immediately started a Find Your Fade. The yarn in Fresh From the Cauldron Freyr Sock (colorway: A Rose by Any Other Name).
I haven't had much time for social knitting, but I did have lunch and knitting with my friend Marsha. She is so photogenic it's hard to be her friend!
I interrupted my reading when an ebook came through on my Kindle: Fascism by Madeleine Albright, which Marsha recommended. It's a pithy history of fascism, and I'm sure it links the past to the present -- I'm just not that far yet.

Scary fact: The term "drain the swamp" comes from Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. 

I'm linking up with Kat today for Unraveled Wednesday.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Not Your Usual Summer Reading

That's not totally accurate. I did read a couple summer-type books so far. I enjoyed this one:
 It's not great literature, but it is well-written and it kept me reading. Then I dove into this one:
Once again, I hate a book that almost everyone else liked -- or even loved! I thought the plot was dull, the main character was dull, the whole thing was dull. Worse, I felt it was quite a white-washing of daily life in the Soviet Union. Only highly placed party officials lived and ate like the main character.

And I am all about history. Next, I tried these two:
I am completely baffled by the success of The Friend. Boring! I didn't get very far. But I did like 1917, which looked at that era through the lens of Lenin and President Wilson. The author is clearly a Republican and made some opinionated remarks I disagreed with, but I'm OK with that as long as the facts are straight and the author is honest about their politics.

I recently finished Stranger From Abroad, which is about philosopher Hannah Arendt, who is one of my idols. Unlike the books she writes, it is very readable.

Secondhand Time and Between East and West are about Eastern Europe. (Note: Hannah Arendt grew up in the Eastern European city of Konigsberg, now Kaliningrad, which is part of Russia.) Why this fixation on Eastern Europe?

I'm going back! A week from today I fly to Riga, Latvia. I'll be splitting my time between Riga and Vilnius, which is in Lithuania. My grandfather had some memories of the Old Country -- Lithuania -- so I've always wanted to visit. He was from Taurage, but I'm not going there. It's off the beaten trail -- and there is nothing left of the Jewish shtetl. There is little enough in Vilnius, but at least there is something. 

Riga and Vilnius are incredibly gorgeous, so I'm excited about seeing them and drawing them! I am going alone so I can geek out on art and history without worrying about inconveniencing anyone else.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Pouring on Independence Day

I guess it's a good thing that we didn't have any big plans for today because it is raining cats and dogs. We will be eating supper at my in-law's house because my MIL was discharged from the hospital this afternoon. She called us Tuesday morning and asked for a ride to the ER. It's a good thing she did because this lovely lady has a serious case of colitis!

But she is looking and sounding good, and I'm sure she's happy to be home. She still has a lot of treatment ahead of her, but we hope the worst is over. 

I thought of Kathy B this week because the nurses at the hospital were wonderful. They really took care of my MIL emotionally and physically.

I have an FO to show her today:

This little quilt is made from the scraps leftover from the quilts I made at a workshop last summer. It took a year to hand-quit because those colored fabrics are painted with acrylic paint. It turns out to be very hard to get a needle through a good layer of paint. Those fabrics are definitely more suited for machine quilting! I'm glad I stuck with it, but next time I'll use thinner fabrics.

In fact, I'm going to hand-quilt this mini-quilt when I finish piecing it:
The pink and green squares are some of the fabrics that I sun-printed. I used Dynaflow, which I think is technically an acrylic paint, but it is very thin and I can get a needle through it easily.

I hope you have having a lovely Fourth of July. I celebrated as I always do -- by listening to the NPR staff read the Declaration of Independence on Morning Edition. They do a great job of bringing the document to life. In these turbulent times, it is worth going back and remembering why this country was formed.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Nature and Messes

Do not be fooled by this sweet-looking animal. She seems to be driven by nature to play with yarn. 

I should have taken a photo. However, I was distracted by having to untangle miles of yarn and roll it into balls for my Hitchhiker.  She must have had a fabulous time winding so much yarn around the chairs and table on our screened porch.

Untangling it was not so much fun. Since she had gone into a knitting bag and dragged out the whole project with its many yarns, I decided that I needed some larger project bags that I could put in my tote. Shopping was fun.

I found these darling and sturdy bags on Etsy from a seller called Whimzee Stitches. 
Here you can see that a medium bag easily fits a nearly finished Hitchhiker and a good cake of yarn.
Nature -- as in the weather -- has been frustratingly unpredictable here, with scorching heat alternating with frightening downpours. I took my mom to the airport this afternoon (she's flying to Virginia to see my brothers). Much to my surprise, the sun was out as I drove back through town, so I stopped to do some sketching:
I ended up working even more slowly than usual because I was joined by three, talkative street people. They were passing around bottle of vodka, which I didn't mind; but they were also smoking cigarettes, which I do! They were very nice and told me I am very beautiful for an older lady. Is that a compliment?

Then I took a little stroll and saw this guy:

Last Friday, I was planning to meet up with Kathy B and Mrs. Macawber. Kathy and I agreed that the weather was too bad -- terrible storms, downed trees. But Sue (Mrs. Macawber) wasn't intimidated and she made it just fine. I should have gone -- the storms ended (which is not what the forecast said!) -- and they had a great time.

We'll have to try again soon, ladies!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Listen To That Inner Knitting Voice

I need to take my own advice!

The last time you saw my Hitchhiker, it looked like this:
I knew it was awful. I knew it. But I didn't want to "waste" all that knitting time, so I told myself that it would look fine when it was twisted around my neck. Still, a little voice in the back of my mind told me that I was lying.

Finally, I could no longer ignore that little voice and I ripped out the entire thing. Then I did what I should have done a long time ago. Instead of having big blocks of colors, I striped the sections, knitting two rows with one color and then switching to the other.
Much better, don't you think? It is still kind of random, but in a fun way. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

It's All About The Flowers

I've been pretty good about walking or biking five days a week -- one of my summer goals. Summer may have come late this year, but I find myself in a sea of flowers when I walk around my neighborhood. 

 Saturday evening my mom and I went to a birthday party at a friend's house. The hostess, my friend Debbie, is a gardener extrordinaire.
Thanks to the Internet, I stumbled on a way to do sun-dying with Dynaflow dyes by Jacquard. It's incredibly easy. You just slap down the dye, lay a stencil over the painted cloth, and let it dry in the sun. The results are amazing. I think this works on paper, too.

I finally broke down and bought this book. I've waited and waited for the public library to acquire it, but it doesn't look like they are going to.

I've been eyeing this spread at my local bookstore, and dreaming of embroidering these flowers onto clothing.
So, finally I've taken the plunge.
I traced the designs onto Sulky Super Solvy, which works like a sticker. You embroider over the lines, then soak off the Super Solvy. One caveat: I have found that if you leave the Solvy on for weeks and weeks, it is hard to get off. So, I'll get this done pretty quickly.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thinking about UFOs

My husband was getting something from my Art Room last week, and he commented, "You sure have a lot of unfinished projects."

I, of course, immediately corrected him: "Those are UFOs." It took a few seconds, but he got it. Then I explained they were also WIPs.
I started this hat months ago, but then I got stuck on the decreases. I had failed to note how any stitches I cast on, so I had to recount and then decide how I wanted to do the decreases. Once I counted, it was easy. The lovely yarn is from Knit Circus.
I have never denied that I have a problem with casting on -- but I know I'm not the only one. There is a certain high that comes with casting on -- it reminds me of a sugar high. It feels so good at the time, even if it's the 101st WIP you have going. I have a similar relationship with chocolate.

This is my third pair of Kirsten Kapur's mitts, all knitted in Crazy Zauerball. I have to do one more to use up the rest of the skein. These are addictive, but I think it's time to move on.
While I admire people who can maintain knitting monogamy, I don't even aspire to it. I like the variety. I like giving into the urge to cast on something new and exciting. 

That's not to say that there aren't downsides to having so many WIPs. I do sometimes feel pressured to finish a batch before starting anything new. And it means I own too many needles -- you can't use needles that are in a WIP, after all. (Well, technically you can, but I'm not that organized.)

And I do finish things on a steady  basis. It took me about three days to knit the Hoopla Hat from PomPom.
And then I just had to cast on another Hoopla. I have two good excuses: First, I wanted to practice the Latvian Braid before I forgot how to do it. Second, it's a great stash-buster!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Lots of Beginnnings

 The best beginning was the one that began yesterday -- the beginning of summer vacation. I have plenty of work to do, but at least it's on my schedule. On my very first morning, I was able to join the Plein Air painting group at Donald County Park, where I painted an outcrop:
I think it needs a few finishing touches.

Later, I started in with some summer reading. I usually avoid popular fiction, but this has gotten so much publicity, I had to find out for myself if it's worth all the buzz.
If you've read it ... no spoilers, please.

I started a hat pattern, Hoopla, from PomPom magazine. I have a small collection of these beautiful magazines, but I haven't actually knit anything from them. Their patterns tend to be a bit complicated. 

This hat, for example, has a Latvian Braid, something I've always wanted to learn. I did learn in a class a few years ago, but I've forgotten everything from that. It turns out that You Tube has some pretty good tutorials.
Wah-Lah! I did it! The pattern is from this issue:
 And, I've found some time to hang around with one of my favorite girls:
Now, I just need some sunny weather for sun-dying cloth, and I'll be all set.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Trend In Decline? Or Is It The Internet?

In the past, when I've gone to the Bead&Button show in Milwaukee, I had a sense of panic when I entered the market. So many booths! How could see them all? How could I figure out what to buy on my budget?
But it wasn't like that Saturday, when I went with a friend. We stepped into the marketplace, and there were about half as many stalls as there were a decade ago. I last went two years ago, and the decline in the number of stalls was drastic even from that time.

On the upside, it was a lot easier to see everything and figure out what to buy. But it was sad to see all that open space and to worry about the future of jewelry-making. I talked to a lot of the vendors, and they said the problem is all the online purchasing.
I don't understand that. I use the Internet when I must, but I really prefer to see the beads in person. You can't get the same sense for the colors and luster and size of the beads on the Internet. I like going to a store, where you can talk to the employees and the other shoppers. 

In general, I am not a fan of moving all of life online.  The type of blogging we do is, I think, an exception. We are a group who make friends. But in general, I think it's good for us to get out and interact with people.

Still, we had a good time. We took a break and walked to a Thai restaurant for dinner. On the way we saw some of Milwaukee's famed architecture:

And the shopping was still a lot of fun. We found plenty of great elements for jewelry making:

And our goodie-bags had a lot of mini-kits and useful tools.
We both took classes. Tsela did a class in layering with resin. I took a very cool class on beading a spiral bracelet. The good news is that I learned a skill I've been wanting: peyote spiraling. The bad news is that it is a very involved project and I didn't finish in the class:
And, changing topics completely, I have to thank Kat for identifying the bush in my last post. It is indeed a Weigela. When we downsize into a smaller house, I want to make sure there is enough sun for me to plant one of these!