Black Dog

Just a little outpost on the web for me to ramble, post pix, share ideas, and be a part of the crowd.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Whoops, Missed it by THAT Much

OK, so it's 12:35 a.m. (technically Thursday) when I'm starting this post. I have a good excuse for being later than I wanted to be--this week's newsletter for the shop is AWESOME and took a little longer than I expected to write, so it's going out a little later than either Matt or myself wanted. Each week's missive is a joint effort by the two of us--we brainstorm "the top part" together, I flesh it out, along with writing all of the other sections, he formats things nicely into the ThreadBear template, and off it goes, via e-mail. Each and every Wednesday night--like clockwork. No Exceptions. Period.

Kinda makes me wanna do this sometime soon

Matt must have snapped that picture of her highness sometime on Tuesday, as the carpet is all livingroom and there's sunshine--something we've not seen at all today. With a high of just 49F (9C) today, it was a cooler, rainy, very overcast day, which made for great sleeping weather (Miss Thing--Connor--slept all day, as per usual, but "harder" than normal, as she's wont to do when it is cloudy). Looking at her face in the picture above, she was really into that sun nap. Ah, the dog's life!

But no, today was filled with obligations, tasks, work, and other non-knitting activities. If I've knitted 200 stitches today, that's generous, as I've been busy with SOMETHING all day long. But it's a good busy, so I'm pleased.

What I wasn't working on today would be Charlotte, shown here in all her glory

That's a progress shot as of this morning, and all I added since is maybe two rows of work. I'm two rows short of finishing the 3-4 blend section and ready to move into just 4 (which means I'm like 48 rows from being finished!). It's coming along quite nicely and I couldn't be more pleased. I was, initially, a little skeptical of the dark, brooding nature of this color combo. I should know to trust Matt, as he has an amazing eye for combining colors. I love this extreme close-up shot

as it gives an interesting perspective on the project and all of the color blending that's going on in the fabric. I can't wait to get home and work on it (yes, we're still at the shop, but he's almost finished with the formatting of the newsletter and I'm here for moral support, I guess). Soon.....soon.

I also promised an updated shot of my Heather sock, so here goes

I think the resulting blend of colors is amazing, and not even remotely what was suggested in the skein

And check out the waste yarn, inserted where the heel will go once the leg is completed

I'm looking forward to finishing this PAIR of socks soon, so I can wear them shortly. Here's to a finished pair...FOR ME!

Speaking of socks, we had a nice addition to our stock of sock yarns today

That's a shot down one of nearly a dozen walls of sock yarn, showing you a little bit of our stock in (from right to left) TOFUtsies, Luna Park (with solid Fortissima underneath), and Aktiv Effekt by Steinbach Wolle. And creeping into the left side of the picture...what is that?

Why it's a full spinner packed with EVERY SINGLE SHADE of Dream in Color Smooshy, their 100% merino superwash sock yarn with 450 yards in a hank at just $21 each. A few hanks sold immediately and we're now low on a couple shades (I've already reordered ALL shades, plus extra of the ones disppearing quickly). We also have two different sheet patterns for their socks (check them out here--they're called "Sleepwalker Socks" and "Sweet Dreams Socks" and are just $4 each, as are all Dream in Color patterns, which we stock). I also think this would make great yarn for CookieA patterns and almost any other texture or pattern stitch sock you may want to make. And the price is right, in my opinion! Not familiar with the shades of Dream in Color yarns? Check them out here--they're beautfiful!

See anything above you need? Just slip us a note and we'll be back in touch right away. Or you can always call at 866-939-BEAR between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. EDT during the week, 10-6 on Saturdays, or 12-5 on Sundays. Someone's always ready to enable!

Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully new pictures to share. I have some in the wings, but I also know that we're getting more product in during the day, and I need to start to prepare for my all-day-long dyeing workshop that runs on Saturday. WHEW! Never a dull moment! See you back here soon (hopefully on Thursday!)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Keeping Promises

WHEW! Tuesdays are typically our day off from the shop, but they almost always start with either Matt or myself having some sort of personal appointment (haircuts, me a pedicure once a month, or something for Connor or Tate). Today was no exception, as I had another visit with Laurie, the colorist par excellence. First a bit of back story.

Locals will remember last month's hair debacle, when I went for the third month/consecutive haircut from someone new (who really can cut men's hair quite well)--for the past 18 months I've been getting a light highlight on my head--and it was the new gal's turn to frost me.

I should have seen the foreshadowing when she wouldn't use foil on my head, because she can't do foil on short hair (I wear a 7 7/8 hat, so I have a big head--just ask my mother.....which precludes the rubber cap, too). She pulled out a weird curved comb thingie and the hair bleach and started in on me. It was looking kinda odd, and in the middle of it all it started to look VERY brassy orange (my hair has red undertones--thanks, Dad--and when bleached turns orange before heading towards blonde) and she went "Uh Oh". Short story is that three applications of product, four rounds of something they called "toner", and a marginal haircut later, I looked like big bird with tiger stripes (very brassy yellow with brown stripes). Not the look I was going for. Worst yet, she kinda quit there (with me looking like hell on a cracker) and called it a day. About an hour later, I called Laurie, admitted to "cheating on her" for three months, and booked an appointment two days later to be fixed.

Turns out that "new gal" most likely comes from a salon environment where you either cut or color, and I'll admit she's a damn good cutter. Color, however, would not be her forte. I was told by several people that what I was walking around with on my head was a classic "beauty school mistake" and that I should have never been sent out in public like that (trust me, I know!). So, to Faith, owner of Bella Rio Salon in Old Town--it wasn't so much the accident on my head that turned me off to you and your establishment, it was how you handled it a few days later, when I showed up in person to return some product you gave me to use to tone things down and to cancel my October appointment with you well in advance so you could fill the spot; it really was how you mishandled our interaction and told me in a rather snotty tone "I figured you wouldn't be back" (almost a direct quote). Prior to that last interaction, I hadn't even told anyone who screwed up my hair, figuring it was just an accident. But you know what they say about dissatisfied customers--they talk. And this is my podium!

Back to the fun stuff--Laurie did a great job in pushing me back in the right direction last month (she excels in color correction, which she attributes to having worked across the street from Michigan State University for six years, and that means lots of work repairing bad home dye jobs, she says), after about three hours of work on my hair and turning it back to a solid color again (not quite the target, but still something to go out in public with). Today, however, we're almost 100% back to normal and looking great, in my opinion. When I went in today, we both decided that I was turning a weird green/muddy shade that was headed towards brassy, so she worked her color magic on me again and I feel somewhat normal (that's a good thing!). Up for a great cut and stellar color experience? See Laurie at Personal Image in East Lansing. She's awesome (and a new "g-mom" to some adorable pug pups).

Ok--somewhere above I mentioned keeping promises.......

The Heather Toe-Up Sock is coming along swimmingly. Check it out as of Sunday evening

As of that point, I had just laid in the waste yarn for the afterthought heel and headed up the leg. Since then, I've completed about three inches of leg, including a little bit of calf shaping (cuz I have fat legs). I'm trying something different on the shaping for these socks. If it works out well, you'll hear about it. If it tanks, mums the word!

Schaefer Heather is an awesome yarn that's a blend of 15% nylon (for duarability), 55% superwash merino (for great hand), and 30% silk (for absolute decadence). The fiber really takes the dye in a nice way, and the colors are beautiful (you saw the skein I'm working with in yesterday's post). How's about a view of some of the other skeins we have at the shop

Those are some of the "one-of-a-kind" colourways that they do at Schaefer. They have no names, so they're just beauty in a skein. Here's a few more

For some reason, they're doing regular/repeatable/named colourways in Heather, as seen in this batch

The back row and center are still "various", but the front arc is "Toni Morrison", and you'll see "Renata Tebaldi" at about 10 o'clock (it looks like dusky purple, tan, and rich pink). And standing straight up at 12 noon is another hank like mine. We have even more

All of these were up for adoption to a good home for just $29 a hank, as of Monday evening. Speaking of Monday evening, I taught the middle class of my three-session "Intro To Socks" class last night,

which involved turning a heel, picking up stitches, and doing the gusset decreases. (yup, that's me in the right corner, and it appears that Jo is flashing gang hand signals or some such). Matt took another candid shot

which shows off our shop orchid more than my class (though Leah seems to be drinking heavily--which is necessary in my classes). Too much fun ensued, as we were laughing and joking and having a very good time, all while being industrious. One participant (who will not be named here), was fussing about needing more order and structure to her sock knitting world, and then doubting her skills in turning the heel. A few minutes later, while we were all laughing and carrying on with the table next to us, she stops knitting and yells "I DID IT! I DID IT! I TURNED MY HEEL!!!!!". I love it when the light bulb goes off and people feel empowered! You want empowered? Wait until next session, in two weeks, when they graft their toes closed.

After the haircut this morning, Matt and I spent the rest of the day goofing off, driving around, and taking in a beautiful autumn day in mid-Michigan, and just plain enjoying each other's company. After Thai buffet with lots of delicious cold salads for lunch, we drove down to Eaton Rapids (just south of Lansing) to purchase a warping board at Old Mill Yarn. We need a few of these to support a hand-dyeing class I'm teaching on Saturday (a couple seats are still available, it runs from 10-4 and includes a box lunch, and we'll be dyeing three different types of hand-painted sock-weight yarn). After picking up the warping board, we drove through the center of town up 127 and did something quintessentially Michigander--went to Uncle John's Cider Mill north of St. Johns. We immediately got some fresh cider and a donut, did some looking around in the gift shop, and then hit the pie barn. I picked up two 1/2 peck bags of apples (Galas for eating and Northern Spies for baking), we got some homemade dill bread and apple bread, some apple fritters (to go), and a caramel-apple coffee cake to take to the shop in the morning. Dinner was Thai again, this time at Taste of Thai (yes, we like Thai food), which was one of the first places we ever ate toether in the Lansing area, so it holds a little sentimental spot for us and Mary is a damned good cook! Top off the evening with some ice cream later on in the living room, and you have the complete night (well, blogging too!).

My project of choice all day today was my Charlotte's Web shawl, which looked like this on Sunday evening

but looks much different/larger now (pictures on Wednesday, I promise). I'm trying something with markers with this version to see if it helps (it does) and to use when I teach a class on this later this season. And speaking of markers, aren't these adorable

Those are hand-made markers from one of our friends (now an employee) who has her own stitch-marker-making business. My set was three of these adorable fish and one big blue bead that looks like a bubble (her sets are typically three alike and one different, so you can work in the round and mark beginning of row). She makes lettered markers to go with your Cat Bordhi books, and she does amazing row counters, too (I have some markers and a counter in a cabled sweater I'm working on that you haven't seen....YET). We do carry her things in the shop, if you'd rather peruse them in person, but buying from her direct means she gets the full profit (she's taking a year or so off of teaching to get her bearings while her youngest started school and her eldest started high school and her life gets more....centered). And if you're a LYS owner outside the Lansing area, she does do wholesale, so you can carry her fab stuff in your shop, too!

Suann has been a good friend and advice-giver over the past week, and it's only made me feel more "like her" (we have similar personalities and issues, me thinks) and a little more closer to her as a friend--THANKS, DARLIN'! I needed your e-mail "kick in the ass" the other day.

OK, I gotta get to bed soon and even more, I need to wrap this up. Thanks for sharing my fantastic day, and look for another post tomorrow (Wednesday), updating you on Charlotte, socks, and more. Plus, we're getting a gi-normous shipment of Dream in Color Smooshy (sock yarn) on Wednesday--every single color, in multiple skeins. YUM-O!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Time For A Little Bit For Me!

First off, thank you to each and every one of you out there that took the time to leave a comment or send an e-mail after my last post. Support has been flowing freely and is very much appreciated......some even comes from some unexpected places (and to one of you out there who knows who you are--the long e-mail packed with personal experience was MUCH appreciated). It's been a long weekend and a busy one at the shop, including a really fun, really boisterous second (of three) session of my "Intro To Socks" class on Sunday. There's no better medicine than laughter, and I partook of plenty in the past few days. On the home front, things are less stressed out, nothing's final, and there's been some good forward progress, even without time to really sit down and talk about meatier topics (and yes, as so many suggested--if it's gonna work, there's got to be a third party/counselor involved). Updates to follow, but the short answer is THANK YOU FOR THE WONDERFUL AND PERSONAL NOTES!

I've also been trying to knit a little bit, especially at night, as a way of winding down. Of course, the temptations are everywhere, including a delivery of nearly 100 skeins of Koigu KPPPM that arrived on Friday afternoon. Matt snapped a few pix of it immediately for his blog, he put together a few kits for Charlotte's Web Shawls (one of which was snapped up immediately and heads to New Zealand in the morning). I nabbed three skeins for socks for myself, and I've also started a Charlotte (cast on was Saturday morning, and you'll see a progress pic here tomorrow of two days of knitting) for the shop. It took a little while to get the yarn inventoried and stickered, but once it hit the shelves it was popular! There's still a nice amount left, including some sock amounds (pairs and trios), and there's still some open stock that could be turned into more Charlotte kits when Matt decides to get creative again (hopefully later today). I also hope to have more yarn later this week, even tho today is Canadian Thanksgiving.

OK--time for some pictures! We received a shipment of the newest yarn from Schaefer called "Heather", a blend of 15% nylon, 55% superwash merino, and 30% silk (mmmmmmm, silk) on Monday of last week. I immediately snatched a couple skeins for myself (ah, the joys of putting things into inventory myself and paying the bills....)

tell me that isn't some of the most beautiful color applied to yarn EVER (and I'd call you a liar)! Ah, the simplicity of a single skein, perched on one of the posts on the front deck of the house.

I started a toe-up sock using the figure eight cast on right away

This was only my second attempt at this cast on, but I'm REALLY pleased with how it looks. I used a couple tips from Cookie A from her stint on Knitty Gritty earlier this year. Her tips and tricks on the show were awesome, and in case you didn't know this, she designs sock patterns and we stock them all, as well as solid Gems Fingering (in all 36 shades). I (heart) her designs and must make some soon--solid socks are calling out to me. Back to my current sock....

that's what it looked like after about an hour of knitting late last week. It currently is over 10" long, the waste yarn is laid in for the afterthought heel, and I'm already working up the leg (thus the 10" long part). It's working up to be incredibly beautiful and I cannot wait to enjoy these socks myself (I said socks...plural...I will finish a pair this time, versus the one solo sock I completed for myself in June/July of this year).

What I think I'm really amazed at is how prominent the orange is in the skein, yet how much it blends into the knitted fabric. Even better yet, aside from a small puddle on the toe, the colors are very well dispersed, which pleases me to no end! Hooray for "the perfect sock"!

That same night I also started another pair of socks, out of some KPPPM I've had stashed in the glove box of my Explorer for over a year now (the original intent was to knit a pair of socks for Matt with the yarn, as he LOVED it when it came in and I snagged three hanks and hid them in my car; he's since found them, so the secret was blown long ago). Check out the great color play AND texture

That's P701, part of their speckled series, which I believe Richard is responsible for dyeing. There are three people who dye yarn for Koigu....Taiu, her mother Maie, and Richard--that's it. (There's more to the Koigu story from my blog post on February 22, 2004, archived here) Each has their own specialty, and certain dye codes are only dyed by specific people. Back to the speckles....some people love it, some hate it. I love them, and I think the socks are working up quite nicely

The pattern comes from the "Fun Socks" book by Koigu--a collection of around a dozen different designs, some lacey, some textured, some plain, and one Estonian design that's quite interesting. It's a simple knit and purl design that makes itno beautiful fabric that should be quite comfy to wear.

In my last post I also mentioned how I was going to start a Cottage Creations design called "Babies & Bears for Grown Ups", but with a very ThreadBear twist. The project is worked from cuff to center back, in two pieces, and then grafted together. That sort of canvas makes a good place for some creativity, so here goes.

Starting with this bundle of yarn

which is five different colourways of Colinette Iona (an aran-weight blend of silk, mohair, and wool--that's why the colors are so spectacular, as you take the amazing dyeing of Colinette and apply it to yarn with silk and mohair..mmmmm). Then you do some serious math to figure out the "blueprint" of the sweater and how the colors will progress. They'll go a little something like this

with the blues on the cuffs and ending with the toffees on the back. Then you incorporate color blending and skein changes, all to make an interesting and painterly type of finished sweater. No, it's not yet on the needles--I haven't even done the math to map out the color progression lengths. I got completely stalled out by a Charlotte's Web shawl (as promised, you'll meet this project tomorrow), so the jacket is on temporary hold.

I also have like five other projects in various stages of completion in the basket and bag (I've gone condo) that I drag back and forth with me every day. After a marathon photo shoot last night (thank you, Matt), I have lots to show you in the upcoming days. Plus there's other things to talk about and share, including some prep work for an upcoming (this Saturday) day-long workshop I'm teaching on dyeing your own sock yarn (three different ways, including stripes/patterns). Seats are still available for the class, which meets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (lunch is included in the class fee), so if you're interested, do be in touch with me.

With that, I'm outta here for now--I have knitting to do! Thanks for being here today, go tell someone how much you love them!