Saturday, May 28, 2016

Transformations

I used to be very active and slim until I injured my back around 1990. Since that time, I’d become quite a slug and I put on a good amount of weight. In February 2015 I got health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. As an obligation to the health care provider, I was required to get an annual physical exam. I went to my local clinic for that. Blood tests showed good kidneys, good liver, good blood sugar. But very high cholesterol. Ack. I did NOT want to take any statins because of the increased risk to liver and blood sugar. So, I decided to start exercising, modify my diet (no bacon, no pepperoni, less butter), and lose some weight. I scheduled a cholesterol re-test for 4 months later.


I started slowly. My housemate has an exercise bicycle. I started using it daily. The first week, I cycled for 5 minutes a day. It was a shock to my system. The second week, I upped my time by one minute a day: 6, then 7, then 8, then 9, then 10. The third week, I stayed at 10 minutes a day. The fourth week, upping again by one minute to 15 minutes. Stayed at 15 minutes for another week, then incrementally upped to 20. Then I started increasing intensity. I started incorporating the occasional “sprint”. I’ve stayed at 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week. Sometimes I do a 30-minute bout.


I made minimal changes to my diet, trying to add more nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Really, I did not feel food deprived.


I lost weight and I felt much more like myself. At the re-test, my cholesterol levels were WORSE! I still did not want to take statins. I got re-tested again 4 months later (still exercising and losing weight), and the cholesterol was a bit better, but still not good. Here’s how I look at it: high cholesterol is only one of many risk factors for cardiovascular problems. I am slimmer (BMI = 23), I eat well, I exercise regularly, I don’t smoke. I can’t help the getting older part or the genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. I will not take statins.


So, I’ve transformed. And it’s stuck. I lost about 30 pounds and they have stayed off. I’ve become more active. And it’s stuck; I feel weird on the days when I don’t get some physical activity.


At this time of year, my main physical activity is gardening. My housemate has an enormous perennial garden. Over the years it had become seriously overgrown with grass and periwinkle, and a seriously aggressive spreading rose, and don’t get me started on those bloody spiderwort! Two years ago, I started reclaiming the garden. I have essentially had to dig up nearly everything, remove the bad plants, and re-plant the good plants – which provided me the opportunity to re-design the garden. It’s been rather like very slow choreography. The first year I was able to fix about ¼ of the garden. Last year, another ¼. This year I’ve made good progress. The garden has transformed. I am pleased. I like gardening and it’s great exercise.



My housemate has decided to downsize, so she’s putting her house up for sale. This means two things to me: 1) I will be moving, and 2) someone else will be enjoying the rejuvenated perennial garden. I’m ok with that.


More on the moving bit later.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Panic. Don't Panic. Panic. Don't Panic.

About a year ago, I gave a keynote speech at the Ontario Handweavers & Spinners 2015 Conference. The topic of my talk was “Sources of Inspiration”. It was a great opportunity to ruminate on my own personal sources of inspiration. Among those sources, I listed “deadlines” and “proposals”. I also told the audience that to keep myself inspired I say “yes” when asked to do something new, and I say “no” when asked to do something old. After such a public announcement, I have felt obliged to abide by this strategy.

Here’s how: last year I was asked by Anne Merrow, editor of Spin-Off magazine, if I’d be interested in making some instructional spinning videos for Interweave. That was something new, so I said yes. After a number of conversations, we agreed that I’d do one video on “spinning woolen yarns” and another on “spinning worsted yarns”.

Now, I have years of performance and presentation and teaching experience. Years and years. Although I do feel a healthy dose of adrenaline when I present, I do not experience stage fright to any great extent. In fact, I feel lively and a little bit wicked – in a good way – in front of or interacting with an audience. But. I am camera shy. Really, really camera shy. The very thought of having my picture taken turns me into a stiff, panicked deer-in-headlights. The very thought of being videoed – for all to see – for all eternity – made me feel I was suffering from a severe virus. Sweats. Chills. The whole thing.

I agreed anyway. After all, I had several months to prepare. And I do feel quite comfortable with the topics: I teach them frequently, and I’ve written about them extensively. I prepared. I devised outlines. I created samples. I practiced. I got excellent advice from Anne, and Jill Brooke (talent coordinator for F&W), and Lindsay Smith (the instructional designer assigned to me). I also got encouragement and some good tips from Galina Khmeleva and Patsy Zawistoski, both of whom have made numerous excellent videos.

The dates for the video shoots seemed so far away, but those months went by. Fast.

Panic.

I flew out to Fort Collins, Colorado last Wednesday. The videos were shot on Thursday and Friday. I flew home on Saturday. It happened. I did it. It was scary. It was scarier than my dissertation defense. They said I did fine. They said the make-up (which I don’t wear in real life) looked fine. They liked the linen blouse that my friend Becky made for me. They said I was very well prepared. The two people who were actually in the studio while the cameras were on – Lindsay and the camera man; I’m terrible with names – were calm, kind, and very helpful. I couldn’t have asked for more.
 
 
Don’t panic.

Even though I’m done with the videos (tentative release dates in July and August this year), just writing about it is bringing back some of my anxiety. High Anxiety. I am not ready for my close-up, Mel Brooks.

Panic.
 

By the way, Fort Collins is charming. I hadn’t been there since the late 1970s. I did get to walk around the old downtown district: a used bookstore, a coffee shop, a gem/rock shop, and – of course – a yarn shop. The weather was delightful. The people were delightful. My meals were delightful. The margarita at Buena Vida was delightful.
 
 
Don’t panic.

Friday, April 29, 2016

I Was Away at PLY Away

So, I was one of the lucky ones who participated in the First Annual PLY Away spinning retreat. I taught workshops on Saturday and Sunday. What a delightful experience.

Of course I took advantage of the vendor hall, purchasing a lovely support spindle, some hemp (which I plan to spin/weave/knit into kitchen curtains), some silk to spin just for me, some merino for a future project inspired by Lake Michigan, and some supplies that I’ll be using in workshops this summer.

Other highlights: the goody bag awaiting me upon arrival (t-shirt, snacks, and more!); gifts from attendees (Thanks, Terri, for the beaded threader. And thanks, Maja, for the sea salt and toffee.); Chris Pappas’s talk at the banquet about the first spinners (she’s an archeologist); and the amazing lightning storm that I watched on the last leg of my flight home.

But the most wonderful thing about this particular adventure was that I connected with so many pleasant, cheerful, happy, generous, delightful people. The folks who took my workshops were amazing, wonderful, attentive, full of good questions. I couldn’t have asked for better company. So, thank you: Kandys, Andrea, Marte, Catherine, Marci, Teresa, Barbara, Brian, Rachael, Robbin, Susan, Leanna, Patsy, Tove, Becky, Grace, Janine, Karen, Lynn, Joan, Teresa, Pamela, Joan, Karen, Laura, Susan, Deborah (and thanks for the book recommend), Kathleen, Karen, Tara, Rachel, Kris, Suzanne, Laura, Jamie, Evelyn, Natasha, Maja, Irene, Barbara, Barbara, and Janette.

I also had some authentic conversations with other airline passengers, with hotel employees, with other instructors, with vendors, and with friends old and new.

This was truly an event made especially special by the people who were there. Fiber Folks Rock!

I failed to take any photos while I was there. So, here are some photos I took of the garden when I returned home. Notice that there are no pictures of snow.
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Used Bosworth Journey Wheel for Sale

I am helping a friend sell one of her many spinning wheels. It is a Journey Wheel, made by Jonathan Bosworth. This unique wheel folds into its own box. Folded up for travel, its dimensions are 14" x 16" x 7". Open for spinning, it is 32” tall, with the orifice at 29” from floor. It weighs about 15 lbs.

It has a carrying strap and a fabric travel cover. She bought it new in 2012. It’s made of beautiful cherry wood. It comes with 5 bobbins. There are 4 drive ratios on this wheel. It’s double treadle, scotch tension, with a special u-shape orifice, so no orifice hook is necessary.
 
Here are pictures of the wheel:
 

 
You can find information about this wheel (including manual) here: http://journeywheel.com/journey-wheels.html

This is a gorgeous wheel in excellent condition. My friend is selling it because she has several wheels and this one is not getting the attention it deserves. I’ve spun on it, and it works great. It treadles very smoothly.

Mr. Bosworth is not currently taking any orders for this wheel. When my friend bought it she paid $1810 plus shipping. I have noticed on the website that the extra bobbins and scotch tension currently cost more than my friend paid. Asking price is $1750. I’d rather not ship this wheel, but if I did, the buyer would cover packaging, shipping (USPS Priority), and insurance costs. I am willing to drive a bit to deliver or meet. I live in Lake Ann, MI. Zip 49650. Interested? Contact me: atyler@centurytel.net

Thursday, April 7, 2016

5 x 12 = 60

Here is the third of twelve sock patterns in my journey of 60 stitches. The featured stitch pattern has a 5-stitch repeat. So, 12 repeats equals 60 stitches total. I’m using a simple lace pattern from Susanna Lewis’s book, Knitting Lace. It’s pattern #41. This book is true gem. It was originally published by Tauton Press, but is currently available through Schoolhouse Press.


The yarn I used was a gift from one of the students who took my workshop at last year’s Panoply 2015, Ontario Handweavers and Spinners Biennial Conference.  It’s a Plymouth Yarn, “Happy Feet”, which comes in 50 g skeins, approximately 192 yards per skein. I used two skeins of color # 6. This yarn is 90% superwash Merino wool and 10% nylon. I got my gauge (7 ½ sts per inch, 11 rounds per inch) using US size 1 (2.25 mm) needles in the lace pattern (as described in the Leg section below).

When I was first given this yarn, I liked the colors just “ok”, but as I’ve worked with the yarn, I’ve grown quite fond of the colors. It’s such a pleasure to fall deeper in love with a yarn.

Cuff:
Loosely CO 60 sts. I used a long tail cast on, with US size 3 (3.25 mm), then changed to US size 1 (2.25mm) for the sock. I used a set of 4 double pointed needles and distributed the stitches so that there were 20 sts on Needle 1, 20 sts on Needle 2, and 20 sts on Needle 3.

Rounds 1-3: knit.
Round 4: *k1, p1, k2, p1; rep from * around.

Repeat Round 4 until cuff measures 2” (I worked 20 rounds of rib).

Leg:
See the previous blog post for notes about yarn-overs.

Round 1: *k1, p1, yo, ssk, p1; rep from * around.
Round 2: *k1, p1, k2, p1; rep from * around.
Round 3: *k1, p1, k2tog, yo, p1; rep from * around.
Round 4: same as Round 2.

Work these 4 rounds until sock measures ~6 ½ inches, end having finished a Round 4.

Heel Flap:
Knit the first 15 stitches on Needle 1. Place the next 30 sts onto 2 needles. Slip the last 15 stitches from Needle 3 onto Needle 1. The heel flap is worked flat on the 30 sts on Needle 1. The 30 sts on the other 2 needles constitute the instep.

Row 1 (WS): sl1, purl to end.
Row 2: *s1, k1; rep from * to end.

Repeat Rows 1 & 2 until heel flap is approximately 2 inches long, end having finished a Row 1.

Heel Turn:
The turned heel is made up of “short rows” with decreases. This process shapes the heel. As a result, for each row you will work a different number of stitches, and you will end up with fewer total stitches than you started with.

Row 1 (RS): sl1, k16, ssk, k1, turn work.
Row 2: sl1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn work.
Row 3: sl1, k to 1 st before “gap”, ssk, K1, turn work.
Row 4: sl1, p to 1 st before “gap”, p2tog, P1, turn work.

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until 18 sts remain, having finished a row 4.

Next row: sl1, knit across.

Gusset:
Pick up and knit 18 sts along the right side of the heel flap. To do this, insert right needle under the first edge stitch (under both strands of the stitch), wrap the working yarn around the needle, and pull a stitch through (one stitch has now been picked up and knitted). Repeat this process until 18 stitches have been picked up.

Slip the following 30 sts onto one needle. These stitches constitute the instep of the sock. Work these 30 sts following Round 1 of the instep pattern (see below).

Pick up and knit 18 sts along the left side of the heel flap.

Onto this same needle, knit the next 9 stitches (from the remaining heel stitches). Slip the remaining 9 heel stitches onto Needle 1 (with the right side gusset).

You now have 27 sts on Needle 1, 30 sts on Needle 2, and 27 sts on Needle 3. The middle of the heel falls between Needle 3 and Needle 1. Consider this point to be the beginning of the round.

Round 1: On Needle 1, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. On Needle 2, work Round 2 of instep pattern. On Needle 3, k1, ssk, k to end.

Round 2: On Needle 1, knit. On Needle 3, continue working instep pattern as established. On Needle 2, knit.

Rep Rounds 1 & 2 until there are 15 sts on both Needles 1 and 3 (60 sts total).

Instep Stitch Pattern (worked on Needle 2):
Round 1: k5, place marker, (k1, p1, yo, ssk, p1) 4 times, place marker, k5.
Round 2: k5; (k1, p1, k2, p1) 4 times; k5.
Round 3: k5; (k1, p1, k2tog, yo, p1) 4 times; k5.
Round 4: same as Round 2.

Foot:
After completing all the gusset decreases, cont working even, and cont repeating the instep pattern for as long as you want. I worked the instep pattern all the way to the beginning of the toe. Then I continued in st st.

Toe:
The toe is 28 Rounds total.

This toe is shaped so that it gradually narrows. To achieve this effect, you will work a “Decrease Round” more frequently as the toe progresses.

Perform a Decrease Round on Rounds 1, 6, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, and 28. On all other rounds, work even.

Decrease Round: On Needle 1, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. On Needle 2, k1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. On Needle 3, k1, ssk, k to end.

At this point, there will be 4 sts on Needle 1, 8 sts on Needle 2, and 4 sts on Needle 3. Now, knit the next 4 sts onto Needle 3, leaving 8 sts on Needle 2 and 8 sts on Needle 3.

Graft the toe using the Kitchener stitch:
Cut the working yarn, leaving a 20 inch or longer tail. Thread this tail through a darning needle. Orient the sock so that the 2 needles are horizontal, the instep side of the sock is facing you, and the working yarn is coming off the right side of the needle in the back.

Step 1: Insert darning needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip this stitch off the needle. Insert darning needle into the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and leave this stitch on the needle.

Step 2: Insert darning needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and slip this stitch off the needle. Insert darning needle into the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and leave this stitch on the needle.

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until all stitches have been worked and slipped off the needles.

Weave in all ends.

If you have any questions – or if you find any mistakes – you can either leave a comment on this blog page or email me: atyler@centurytel.net or amy@stonesockfibers.com

This pattern is free, but it is still copyrighted. So, feel free share a copy of this pattern or knit these socks, but please do not sell the pattern or sell socks made from this pattern. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Yarn-Overs My Way

The next sock in the series of “60” Socks contains a sweet and simple lace pattern. Lace involves yarn-overs. And the lace pattern that is in this sock involves yarn-overs that occur between a knit stitch and a purl stitch, and also between a purl stitch and a knit stitch. So, I just want to share a bit of advice about these maneuvers.

But before that, I want to mention that in my standard knitting – for both the knit stitch and the purl stitch – I work into the front leg of a stitch, and I wrap the working yarn counter-clockwise around the tip of the right needle. If your knitting maneuvers are different, you may have to “translate” my yarn-over instructions to suit your method of knitting.

Here are my general instructions for yarn-overs:

In all cases, the working yarn must start in the front of your knitting and then it goes over the right hand needle from front to back. Then the yarn goes to where ever it needs for the following stitch. So,

Between two knit stitches: bring the yarn from the back to the front between the two needles, take the yarn over the right needle to the back of the knitting, then knit the next stitch.

Between two purl stitches: the yarn is already in the front of the knitting, take the yarn over the right needle to the back of the knitting, bring the yarn to the front of the knitting between the two needles, then purl the next stitch.

Between a knit stitch and a purl stitch: bring the yarn from the back to the front between the two needles, take the yarn over the right needle to the back of the knitting, bring the yarn to the front of the knitting between the two needles, then purl the next stitch.

Between a purl stitch and a knit stitch: the yarn is already in the front of the knitting, take the yarn over the right needle to the back of the knitting, then knit the next stitch.

I find it interesting that a yarn-over performed between a knit stitch and a purl stitch requires a lot of movement, while a yarn-over between a purl stitch and a knit stitch requires next to no movement. I love something for nothing in my knitting!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Madison Was Marvelous

I got home yesterday from teaching at the Madison Knitters’ Guild Annual Knit-In. I drove to Madison (Wisconsin) by way of the Upper Peninsula. Total drive time one-way was about 12 hours. I’m just not up to making that drive in one day. So, I broke up the drive.

One would think that spending nearly four days driving and only two days teaching would be a bad thing. Not in this case. Going over the Mackinac Bridge and into the UP is always a pleasure.

My trip started early Thursday. Even before I crossed the bridge, I experienced a Close Encounter of the Eagle Kind: a Bald Eagle was munching on a large carcass on the right side of the road. As I drove nearer, it took off and flew right in front of me across the road. A fantastic view! And a harbinger of a good trip. Ok, so it snowed most of the drive. At least there was no accumulation and the roads were mostly free of traffic.

I made a brief stop in Naubinway. King’s Fish Market has fantastic smoked fish. (Now, in the UP there are shop signs and billboards for smoked fish every few miles. Other classic UP signs also include lottery tickets, liquor, jerky, cheese curds, and – of course – pasties.). I bought some cherry smoked salmon and some black pepper crusted smoked salmon. They also had several other smoked salmons, smoked whitefish, smoked trout, and smoked chub.

Let me tell you the Tale of the Tumbling Man. Near Gladstone, maybe 5-10 miles east, I saw a most baffling event. There was a car stopped on the right side of the road. As I approached, the car slowly started moving and something tumbled out of the right side of the car and onto the shoulder of the road. I quickly realized it was a human being with a bag, maybe a backpack. It was as if the man – maybe woman (who can tell when the person in question is in winter gear) – had been shoved out of the car, or willingly jumped tuck-and-roll-style out of the car. By this time, I’d passed the car and they were behind me. I slowed down, thinking of stopping, but then I watched in my rearview mirror as the tumbling man got up in what seemed a nonchalant fashion, picked up the bag and calmly walked across the road and up a driveway.

How weird is that? The car in question continued on its way for a bit, then turned into a road, stopped, and seemed to be about to go back to the “scene of the crime”. I had continued driving and at this point I lost sight of what was happening. I would like to think that if the tumbling man had appeared injured I would have stopped, even though I was by myself. I guess I could have used my phone to call or take video or pictures. But the guy seemed fine. What a puzzle.

That first day of driving took me to Valders, Wisconsin, where I stayed overnight at the home of Carol and Paul Wagner of Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill.  I gave them the smoked salmon, and they treated me to a dinner of leg of lamb, salad, perfectly steamed asparagus, and mashed potatoes. A memorable dinner. And the conversation was good too!

Before dinner, I was given the honor of helping feed a bottle baby: one of a set of lamb triplets that the mom seemed not to “like”. This adorable lamb was black, and one of Carol’s friends dubbed it “Blackberry”. Carol told me she plans to keep this one. Who wouldn’t?

I got to Madison the following noon with no hitch. The ever helpful Mary Jo Harris, the coordinator for the classes, stopped by my hotel room to give me a Knit-In bag which contained pertinent info for the Knit-In as well as a fantastic notebook: 5”x7”, hardcover, spiral bound, with a magnetic closing, a pen, and several sizes of post-its. A very useful gift.

The Knit-In was held at the Alliant Energy Center. Knitters were not the only folks at the center. There was also a state gymnastics event, and a doll show. And at the hotel, there seemed to be other folks who were part of the state high school basketball playoffs. A happenin’ weekend. Of course, we knitters had the best time. All the folks in all my classes were engaged and enthusiastic. Madison really has some awesome fiber folks. Maybe there’s something in the water.

Because I was teaching, I didn’t have much time to take advantage of the market. In fact, I didn’t buy ANY yarn or ANY fiber. I did, however, make two impulse buys, both from the same booth, a potter from Madison, Jenny Blasen Pottery . I bought a tiny little shallow bowl (maybe for tea bags or a spoon rest), and a small mug. Could. Not. Resist.


My drive home included a couple other impulse buys: some more smoked salmon (for me, this time), a UP bumper sticker (also at King’s Fish Market), and some irresistible peanut brittle at Kilwin’s in Petoskey.

I’m still not completely unpacked, but I did manage to do a load of laundry. By tomorrow I hope to start tackling three projects with fast approaching due dates. Maybe I’ll also finish unpacking.