Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oh, I have a blog?

It is such a wonderful fall day on the mountain. I'm writing this from the backyard patio, feet propped up, breeze cooling off the mid-day heat, and golden light filtering through tree leaves in a dozen colors.

So many things have happened! I have more yarn and fiber and tons of new pictures, and it's almost time for SAFF! This post will mostly be pictures. I'll try to go in chronological order.

June was a busy month. On June 6th, the Local Cloth initiative in the Western North Carolina area put on an event held at the Asheville Farmer's Market called "Fiber Feel Day". The purpose was to bring local fiber farmers in touch with local fiber artists. My goal was to get as many different breeds of fleece to spin as I could.

I made a killing at the Twist Fiber Studio booth, Ashley Eskew's company.

Brown Jacob, Cheviot, Grey Gotland, and Targhee, all combed top.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep records so well for these (except the first, obviously from Echoview Fiber Mill), but I do know the fiber content.

A Merino blend.

Llama cloud.
Teeswater mix combed top and Icelandic with the both the tog & thel fibers included. 
There were these precious pygmy angora goats, or pygoras, from Mountain Meadow Farm in Franklin, NC.

Also in June, The National NeedleArts Association held the annual Stitch-N-Pitch night in partnership with the Major League Baseball association and we attended the event at McCormick Field in Asheville, NC, home of the Asheville Tourists team (farm team for the Colorado Rockies team). Unfortunately it was a very damp evening, but there was this beautiful sight while we waited for the first pitch (made with a ball of yarn, by the way!):

After the Stitch-N-Pitch game, was the Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration in downtown Waynesville, NC. The Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild has a booth at this annual street festival and this year the guild yarn bombed one of my favorite metal sculptures for the event!

"Old Time Music" set to yarn!
Julie Wilson, of Jehovah Raah Farm (and also my friend and spinning teacher), brought samples of her fiber wares, her spinning wheel, and some furry friends to the festival. 
Julie spinning mohair locks on one of her Lendrums.
Llama and alpaca.
Shetland ewes and new lambs!!
A handsome Angora goat.
I was on hand when Julie conducted a sheep shearing demonstration and asked me to hold one of the lambs close to the mother ewe's face to help keep her calm on the shearing table...I was sooooo flipping excited! You'd a thunk I was a townie for being so giddy at holding the lamb. It was actually the first shearing I'd seen in person, but I was so distracted by getting to lamb cuddle that I was barely able to watch the goings-on. 

I'm so excited that I held that lamb, that I don't even care about that terrible double-chin.
And then, as ironic as it may seem, I got to pet a real wolf (well, she's about 93% or so):

Isn't she lovely? 
I had to leave midway through the day because of ankle and foot pain due to swelling, a problem that I've never had to deal with prior to this year. As I write this, my right foot is swollen and propped up on a chair. (I snuck in some plying this morning on Mom's double-treadle Lendrum, but I couldn't do it for very long. Boo.) It wasn't long after this street festival that I saw my doctor and, via a blood test, she discovered that my thyroid had decided to call it quits. New meds seem to help, but when the dosage was recently adjusted lower, the swelling returned...just in time to throw off my Spinzilla game. Ugh. Too much spinning fiber and no healthy feet to treadle!

In July, Mum and I spent time with friends spinning at Julie Wilson's farm. The knitting guild's annual picnic was also held there in September. You can see how Julie decorates everything beautifully. Her house is a 200-year-old cabin! 

In September, Mum and I headed south, to historic downtown Columbus, GA, right on the Chattahoochee River, for the Georgia Fiber Fest.  This fiber festival began in 2012 as an Alpaca-focused event. Although it is still, thankfully, full of alpaca fiber vendors, the festival offers classes in all sorts of fiber crafts and hosts vendors with products from many fiber animals. We stayed in the Marriott hotel directly across the street from the convention center and had a great experience. We shopped till we dropped!

Much of that is indeed from alpacas, but there is much wonderful wool and tons of wonderful hand-painted yarn and fleece. I'll eventually photograph each with its proper source.

Mum and I also went with Ann, a good friend we've met through spinning classes, to a regional "Anything Fiber Sale" at Warren Wilson College. It was a giant stash-busting sale for anyone participating, housed in a gymnasium. Here's what came home with us: 

Again, more details on what's in that heap later.

I've been knitting! With a gimpy foot, I had to lay off spinning, so reading and knitting caught up. Here are some of the finished objects. 

The Edison shawl in three shades of Knit Picks Palette (my Rav project page). 
The Brush Creek Shawl in three shades of Knit Picks Palette (my Rav prject page).
A Sockhead hat in Miss Babs "Zombie Prom" colorway on the Hot Shot base.
I've also begun the Danshui cardigan in Knit Picks Andean Treasure (100% baby alpaca!!) in "Verdant Heather" green. It is soooo soft! This one is for me. Yum. It is top-down and I've already begun the body below the arm pit. 
The lace edging.
I've begun the BooKnits Voodoo MKAL (Mystery Knit-A-Long) with this Miss Babs lace in "Black Magic" with amethyst purple, silver-lined beads:

I also began a cowl with some homespun, but it is currently languishing because I messed up on a row while trying to knit with a sinus infection...not good.

There are other projects in the works, but they're Christmas gifts, so they're secret for the time-being. 

There is still more to update!! But this is probably plenty for one post. Time to knit!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Being Social

Giving my first post in four months a title that mentions anything to do with my social behavior is a joke. I admit I prefer solitary activities. Although I have many complaints and opinionated views on technology and it's potential to harm developing social skills in our youth and encourage outright rudeness, I embrace technology as a valuable tool. Particularly for social outreach. I can remain happy in my isolation while connecting with individuals who share my passions, but also learn from others with no limit on mileage (or demands on my sleep schedule). I can't call myself a paper-pushing traditionalist or jump on every social network or techie bandwagon that comes down the pike, though. I love blogging. I love reading your blogs. I particularly love blogs that share thoughtful commentary, observation, reviews, encourage conversation, and / or formulate their posts like documentary essays on topics (OK, particularly those on fiber- or book-related topics). I love when bloggers take time to make links so that I can follow bread crumbs from the stories that whet my appetite, allowing me to tumble down the slippery and delightful slope of the Internet's potential. It can always lead me to a paper book. Or a real place. Or a person. And I love photographs. I love when bloggers share what they love in images, but also aren't afraid to limit their photos to the "pretty". It is tempting to leave out the reality and focus only on the pretty. But we have glossy magazines for that.

I will come back to this blog. I've been away for various reasons this summer. The best reasons are ones that I'll share with you on this site very soon::
-June's Fiber Feel Day and the Appalachian Lifestyle Festival
-spinning wheels and my progress as a spinner (including making a new friend and visits to Julie's farm)
-my sad knitting progress and recent recovery (almost a shawl in one week!)
-plans to learn weaving on a rigid heddle loom
Plus I want to share my upcoming fiber-related travel plans, knitting and spinning project plans, book reviews and reading interests, including new blogs and podcasts.
The worst reason I've been absent is that I'm down with the worst kind of head cold: the summer head cold.

So, I will continue this blog. I will continue to post irregularly to FaceBook, although I hate it. To my mind, it is nothing but a genius ploy to mine data for commercial marketers (read this in The Guardian, but you have to admit it is true, and creepy, when you purchase New Balance shoes from one website and then later log into FaceBook only to see New Balance ads for the first time ever on the side bars). I try to use it as a means to spread good cheer, so I'm one of those folks who only forwards along either "good news" or things that encourage critical thinking. I have no time for haters. I am looking forward to no longer acting in an official capacity for my knitting guild so that I can enjoy it as a member without needing to update the group's FaceBook page. (Which reminds me...)

I do have a Kindle (quite an old [read "heavy"] one) and I do read books on it. I prefer a paper copy of a book. I like libraries and used book stores. I like to read. I feel there's a better chance for clear communication with something beyond a 140-character limit (see Twitter). I don't Tweet. Words are too fabulous to be given such short shrift. Even FaceBook allows up to 5,000 characters, but most folks don't bother clicking on links to read beyond the first paragraph that is usually displayed. Laziness? Passive training? Who knows. Now there's this thing called Periscope, similar to Meerkat, both of which allow live streaming video. Apparently Periscope (released by the thrifty geniuses behind Twitter) only archives uploaded videos for up to 24 hours (and Meerkat less than that). I'm assuming the social interaction aspect is completely dependent upon immediate feedback. Really? I purposefully "lose" my phone in various quiet corners of the house so I can get things done in my "real" world. I like photography enough that I joined Instagram and browse uploads maybe (not always) once a day. I only make a point of checking my email every day when I'm expecting packages and check for delivery updates. I don't have smartphone updates activated on my gmail. Obviously downloading Periscope, Meerkat, or Twitter apps to my phone would be a waste of my phone's little grey bytes (Poirot allusion there, and if you don't know Poirot, read Agatha Christie).

Do you remember when you'd leave your phone indoors when you spent time outside, even if you were't mowing the lawn, even if the dang phone didn't actually have a cord attaching it to the wall? Maybe you're just having a glass of sweet tea and reading a book while smacking mosquitoes on your legs.

Do you remember screaming the lyrics to your favorite songs while driving, with or without the windows open, and never having to stop because the song died just to let you know so-and-so was calling? (Did you ever roll down the windows just because you loved the wind in your hair, and you could sing louder, even though you really did have fully-functioning air conditioning?)

The smartphone is a tool. I try to use it like one. Just because I have a hammer does not mean I try to use it in every single job I tackle. If I need to fix something to eat, it is nice to continue speaking to my brother, especially since he'll talk with his hands-fee set for his entire home-bound commute to help mitigate his road rage. See? It works for me and saves countless lives on I-40. I keep the appointment schedules for at least three family members (sometimes more) on my phone. Priceless. My phone is a better digital camera (than my old one) and takes up far less space than one "dumb" phone and one digital camera would.

On the other hand, if I find myself able to converse with someone via text for more than 2 lines, I just dial their number. I prefer those great digital photos in large format for editing family photos, so sharing them is still problematic and slow, unless I do a hard-line download to a large hard drive on a regular basis. (By they way, doesn't anyone else feel the need to edit or be selective with their photographs, or am I the only one that takes a bazillion of any one subject? Out of ten pictures of my mother and her mother taken on Mother's Day, two were absolutely fantastic and captured them laughing together or genuinely smiling without reserve. That's how I want to remember them. The real way. Not frozen in fear because someone yelled "picture time!")

Have you ever discovered that a loved one has died via a social network? One of my younger brothers did. Over a month after the fact. I can still remember the anguish in his wail from his basement bedroom that brought my mother and I scrambling downstairs in the middle of the night to find him staring dumbly at the wifi HD television that he'd set up as his computer monitor.

Using technological tools to take the place of social interaction is pushing the limits of our humanity, the very fabric and boundaries that we use to define what it means to be humane, generous, kind, sincere. Perhaps generations before felt the same about the telephone and the telegraph and their potential to supplant the handwritten correspondence. Sally Mann, famous photographer, talks about how the photograph, in its way, has begun to kill our memories (check out her fantastic memoir Hold Still: A Memoir with Pictures). It's worth a thought.

I write this because I am a member of a human race that is far larger than the small community in which I grew up, and to which I would have been bound by all traditional means only a couple of generations back. I share my little slice of the world with the larger world. In turn, I read your blogs and learn what your communities are like. I will remain a fan of handwritten letters, long blog entries, well-researched web articles, multimedia and multifaceted hyperlinked and carefully curated projects, visual journaling, paper books, paper magazines, email and paper newsletters, postcards, rock collections, manuscripts written on legal pads, Moleskin notebooks, Pilot Precise V7 ink pens, libraries with local archives collections, Friends of the Library annual book sales, collections of library cards, and online databases and pathfinders.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yarn, yarn, and yarn...and more yarnishness

I was so charmed by this little guy that I totally forgot to look for a sign indicating his breed. 
We attended the Mother Earth News Fair at the Western NC Agricultural Center in Fletcher, NC a couple of weekend ago. It was a bright, sunny day, but the wind almost blew us away!

Momentarily shielded from the wind in the cab of a big John Deere tractor, she looks perfectly at home with those cowgirl boots!
Mom and I discovered that EchoView Fiber Mill and Farm (located just up the road in Weaverville) had a booth in one of the buildings...

We picked up two skeins of 100% Merino, 2-ply fingering in "Seafoam," one skein of 100% Alpaca, 3-ply sport in "Fusion," and a batt (called "Midnight," if I remember correctly) of 95 Merino / 5 "other" (probably Tencel). That wee little multi-colored skein (purples, greens, natural) was a freebie that we were able to pick out.

This picture shows the colors in the batt better. Gorgeous blues, greens, and maybe some purples.

The day after the fair, our guild's monthly meeting was devoted to a panel of local fiber farmers: Marcia Kummerle of Good Fibrations Farm, Elizabeth Straub of Hobbyknob Farm, and Barbara Vassallo of Mountain Lady Farm.  And these guys had to come home with us...


They are both balls of roving in a mixture of Mohair (from Marcia Kummerle's Good Fibrations Farm) and wool (Corriedale in the big ball). Mom chose the little one with the beautiful blues, plums, and mauves. I couldn't help but get the gigantic fire ball! I love the pops of gold in the rust and clay reds.

Plus, Rik Schell of Purl's Yarn Emporium was there with offerings from the store. Obviously, the fiber couldn't go home alone...

These are all skeins of Mirasol's Nuna (40 Merino / 40 silk / 20 bamboo-sourced viscose) and they are sooo silky slippery. Mirasol is a Peru-based company that benefits communities and local textile traditions.

Ummm, and then I received a message from KnitPicks that the emergency extra yarn for Dad's sweater (because those skeins just look so small and the sweater is not so small) was back in stock, but who can order just a couple skeins when some more added to the cart would mean free shipping? Duh. And I'd never tried their Palette line before...

Hare Heather, Iris Heather, and Mineral Heather 
Tidepool Heather, Rainforest Heather, and Opal Heather
Palette is 100% Peruvian Highlands Wool (a hardy mix) in fingering weight, available in a 150 colors (hachacha!), and each 50 gram ball has 231 yards. It is perfect for color work, like complex stranded sweaters that I'm not quite ready to tackle. But, dang, it is nice stuff. 

What is all this yarn going to do in my possession? I think we'll be seeing a lot of multicolored shawls on shoulders this coming fall fashion season...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Quarterly Report

Since I pounded out my last post, I took the time to review my blog entries since the beginning of the year. I had goals? Where did those go? Life has a way of throwing curve balls, or simply hitting the batter with a rocket-launched fast ball for the sheer cruel joy of it.

We're a quarter of the way through the year. Here's the scoop on those January goals:

-Self-care / self-love: Although this does mean improving my physical health, my philosophy of self-care must be wholistic. Stress can sometimes have very drastic physical consequences. This is necessarily a work in progress. There have been definite improvements. But, I sought to report finite steps toward solid goals. I haven't joined the local rec center gym. I have abandoned the treadmill since January. On the other hand, I have been limiting some sources of stress and I've been eating more vegetables and smaller meals throughout the day. I did get my hair cut, so I look less like a frizzy-headed madwoman. And I invested some money in clothes that actually fit me. Small steps.

-Learn to crochet: Not so much.

-Learn to spin fiber: No more on this, either, since my class in January, but I hope to own a Lendrum wheel before this year is out. And I should have several unique opportunities to purchase some great fiber this coming weekend. (So excited!)

-Complete the knitting guild's designer challenge: I've completed one pattern of the requisit four. Two others are in the wings, both at least a third complete.

-Attend more KnitWits knitting groups: Not so much.

-Reading mindfully: This has proven to be an interesting experiment. Unfortunately, the knitting slump I mentioned in the last post seemed to coincide with a reading slump. I've spent more time reading about books and browsing lists of books than actually reading any. But, dare I say it aloud, I think I've got my reading mojo back. I have about five books going, two that I'm sure I'll finish in a couple of days.

My family has been hit by one thing or another: my mother in the hospital with pneumonia and slow recovery, my brother and sister-in-law in a car accident (they're OK), other family members with serious illnesses, my own health issues, sleepless nights, small changes that build up into large stresses, and I can't even discount the pressures of tax season, because it has become a practice of mine to handle my parents' taxes ever since my father spent four months in hospital several years ago. In his absence I took over that responsibility, with the generous help of H&R Block's great online programs. (Bless whoever decided to roll out electronic filing.) Even the spring has brought with it that annoying sidekick: pollen. Boy, I'm whining tonight.

With that out of my system, let's look at the good things that can get in the way of accomplishing all these goals. On Saturday, April 11th, I'm going to check out the Mother Earth News Fair at the WesternCarolina Agricultural Center.

Sunday is the knitting guild's monthly meeting, and our special program will be a panel of local fiber farmers. I'm looking forward to them bringing their homegrown wares (fiber, maybe even yarn) to sell. And an LYS, Silver Threads& Golden Needles, that I've never been to will also be there with some yarn stock to sell. The shop is located in Franklin, NC. They are supplying us with yarn for a MKAL by designer Susan Dingle, which begins in May.

The next weekend, Saturday, April 18th, is the guild's spring retreat at the Lake Logan Episcopal Center (http://www.lakelogan.org/).

P.S. The yellow bell bushes that I love so very much, and couldn't recall their actual names in my last post, are yellow forsythia. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

spring means yellow bells everywhere

I love yellow bell bushes. I don't know their proper name. They thrive no matter how you butcher them. They can be chopped off and last wonderfully long in a vase. Or hack off a branch and stick it in the ground. Boom. Instant yellow beauty next year. Love them. Cheerfulness that keeps coming back.

It is spring but I feel like I've been in a barren creative climate. Barely any knitting. That's not true. I've knit several skeins' worth on Dad's sweater, but it is a very basic raglan with a Henley neckline. I actually created the pattern myself using his measurements and Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. Unfortunately, it is a bottom-up pattern, so all the interesting shaping parts are after I finish this gigantic and seemingly endless desert of stockinette. I was tickled to stumble upon a bargain priced copy of Budd's later book, The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters, but this didn't happen until after I'd started his sweater. If you aren't familiar with these two books, you should certainly seek them out. Budd offers schematics and standardized sizing for basic sweater shapes with their accompanying stitch counts for all parts of a pattern. It is hard to describe. When you open one of these two books you will see pages and pages of tables of numbers and more numbers. It can be confusing at first. In fact, though, these numbers can be your first step towards becoming your own sweater designer. They can set you free, but it helps to read carefully and you must swatch or it won't work. (Also, if you're not prepared to step off into a misty land of "Choose Your Own Adventure" patterning, each book has "normal" patterns for knitters, too.)

Basically this is what you do:

You pick your yarn and knit up a swatch or two. When you're happy with the resulting fabric and have done the full swatch tests (washing, blocking, measuring), you match your resulting number of stitches per inch to a line in the pattern table. Every table has gauge rows.

Then you consider the body measurements you're working with and the ease you wish to have in the finished sweater. Find the best size that matches this expectation. These are given across the top of the patterns, over a column of numbers.

For the bottom-up sweaters, the pattern begins with the cast on numbers for the body's bottom edge. I matched my size column with my gauge row and that number is, ta da, the number of stitches I need to cast on! The next section gives you instructions for the sleeves with the same type of tables to give you the correct number of stitches and increases from the cuffs up. And so on.

Ann Budd is a genius.

In other yarnish news, I created this pink camouflage-inspired colorway for my brother (he's going to loom knit a hat for a friend):

This was dyed on Knit Picks' Bare Wool of the Andes superwash chunky. (In my previous post I said it was Merino, but I'm pretty sure not, now. The 'Wool of the Andes' yarns are usually from a hardier sheep breed or mix.)

If you are scratching your head at the concept of pink camouflage, let me explain. In many rural areas of the United States, wearing camouflage on a daily basis, in any setting, is as common as Parisians wearing black (fashionable everywhere) and those living in hot desert climes wearing draped cloth and turbans (practicality that can save you from heatstroke and, probably, sand storms). Here, in the Appalachian mountains, wearing camouflage serves both fashion and practical purposes...mostly. If your hobby is hunting, you buy one good winter jacket that can serve double-duty as everyday warmth and hunting trip warmth. If your family or friends have ties to the military, camouflage may have deeper significance. It is basically another color of the rainbow around here. I'm not a camo person. But my father was Army and we have 1970s camo and olive drab clothing in storage and my brothers often wear his old overshirts and jackets. We all vie for the old olive drab, military-issue sleeping bags when we go camping. (They're warmest.) Camouflage has received a total overhaul in recent decades due to military action in deserts. Plus, a civilian line of camouflage that is a common trade mark recognized even by many non-camo wearers is Mossy Oak. Rather than shades of green in lava-lamp formations (think 1970s camo), Mossy Oak uses realistic imagery of actual leaves and bark indigenous to North America (perfect for hunting). It is actually very pretty, I think. So where does the pink camouflage come from? The gendering of camo (which I totally believe was utterly unnecessary, but then I don't need to wear pink to know I'm a woman, either) when non-hunters and non-military persons began wearing camo for fashion, political, or whatever reason. The colors in the skeins above were specifically requested by my brother, who looked over my shoulder while I mixed dye stock, and they match his friend's pink Mossy Oak pullover. The background is pink with purple hints and the realistic imagery of bark and dark fall leaves are in the foreground.

Whew. That was a lot of writing to get to an explanation of why there's a fashion demand for a non-camouflage version of camouflage. The only place this would make a person disappear into the background is at a shopping mall out of hunting season. Real women hunters usually wear real camouflage during hunting season. Or else they would be fake women hunters...the one's who just like to fit in with the crowd that does actually hunt. Oh, boy, I need to stop right there.

By the way, I don't hunt and would probably only do so for survival needs. I do respect a hunter's skills and codes of conduct and honor, such as being responsible stewards of wildlife. (Obviously I'm leaving out poachers and trophy hunters here. I really don't wish to cause my blood pressure to rise, so we'll not discuss such idiots.) That's pretty important to me. Like responsible forestry practices, knowing where your hamburger came from, using local fresh markets when possible, and shopping at LYSs and getting fiber from smaller fiber farmers and mills. Ooooh, and that is a perfect segue!

I read and reviewed Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm by Barbara Parry (also author of Teach Yourself Visually Hand-Dyeing) for the Guild's April newsletter. Parry's book is fantastic and full of beautiful photography! There are also several sweater patterns and a handful of other projects. Reading this was pure pleasure. Here is the link to Parry's Foxfire Fiber and Designs at Springdelle Farm.

Wow, I've rambled on tonight. I've got to go find out what Mom is doing. It involves a great deal of hammering, drilling, and swear words.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Toxins, Progress, and Healing

Mom spent Monday through Thursday in the hospital due to the pneumonia. She was beginning to go stir-crazy, so the timing was a relief. We thank all of the wonderful people who kept her in their prayers. She's still not running at her 100%; the doctor demanded she keep it slow for another week. Unfortunately, mum is not one for slow. She's a creative multi-tasker with a racing mind like my own. The huge difference between she and I is that she actually does most of the things that go through her head. She gets things done.

I also want to thank all of those who are keeping our entire family in their prayers for other ordeals. I honestly believe that stress and anxiety are what put mom in the hospital. The non-stop stress from certain sources had simply ground down her immune system to the point that she had nothing left to fight the infections. 

When she came home this afternoon, she and I both agreed that some significant changes needed to be made in our lives. Each of us (me, her, and everyone in general) have unique stressors and toxins in our lives. We all deal with them differently. Sometimes "coping skills" are useful. But sometimes "coping" simply delays the inevitable, which is the need to remove the actual toxin from your life. It is not always easy to identify the correct toxins either. Sometimes its not clear how to get rid of it. For a long time, I've been a proponent of the slash and burn technique, but it turns out that that isn't always the wisest move. I've lost friends that way. I'm not great at cultivating friendships. (I like to blame this on my aversion to talking on the phone, social anxiety, and panic attacks, which are all true and valid reasons. But I could do more to hold onto friends. Frankly, fear is much to blame. And, perhaps, my growing perfectionism of being a full-time troglodyte as a serious vocation.)

Well, that's enough on toxic influences. Just take care of yourself and try to identify and keep yourself safe from potential major damage from toxic sources in your own life. The stress can land you in the hospital, or worse. 

In other news, I've been knitting. I finished the Low-Tide Cardigan from Tin Can Knits for my niece. Speaking of Tin Can Knits, they are celebrating their 5 year anniversary with a BOGO sale on their digital pattern books! I picked up two today myself. The sale is only on digital products and ends this Sunday, March 8th. I love their patterns.

The next finished object is my Exit 0 shawl by Laura Aylor, which was part of a KAL with members of my knitting guild. Unfortunately, I didn't get to knit much with the others due to illness or bad weather. 

I've begun the back panel of Stephen West's Caldwell vest in Bergere du Nord Inspiration (natural colors, 100% wool). 

I'm making the medium size and plan for it to be a warm layering piece for myself. The original has a reverse stockinette back with contrasting stripes, but I'm modifying the pattern to have a simple stockinette solid back. The front has a wonderful chunky cable and roomy pockets, but I plan on skipping the pockets, at least at first. I decide I want them, I'll add them with an afterthought technique. I'm already almost done with the back. I can't wait to begin the front! I haven't worked on an all-over cable project in ages.

I also received a box from KnitPicks yesterday! It contained the yarn for Dad's sweater (15 skeins of Wool of the Andes in Bramble Heather) and 2 skeins of chunky, superwash merino for a custom dye request. I'm going to try to capture a pink camo palette. If I succeed (of course I will, right?), then it will be dubbed "Cosmo Camo" and just may become my first repeatable colorway.  

I'm still reading Middlemarch and probably will be for a good while. I'm enjoying dipping into it and reading several chapters at a time. In the meantime, I'm also reading other books. I have a stack from the library, plus a queue checked out on my Kindle (North Carolina's library systems offer a great electronic book and audio book collection). I happened upon a creepy treasure that reminded me of the Scary Stories series of books by Alvin Schwartz, which are fantastically illustrated by Stephen Gammell, which I had loved when I was in public school. The first book I was able to check out for the Kindle was the second in this new series, but I've now got the first one. It was another series by a joint story teller - illustrator duo: Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley and David Roberts. I read Tales of Terror from the Black Ship first and absolutely loved it. I'm now reading the first, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror. They are aimed at younger readers and I went through them pretty quickly. David Roberts' art is reminiscent of Edward Gorey's sketches and perfectly off-kilter to capture the stories' moods.

I've also begun Something Red by Douglas Nicholas and I'm loving it so far. This is for adult readers and labeled as a delicious mix of historical, fantasy, horror, and adventure fiction.  I'm not too far into it, but already I'm enjoying the author's writing and becoming invested in the story. It is also part of a series, which is wonderful if I end up liking it. The next installment will be out by the end of March.