Monday, November 30, 2009


I just thought I'd put it out there, now.  At some point in the (possibly near) future there will be some blogging about my kitties (yeah, they're grown.  so?).  There, it's out.

My cats will not be blogging themselves.  And  I will not be dedicating my entire blog to my cats.  Are my kitties blog-worthy?  I don't know.  But, since this is my blog, and I don't have to follow anyone's rules, and I love my kitties, I think it's okay to give them just a post or two.

So, to my two readers: I apologize sincerely in advance.

But don't worry; no kitties today.  Today I'm just sharing my newest tool of the trade, and what I've done with it.  If I haven't mentioned it before, I heart tools.  Screwdrivers, power drills, detail sanders.  I don't know how it came to be, but Home Depot is my favorite store.  The stuff they have there is great.  But all the tools at "the Depot" don't hold a candle to the tools of the fiber trade: knitting needles, crochet hooks, row counters, stitch markers, tape measures that look like sheep, spinning wheels, drop spindles, niddy noddies, skein winders, hand carders, wpi (wraps per inch) tools that look like sheep . . . and all the other tools a fiber lover might need (or not.  really, who are we kidding with some of this stuff?).  I love them all.

So, about my latest acquisition:

Up to this point the bulk of my handspun yarns have been 2-ply with a smattering of singles and Navajo-plied yarns.  I really wanted to be able to make a "regular" 3-ply yarn.  So, I purchased the Ashford Competition tensioned lazy kate. 


My first (and, 'til now, only) lazy kate was the one that came with my spinning wheel.  A simple, but serviceable tool that held two bobbins and had no tensioning.  It was not uncommon early on in my journey of learning to spin that I would get a good ply job going only to find that my yarn was spinning back on an uncontrolled bobbin, or that one single had gotten twisted around the bobbin holding the other. 

Now, I had pretty much learned to control these issues.  But, I was still after the three-ply yarn.  One solution is Navajo-plying (or chain plying).  I think this technique is brilliant, and it can be used to create beautiful yarn from one single.  It is also a wonderful method to use when you want to retain the original color changes of a spun single in the plied yarn.  But I still wanted the capability to do a "regular" 3-ply yarn.

So, I got the new lazy kate in the mail last week and started spinning singles for my first "true" 3-ply yarn.  The Ashford "Competition" is a nice little tool.  It is small with a low profile, but it's very stable - no worries about tipping while plying.  It's also very portable as it is designed to be easily dismantled and reassembled.  And the adjustable tensioning set-up works fantastically.  I'm not quite sure how I got along without this for all this time!


The roving I chose was over 5oz. of 100% BFL (Blue-faced Leicester) hand-dyed by Ceereese1.  I spun up three skinnyish singles, then plied them with wonderful ease from bobbins parked on my new lazy kate.  I think the result - about 300 yds. of DK weight 3-ply yarn - is just beautiful to behold (though my photos kinda' suck), and even more beautiful to hold, and pet, and squish!



This yarn will be posted for sale in my Etsy shop this evening.  (sniff.  sniff.  i'll miss it.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm not hosting Thanksgiving, but I'm having a super domestic day before heading out to celebrate and stuff myself with the family.  My contribution this year is fantastic (if I may say so) hand-made chocolate chip cookies.

I love these things.  So simple, but sooo delicious.  If only they would come up with internet tasting . . .

This year, I tweaked the recipe a little bit by adding a smidge of fresh grated nutmeg and by using a combination of semi-sweet chocolate and Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate.  Yu-um!

 I also got the chance to take some photos of my latest offerings from the wheel:
Cobbler (because it reminded me of mixed berry cobbler) is a delicious Navajo-plied BFL yarn spun from a roving dyed by C*EYE*BER Fiber and purchased at my favorite LYS.  I love working with BFL.  It is super easy to spin, and the end product is crazy-soft.

And Summer Squash - another 2-ply BFL yarn spun from a roving painted by and purchased from TheFiberDenn.  I will be (reluctantly) posting this yarn for sale in my Etsy shop.
[UPDATE:  Summer Squash is on its way to its new owner in Australia.  Godspeed, Squash.]

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I don't remember the last time I cried in the movie theatre - prior to Sunday evening, that is. I finally forced myself to go see the movie Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, which I was reluctant to see because of the weighty subject matter: the protagonist is a poor, illiterate, obese, black, teenager, who is pregnant - for the second time - by her father.  Yikes.  And damn.  How could this be entertainment?

But films, not movies, are not just about entertainment, are they?  "Precious" is no mere movie.  Following the story of the title character, Claireese Precious Jones (played by newcomer Gabourney Sidibe), made me weep for all the little girls that suffer at the hands of those who are expected to love and protect them.  As I watched, I couldn't help but think of the case of little Shaniya,  who was raped and murdered after her mother sold her to pay off a drug debt.

This film was painful to watch.  As Precious' mother, ironically named Mary (and played by actress/comedian Mo'Nique), explains how she allowed her child to come to this ugly place in the world, I felt sick.  I, at once, hated and pitied this woman who, in her desperation to keep a man, allowed that man to brutalize her child -- and blamed the child for taking her man.  It made me wonder how she came to inhabit her own very ugly place in the world.

As we meet Precious she is clearly hanging on by a very weak thread - an active, and very necessary fantasy life.  It is not until her second pregnancy forces her from her regular public middle school (which she attends though she is 16 years old) into the Each One Teach One "alternative" school that she gets thrown a rope.  Her new teacher, Blue Rain, played by the ridiculously beautiful Paula Patton, sees the beauty and promise in this forgotten child.

"Precious" forces the viewer to consider a host of issues that are laying waste to our youth - poverty, appalling parenting, violence, poor education, neglect, lack of nutrition.  But I think that at its core, this is a film about redemption, and the ability of one person to make a difference in the life of another.  When it comes to love and caring, a little can go a very long way, even in the midst of horrifying circumstances.

This film moved me in a way that none has in a very long time.  The performances are phenomenal, and I will not soon forget them.  I had no idea Mo'Nique had it in her - this lovable funnywoman brought the detestable and pathetic Mary to life.  I saw Mariah Carey (in the role of a tough social worker) as a person for the first time, rather than just a super star.  And Gabbie Sidibe is a revelation.  With some films I want mostly to know what happens.  This film was beautifully shot to create a profound sense of realism (even with the fantasy sequences).  It was difficult and beautiful to look at all at once, and I just wanted to watch it.

On a closing note:  We have come to expect evil from strangers, even against the most innocent and vulnerable members of society.  My hope is that we will ever be surprised and outraged at the evil parents do to their own, Precious children.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gettin' Busy

Now that the hat, my first project that was started and completed this season, is done, I feel ready to move on to other pursuits.  The hat has gotten me over my inertia and indecision.  So, let's see where we're going.  First, I've started a baby blanket for one of the soon-to-be-born twins of a co-worker.  Okay, they're not due until April, but I want to make sure I give myself plenty of time to get the baby's gifts done.  The blanket I'm working on now is a more traditional log cabin than the moderne I just completed.  And instead of garter stitch, I'm working it in seed stitch.  I'll post pics later.

Second, I'm working on my first reversible cable scarf.  I knit a cable scarf several years ago, and it was my last one until now; I hate scarves that are not reversible.  This one is being knit in some more of my own handspun - a super-soft, squishy, two-ply merino in a chocolate brown so deep I had to name the yarn "Profond" (that's French for "deep").  The Manitou Passage scarf pattern is super simple (right up my alley) and lovely.  (click here to learn about the source of this pattern's name)  Anyhoo, even at just a couple of inches long, I love it already.

Third, I'm gonna' do a bit of spinning.  On Friday, at my favorite LYS's late-into-the-nite, "Friday the 13th" sale, I purchased a really beautiful braid of hand-dyed BFL made by a local (Baltimore) company.  If I'm not mistaken, it's crying out to be skinny and smooth.  Potentially Navajo-plied.  We'll see . . .

Fourth, and finally for now, I purchased a gorgeous skein of hand-painted yarn at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival back in May that I have not turned into anything, yet.  This too is a local product, hand-
dyed by local fiber artist extraordinaire, Janet Stollnitz of Silver Spring Looms.  It's a little less than 500 yds. of sumptuous, mohair and wool (55/45), in gorgeous, saturated colors.


I do feel compelled to finally work some entrelac -- I've experimented with the technique, but have failed to do an actual project.  But this yarn is screaming super-luxe scarf - to be a dramatic accent piece to an all-black ensemble.  Besides, I really don't like the look of entrelac's rear.

Another New Favorite . . .

Last year was the Year of the Hat for flyngmunky.  I made a whole bunch of hats including two of my then-favorites Koolhaas and Turn-A-Square by Jared Flood.  Now that I have decided to let my afro grow wild I need hats that fit my hair.  So, last week I decided to make a hat out of some of my handspun yarn.  And last night I finished it.  Yay!

This is definitely my new favorite hat!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Munky Makes a Hat

Originally uploaded by flyngmunky
Last night I got an overwhelming urge to make a hat. I'm thinking it might have sprung from having seen one of my co-workers sporting a hat that her mother made for her from my  handspun.

So I got out some double-pointed needles, some adorable, snag free stitch markers (purchased from Jed's Joy at Etsy), and a couple of cakes of my handspun merino/tencel yarn (spun from FatCatKnits fibers) and got to work. I'm knitting this one from the top down because I want to make sure as I'm going along that it will be big and slouchy enough to fit over my growing afro. There's no pattern, really, just a nice, simple hat. No stitchy embellishment; I'm letting the handspun do all the work on this one.

Originally uploaded by flyngmunky

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Things My Mother Taught Me

My mother taught me:

To love beauty. To appreciate nature.  The importance of eating my vegetables - and loving it.  To be gracious.  To be strong.  To be myself, and let others be whomever they're going to be.  To cook really yummy, nourishing food.  To adore the written word.  The importance of having and being a good friend.  That the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is real.  That it's okay - desirable even - to be silly . . .

I guess I learned all the important stuff from my mom.  But my mom didn't teach me to knit. 

My favorite online magazine just published a video called "Things My Mother Taught Me" in which one friend patiently helps two others who are learning to knit.


In the video the more experienced knitter friend tells us, "The way to learn to knit is to have someone who loves you, or who is willing to tolerate you, nearby . . ."  She got that right.

A little over ten years ago, I learned to knit.  I had just one knitster friend, who introduced me to knitting just by doing it around me.  I asked her to teach me to knit, but she declined citing lack of the requisite patience.  Knowing me the way she does, she recommended that I get a book.  So, I bought my first knitting book - Debbie Bliss' How To Knit - which was a Godsend.  Then, I bought a couple of others including Knitting for Dummies (which I also highly recommend to beginning and even more advanced knitters).  And it has been a fiber party (okay, off-and-on) ever since.  Even my non-teaching friend will tell you that I taught myself to knit from a book, but the truth is as I was learning I had someone nearby to tolerate me and my questions about my many screw-ups, and to celebrate each of my little victories (though her celebration might have been a wee bit coerced).  That support was invaluable. 

Anyone who has taught someone else to knit knows the importance of patience.  Believe me, it helps to love (or at least really like) the person who just can't seem to get their fingers to work, or insists that a stitch consists of two loops - not one, or just can't seem keep more than four stitches on a needle at a time.  But, even if you are not the teacher, but just the "nearby tolerator" a certain level of patience is required when the novice freaks out because they dropped a stitch, or their stitches are all twisted up, or they have more stitches at the end of a row than they had at the beginning.   Or when they get excited about having finished an entire 30-stitch row, or finally remembering to bring the yarn forward on a purl stitch, or finishing their first purple, acrylic, three-inch-wide, two-and-a-half-feet-long, K1 P1 rib scarf.

Sigh.  Patience and Love.  That's what knitting's all about.  Maybe my mother taught me a little something about it, afterall.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cupcakes and Cauliflower

What the . . .?

My very good friend asked me today when I was going to start posting cupcake recipes on my blog.  I love a good cupcake, but I have never actually made a cupcake myself.  I mentioned my complete inexperience with cupcake baking to my friend, and she came back quickly with "or post the recipe for the cauliflower and bacon thing."  The "cauliflower and bacon thing" is completely and utterly delicious!  But, I've never actually made that either.  I asked her if posting recipes on my blog would make her want to read it.  She told me that she reads it because she loves me.  Aaaaw!  Thank you.  How can I not appreciate that?

But the exchange got me wondering about this blog jim-jammy.  What is it all about?  Why am I doing it?  What do I want it to be? 

Clearly, the blog is about fiber -- spinning, knitting, a bit of crochet, maybe someday some dying.  But is that it?  Do I just want to blog about what yarn or knitted object I'm planning to make, working on, or completed?  Should there be posts about my family?  Work?  Yoga class?  My new favorite boots?  How cute I think my little car is?  Politics?  Current events?  My cats?  Is any of this really blog-worthy? 

This of course raises another question:  What is blog-worthy?  The answer to this question is clearly subjective. 

I love knitting blogs.  There are a bunch of them out there, so I'm probably not the only one.  But my (pretty certain) guess is that many people's response to a reference to a knitting blog would be "WTF?!  Why would anyone want to read about someone knitting stuff?"  Of course, to me that's a crazy position.  I want to know what other people are knitting.  What techniques they're using.  Where their yarns and stuff come from.  And I really want to see the pictures.  I want to "ooh" and "aah" over someone else's craft.  Truth be told, I think knitting and knitted stuff are cool.  So, is knitting stuff blog-worthy?  Yes.  Absolutely.  No question.  And fer shure.

But what about food blogs?  My friend wanted to know about my plans for Cupcakes and Cauliflower.  Because I'm a visual person, I don't think my C & C posts would be complete without some photos: flour spilled across the counter, melting baker's chocolate, cupcake tree, rendered bacon, sliced shallots, cauliflower (head, florets, raw, cooked).  There would, of course, be a recipe.  And some chatter about my personal experience making the recipe (cupcakes didn't rise, bacon had too much fat, cauliflower burned to a crisp, grated my fingers while preparing the nutmeg).  A personal review extolling the delicious-ness of my own creation (I love my own food, even when I know it's not quite 'right") would be de rigeur

Now, we all eat.  But we don't all cook.  For those people, the recipe would be useless.  Among those of us who do cook, there is a population that does it only out of necessity, not because they enjoy it.  I'm pretty sure they would wonder what all the hoopla was about.  Some people don't want to just read about or look at food -- It's about taste, right?  Then there are the people who eat just to keep the brain, heart, and lungs working.  I don't understand this type of person, but okay.  This eat-to-live alien might even get indignant at the mention of a food blog: "Don't you think your time would be better spent raising money to make sure starving children in Africa are getting enough rice?!"  Food-hating, guilt-loading crazies aside, food and cooking are blog-worthy.

But what about a blog about one woman's experience with plural marriage?  For some reason I find this fascinating.  Blogworthy?  Check.  I haven't skiied in quite a while, but I can understand a blog about cross-country skiing in michigan.  I'm not a shoe girl, really, but a blog about a shoes probably has a comfortable place in the interwebs world.  Now, I love, love love Scrabble.  But I would probably not spend much time at a blog devoted to Scrabble play.  I have two cats who I love very, very much.  But, Isaac and Zora don't have their own blog.  And if they did, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't read it.  But there are blogs out there about barefoot running, Legos. amd using 3D stickers on your fingernails.  There's even a blog dedicated to cupcakes! (for the record: totally blog-worthy)

Do people really read this stuff?  You betcha'.  Does that mean it's blog-worthy? 

Who knows?  And who's to say?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

As Promised: Cluster Felt

A few days ago I promised photos of new felted stuff.  Sometimes I keep my promises . . .

Purple-Bottom Series:

Red Bars:


Pink & Green Handspun:


Here's the problem:

I knit.  I spin.  I crochet (a very, very, little bit).  I have a bunch of yarn -- most of it my handspun.  I have patterns.  I have fibers, threads, beads, a spindle, a spinning wheel.  I have ideas.

I just don't know what to do next.  I currently have a pair of toe-up, two-circular socks on needles (we'll come back to that later - much later).  I have made one teeny-tiny baby slipper out of some of my handspun yarn.  I'm still working on my version of Mason Dixon Knitting's Moderne Baby Blanket - love, love, love log cabin knitting.

I could knit  I could put in some work on the socks -- we all know that's not gonna' happen.  I could make another teeny-tiny baby slipper to create a pair for some imaginary baby that one of my friends might, at some point, give birth to.  I could bind off and weave in the ridiculous number of ends on the Moderne, then begin the laborious task of finishing it with an applied i-cord.

Or I could start something completely new with some of my own, lovely, handspun yarn or something else I have stashed about.

I could spin:  I could grab some already combed and dyed fiber and make something chunky, or skinny, or whatever.

I could get out the hand carders and labor over cotswold and firestar and border leicester to create something truly unique and funky out of fresh rolags (don't know why, but I love this word).  I could overcome my fear, and try to make my first beaded handspun (shiver).

Or I could go to the movies.  Or clean my apartment.  Or take a nap.  I'm paralyzed!  Aaargh!

Whoo!  I'm finished with my little melt-down.

The socks are not gonna' happen.  That's a given.  I'll clean up a bit first to clear my head.  Then, I'll finish the blanket.  That's the plan.  Let's see how it goes . . .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Giddy Handspun

Originally uploaded by flyngmunky

I finally got a chance to photograph the latest offering from my spinning wheel. I'm very excited about this one because it's the result of my first attempt at thread-plying. I also threw in some coils for good measure. (I think there's going to be a fair amount of experimentation for me in the coming months.)

This yarn started its life as a beautiful blue-faced Leicester (BFL) roving that I purchased on Etsy from Color Craze Fiber. She's offering some really beautiful colorways, and I'm sure I'll be visiting her shop again and again. I know that merino is very popular. I've spun with it a great deal myself. But, I am a huge fan of BFL. It's very easy to spin, and it is super soft (softer than merino, I find) with a subtle, natural sheen. Could be my favorite fiber to spin.

Originally uploaded by flyngmunky

I have to admit that thread-plying was a little more of a challenge than I expected. The masters make it look so easy. But I'm pretty pleased with the very imperfect result. So pleased that I'm anxious to knit this up into something super funky for myself. The problem now is figuring out what it wants to be. We'll see . . .

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

urbanknit Giveaway

So, I'm cruising around Etsy today looking at some cool handknit stuff, and I come across a wonderful little shop based in London.  The shop is urbanknit, and the proprieter is Dolapo. 

urbanknit sells wonderful scarves/neckwarmers, and funky bags and purses fashioned from graphic, printed (many African) fabrics. Superb work. 

I decided to check out Dolapo's urbanknit blog, and learned that there is a giveaway of a luscious-looking, chunky, hand-knit, merino cowl. Once you see it you may feel the same way I do: Gotta' have it!

More Felting - With Pics?

This morning when I woke up, there was great, natural sunlight flowing into my place. In addition to doing fantastic things for my morning mood (I am NOT a morning person), it was also wonderful photo-taking light.

So, I decided to take some photos of some of my more recent felted pieces. I just love them. I also caught some images of the project that's on my needles right now. At this time it looks like a little pink, green, butter, and cream colored hat, but it will soon be . . . wait for it . . . another felted bowl!

This is where I share that I can be a little obsessive. I'll be all about felting for another week or two, then it may be hats. Or reversible cable scarves. Or exfoliating, cotton spa cloths. Or my first 10 fingerless gloves/arm warmers. One thing I know it will not be is socks (more on my bad relationship with socks later).

Anyway, you'll notice that there are no photos in this post. That's because my job - the one that supports my fiber habit and keeps a roof over my head - interrupted. So, the photos are still sitting in the camera waiting to be uploaded to the computer, then uploaded to the blog. Way too many steps, but worth it in the long run, I guess. Really, photos will come later. Tonight? Tomorrow? Hard to say, but they will come.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Word of the Day -- Felted

So, the word of the day is "Felted" (or, perhaps more correctly, "Fulled"). 

Once upon a time I thought this was a dirty word.  Not generally, mind you.  But the very idea of taking something I love (yarn), knitting it up into fabric, then "ruining" it by dunking it in hot water and rubbing it vigorously until it shrunk up into a matted mess was, to me, absolutely mortifying. 

Then, one day, I had a bunch of leftover wool yarn that I could not possibly turn into anything that I would wear, or give someone else to wear.  And I started wondering what the heck to do with.  While in this wondering state, I was flipping through projects on Ravelry and came across a felted bowl.  It was pretty.  It was artsy.  It was useful.  It was cool. 

Having nothing better to do, I got out some double-pointed needles and started knitting a little hat-shaped thing.  I knit until I had a floppy, little, round bowl. 

Now, I had no idea how to felt anything on purpose.  Never thought I'd want to know.  So, to the world wide interwebs I went.  If I'm gonna' do this thing, I'm gonna' do it right.  So I Googled "how to felt knitting."  The first page I came to explained in detail how to machine-felt my knitting.  Fantastic!  The problem was, I lived in an apartment with a coin-operated laundry machine . . . down the hall.  There was no way I was going to be able to use this method.

So I kept looking around and found some information on felting by hand.  In my apartment.  In my sink.  With just some hot water from the tap and some dishwashing liquid.  Yeah, okay.  That I could do. 

dunk. swish. swish. rub. squeeze.  rub.  rub.  rub . . .

Twenty sweaty, sore-armed, "what the heck was I thinking" minutes of this later, I had a bowl.  A small, hand-felted bowl.  That I made myelf.  You would not believe how excited I was about this little thing.  And I loved the process.  Watching and feeling the fabric transform in my hands was, surprisingly, one of my most satisfying fiber experiences. 

shaping.  an extra rub here.  a little stretch there.  shock with a little cold water.  back to the hot. 


I loved the process so much, that I made another little, hand-felted bowl.  Then another.  Then a couple o' cups.  Then a vase, and some boxes . . . 


Word of the day.

Ten on Tuesday

Okay, time for a little bit of fun with Ten on Tuesday.

This week:  10 Ways to Waste Time on the Internet

1.    Ravelry - if you're here, my guess is you know what's up with this
2.    Etsy - online window shopping; it's pretty amazing what folks are cooking up in their studios
3.    Facebook - love my peeps!
4.    Flickr - i like to search the term "handspun" to see what other spinners out there are doing
5.    Slate online magazine - there is commentary on damned-near everything, here
6.    Daily Candy - simply fun (i'm partial to the washington, dc edition)
7.    You Tube - educational, funny, bizarre, gross . . . whatever you make it
8.    Rotten Tomatoes - because i just LOVE movies
9.    The Sartorialist - funny, i'm not into fashion, but i love this site
10.  Family Guy on Hulu - yes, i know this is wrong on a couple of different levels


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