A Gray Hairstreak, A Blackberry Snack, and the Flaming Lips

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I’ve been restless of late.

I know it’s ridiculous to be restless in Spring, there is so much to do. But no – I’m not going to get the stylist to color my graying hair or buy a motorcycle or start wearing nothing but five inch heels.

Even if you aren’t a crazy farmer/gardener/dyer you can get restless with your knitting and that’s where I’ve been for a week. After knitting several Monarch Shawls in sport weight I felt the desire to return to the skinny stuff – you know – the lace weight yarn.

Micro Midara lace yarn on size 3US needle

First I pulled out a skein of Micro Midara, a Lithuanian-produced very fine weight wool which is the primary yarn used in Estonian lace. Think 1531yds/1400 meters per 100 grams. Skinny yarn. Very skinny yarn. I perused my copy of Haapsalu Saal, the Estonian lace book which is more than a stitch dictionary, but since my copy is written in Estonian (although there is now an English translation) it is still basically a collection of lace stitch patterns and the variations on them.

I’ve always had a hankering to knit one particular stitch pattern in this book, it’s called Liblikakiri 1 – a simple translation is Butterfly 1. It is unique in that it combines nupps and cables. Yeah  – how cool is that?

While I liked the white Midara Micro on the first few rows of Butterfly 1 I decided it wasn’t exactly what I was needing. I glanced at the shelves beside my desk and spied a big skein of Oak Barn Merino in a pale gray colorway I call Hearth (1000 yards/914 meters per 90 grams).

On the drive into Tulsa on Friday night I cast on again for the Butterfly 1 using the Hearth colorway and a size 6US needle, then switched to a size 5US needle on row one. This little extra looseness will allow me to pick up stitches for an added border after I finish the center/body panel. I was working five repeats of the butterfly across the body and nine stitch nupps.

You know how I love butterflies right? I’ve dubbed this project the Gray Hairstreak. If you’re not familiar with the gray hairstreak butterfly I suggest you check out this website – Butterflies and Moths North America.  Lovely isn’t it!!!

Not only does this pattern have cables and nupps – the nupps are executed on the WS (wrong side) of the knitting. Usually nupps are created on the  RS (right side) and purled together on the WS. After several trials I decided (since I don’t speak Estonian and couldn’t translate the exact directions) that what worked for me was a p, yo, p, yo, p, yo, p, yo, p nupp (that’s nine stitches knit into one stitch while it’s still on the left needle). On the following RS row I knit those stitches together through the back of the loop thereby twisting them so they would lie correctly. (I’m absolutely certain I’ve lost my non-knitting friends now!)

Working five repeats across yielded a very wide stole sized width. I wasn’t sure I wanted that wide of a stole especially before I’ve even added the attached border so I frogged and started again knitting three repeats across. It’s not terribly wide but I like the width for a scarf and now can begin to troll through stitch dictionaries for a nice wide border to attach when the center panel is completed.

The Gray Hairstreak Scarf

As I said, I’m doing nine-stitch nupps. Now I’m a BIG fan of the nupps – which I was told is the Estonian term for button – but I’m wondering if nine is too thick. Should I maybe switch to a seven-stitch nupp? Hmmm

While my Gray Hairstreak was blocking so I could get a better look at it I decided to plant a few flowers that I bought at the farmers market yesterday.

Here’s my new ornamental lily called Blackberry Snack.  I’m quite excited about it!

And I bought a great little salvia called Flaming Lips.

I know – not great photos, especially of the little hanging bloom that does indeed look like a very red and pouty lower lip. 
Feel free to google the Flaming Lips –  I can assure you that you will get something interesting – primarily you’ll get hits for Oklahoma’s official rock band The Flaming Lips!
…………

Paul, Hannah, Sam and Bill

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Four bright young people had a tremendous impact on our lives a few weeks ago. Near the halfway point on their adventure they arrived at our farm on bicycles just moments before a storm. When they left the next morning we knew our lives had been enriched by spending just a few hours with them.

On May 16 on a stretch of highway near Searcy, Arkansas Bill was struck and killed by a car.

Our hearts go out to Paul, Hannah and Sam, and to the friends and family of Bill.

SWAK Knit Out 2011

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Last weekend was another great SWAK Knit Out weekend. I don’t know how Keely does it every year – there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into the planning and executing of such an event. When I arrived late on Thursday to set up for the LCK Trunk Show that was beginning the following morning two of the three teachers had yet to arrive. Fiona Ellis made it from Toronto to Oklahoma without much mishap. Franklin Habit later arrived from Chicago without much trouble but Jane Thornley and her husband had a dickens of a time getting to Guthrie, OK from Nova Scotia. Problems on each end of the flight resulted in Jane and the Hairy-Legged-Swift (as she calls her devoted spouse) riding a bus from Tulsa, OK during a thunderstorm to Guthrie and arriving at 4am.

I had enrolled in Jane’s Yarnscaping class that took place at 2pm on Friday and it was hard to tell that she’d only had a few hours of sleep. The inspirational Yarnscaping class included Jane passing around her first yarnscaping journal so we could all see and understand how she had begun to create her own designs from museum visits, flowers, and paintings. Before long we all had a chance to use our sketch books and colored pencils to begin something unique and seemingly unstructured. I say seemingly because while Jane’s style grows organically it does help to have some understanding of garment construction and have a few known stitches in your repertoire.

Friday night Franklin Habit presented an excellent presentation on knitting in history with detailed accounts of translating famous works like Jane Gaugain’s Knitter’s Assistant and Weldon’s Practical Knitter into something a modern knitter can understand. While Franklin is obviously brilliant, his wicked humor kept us laughing all evening.

My Saturday class line-up included Fiona Ellis’s Morphing Cables. Fiona is not only sweet and funny but has a glorious style with cables as is evident in her book Inspired Cable Knits. She’s also addicted to icord and uses it as a design tool. Since it’s been a few years since I’ve done any cabling I am very glad I enrolled in Fiona’s class. Now I have a better understanding of how to take a simple cable and create something as elaborate as a celtic knot in a cabled garment.

After a leisurely lunch I headed back into class this time with Franklin to gain a little more experience with Lace Edgings: Before, During and After. If you’re into lace – this can be a very important class to take. What I discovered was that I’m completely capable of adding a lace edging to the outside of a finished shawl. I don’t know why I’ve shied away from this for several years. It’s not nearly as scary as say…steeking.

With another evening shindig that included a fashion show of numerous knitted patterns from books we’ve all drooled over I finally had time to hang with my good friend Cathy who’d driven to Guthrie to “yarn sit” with the trunk show while I was in class. Cathy and I have done Knit Out together numerous times in the past and it’s just not a Knit Out if I don’t get time to unwind over a bottle of wine with Cathy!

You may be wondering where are all the photos that go along with such an adventure? For some reason I was having so much fun that I never pulled out my camera until Sunday during Franklin’s Photographing Your Fiber class. Generally when you see nice photos on my blog they’re the work of Christopher. Mine are ummm… somewhat more amateurish. I have a sweet little point and shoot Nikon Coolpix. It’s not unwieldy, it fits in my purse, and yet is still a good bit beyond my ken. Apature? White Balance? Depth of Field? (well I do kind of understand that one without much explanation) Shutter Speed? Lighting is different colors? It’s enough to make my head spin, but Franklin has a way of making all this important information much easier to understand. While I still have a long way to go I’m now more comfortable with experimenting and not getting frustrated with the results of my photography.

Everyone was asked to bring a finished project or two with them so finally I pulled out my trusty little digital camera. (Which by the way, is more sophisticated than the cameras used by Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams! Why knew?)

I took a few standard photos of my newest Monarch Shawl (Llama Bamboo Sport colorway Red Dirt Roads). The lighting is pretty decent in this first one but for some reason I’m still getting my angles wrong and catching things like the baseboards in the photo, or cutting the tips of the shawl out of the photo. All of the following are my unedited photos.

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

My camera has several fun settings that for the first time I played with – like black & white and sepia.

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

You all know me well enough by now to know I like to get outside and have some fun, so I took the Monarch out onto the sidewalk and draped her over a broken cement plant holder. Not as fun as I’d hoped.

Monarch Shawl

Then I spied some great wrought iron chairs and pulled one out of the shade and into the light. The wind began to lift the edges and for some reason I forgot about trying to get a good shot of the shawl pattern overall and spent my efforts trying to time the clicking of the shutter button to catch when the wind would pick up the edge of the shawl and give a nice shadow on the sidewalk. It’s trickier than it sounds considering I don’t have (or haven’t found) a continuous option on my camera. You know what I mean right – that rapid fire clicking of the paparazzi snapping thirty photos in as many seconds?

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

Monarch Shawl

I’m still catching things like the yellow sewer grate in my photos and missing the very edge of the shawl as the wind whips it around but I’m more confident than I was last week. It’ll take some time before the information I learned in Franklin’s photography class becomes second nature but I’m learning!

SWAK Tote Bag

To commemorate the weekend – Franklin drew Dolores on my new knitting project bag!

Signed by Franklin Habit!

………….

What a weekend!

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Rare is the weekend that we fit in two events, but we managed to do just that last weekend. Saturday we went to Cherrry Street Farmer’s Market as usual. Despite the calender reading the middle of May, it felt more like March. When we arrived at market around 5am for setup, here was an odd mix of farmers in coats and hats and bare armed in t-shirts. Because we’d been without internet and don’t have a TV we’d missed the forecast change before we left the farm Friday afternoon. We were among those underdressed for the forty-something degree temperature. In fact, my sister’s partner, Amos, was kind enough to leave his sweatshirt with me before heading home with their veggies.  (Thanks Amos!)

Despite it being cold there are always a few shoppers hardcore enough to come to market in any weather. Thankfully we have a great collection of vendors as well who supply about anything the local-vore wants!

Here are some photographs I snapped while doing my shopping.

Care to dance a little jig?

Two of Tulsa’s well known potters, Kevin & Joe discuss clay or something equally messy.

Spices anyone?

Since there was an Irish band playing I assume this is one of the wee folk!

Laura carries on her heritage by weaving intricate Cherokee baskets.

Bet this guy looks great in a kilt!

Sunday was the second annual Tulsa Spring Fiber Fest. Last year we missed this event due to a conflict with Norman May Fair. I’m so glad we were able to attend this year! It was great to see the amazing fiber artists with everything from jewelry (only a few non-fiber related artists are accepted), handspun yarn and roving, raw fleeces, and of course, more yarn! I didn’t get a chance to wander around with the camera – although Chris took a few quick photos of our booth before things got busy.

There are several different philosophies when you’re at a fiber event like the Spring Fiber Fest. Some people hold with the walk around – see everything – then buy. I’ve decided that it’s too easy to miss out on something special – especially if it’s a one-of-a-kind item. I spotted a gorgeous skein of handspun at the Sasser Farms booth early in the day. I told myself – sell something then you can shop  – and walked away. Wrong tactic! By the time I got back to the booth that special skein was gone! I did manage to scoop up several other skeins from Lisa Sasser, only one of which I can show you (the other is a gift).

I also picked up two new sets of stitch markers from Somer Knits which are already in my knitting bag! Check out her etsy site and see some of the fun stuff she makes.

Our friend Briana of Bifftastica did get some great photos – so I recommend you check out her blog!

What’s up next? This coming weekend is SWAK Knit Out!!! (I try hard not to say KNIT OUT!!! without screaming wildly and flailing my arms about. It’s hard though, but it tends to frighten the non-knitters who don’t understand how exciting and inspiring this event can be.) Classes with Fiona Ellis, Jane Thornley and Franklin Habit and a Lost City Knits Trunk Show!

Monarch Shawl – Released for Migration!

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The Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is perhaps the most famous butterfly in North America or even the world. These amazing creatures migrate northward up to 3000 miles each spring after spending their winters in Mexico or California.

Great clusters of them can be seen during the migration period, entire trees can be covered with their cinnamon, orange, and gold wings providing a most amazing sight. There are many unknowns about the Monarch’s migration process because the individuals never make the full round trip. It is their children’s grandchildren that return.

This shawl’s pattern was influenced by the Monarch’s wings. Should the completed shawl be worn by you for awhile and then passed on to a child or grandchild, well, that would seem appropriate, too.

Original Design was knit in Lost City Knits Llama Bamboo Sport, natural colorway. A second has been knit (but not yet photographed) in Lost City Knits Llama Bamboo Red Dirt Roads, and Extra Virgin colorway.

Materials Needed: 220 yards/201 meters of sport weight yarn. Size 7 US/ 4.5 mm circular needle. Four Stitch markers.

The Monarch Shawl pattern is now available in the LCK Pattern Shop as a FREE download!

Happy Knitting and Happy Butterfly Watching!
ps if you knit a Monarch Shawl – we appreciate your linking it in Ravelry! 

Dear Knitters – please accept my apologies but there were several errors on the Written Directions. No changes have been made to the charts. A new version with Written Direction corrections has been uploaded. Please be sure you have downloaded Monarch Shawl, v1.1 if you are using the Written Directions.


Lost City Denise
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Four Warm Showers

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This week was our fourth time in as many years to host touring cyclists who located us through the online hospitality organization Warm Showers. Four graduates of Bard College are cycling from Irvine, California the outer banks of North California and perhaps back to New York.

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Bill, Paul, Sam and Hannah arrived at our farm twelve minutes before the sudden arrival of a bad thunderstorm. They had time to stash their bikes in the red barn and carry panniers to the house before wind and rain belted Lost City. The storm didn’t last long and by the time it’d passed our guests had showered and had begun to settle in. Over dinner of quiche, salad, bread and homemade cookies they shared stories, told us about themselves, their dreams and experiences.

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As the night wore on and yawning began, Chris and I adjourned to the upstairs and left the four travelers to spread out sleeping bags on the lower floor with a request to let Tess the dog out if she whined.

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After breakfast this morning Chris loaded the bikes in the back of the farm truck and took Bill, Paul, Sam and Hannah to the blacktop which would be the starting point of today’s ride of seventy or so miles to Fayetteville, Arkansas and their next stop.

Whenever older people rant or bemoan the youth of today I wish they could have the opportunity that we had last night. Spending an evening with intelligent, articulate and interesting people of any age is a joy, and our guests were much enjoyed and I couldn’t have hoped to meet a finer group.

Paul, Hannah, Sam and Bill
If you’d like to follow the blog of Hannah, Paul, Sam and Bill’s bicycle tour 

Remember to share the road — and occasionally your table and/or shower.

……….

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Fleeced

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Remember these big bags of wool? 

We estimated 200 pounds of wool filled the two bags of raw fiber brought back from our visit to Cordero Farms. That was a pretty close estimate. Lanolin accounts for around half the weight of raw wool. The first batch was sent off to the mill in April and contained about 50 pounds of clean fiber. The last of the second batch was washed this morning and is now drying on racks in my studio. While I’m excited (and mildly impressed with myself) about getting all of the fiber cleaned within a reasonable time and just ahead of my mill date, I must admit that cleaning fleeces really never grew old. It can take several days to a week for the wet wool to dry and I have staggered fleece washing with dyeing yarn and soap making for months now.

What am I to do with all of the free time now that fleece washing is over for a little while? Free time? The current mill order should arrive shortly and there will be hundreds of skeins to dye. The angustifolia (commonly called English) lavender cultivars are spiking and will require harvesting. There is always soap to be made, markets and festivals to attend and of course – there’s knitting, designing and cooking. If the weather is right – I may just sit outside and enjoy the view or read a book. Or maybe I’ll take a nap.