Monday, July 28, 2008

Ready, Set, Spin!

I bought a new wheel. What can I say? I'm weak. I've been eying a portable wheel since I signed up to go to SOAR. I truly heart my old Louet, but it's just not made for traveling. When I got a 10% paypal coupon, I jumped at the excuse, er, I mean, "opportunity" to get a good deal on a new wheel from ebay. So what have I spun so far?
This is 4oz of a merino tencel blend in "spruce" from Kendig Cottage. I'm working on another four ounces now.

I also took the Joy on it's first outing this weekend to a cotton spinning class at the sadly soon-to-close Springwater Fiber. It was a very small class of just two students. Sylvia, Springwater's fabulous spinning teacher, packed lots of information into a three hour class. We got to pick seeds out of cotton, which is a real pain in the butt - no wonder Eli Whitney is in all the elementary school history books. Because of cotton's short staple length (1 to 1.5 inches on average, compared to 3 in or more for wool), it's takes a lot more twist to spin a strong yarn. We tried out different preparations.
From left to right:
1. hand-seeded (ugh!), hand-carded
2. light commercial prep, sliver
3. same as 2, only hand-carded before spinning
4. same as 3, only spun with long draw.
5. commercial prep, organic brown.
6. commercial prep, low land cotton (I think?)
7. commercial prep, pencil roving
8. cotton ball, dyed blue (1/2 inch staple length - yikes!)
9. cotton tencel blend, spindle spun.

The pencil roving took no drafting at all, so it felt like zero-effort yarn. The cotton tencel was also nice, the tencel making it infinitely easier to draft.

In knitting news, I made an angel scarf for the International Scarf Exchange. During the stash reorg, I dug up some nice alpaca.
I had totally forgotten about them until they appeared from the bottom of the stash like furry little potatoes. They weren't even recorded in my Ravelry stash (which means they didn't really exist, right?) I found a pretty, but easily memorized lace pattern on Ravelry and made this:
I did a lot of the knitting during UM Summer Chorus rehearsals, so there's a lot of spitty German text embedded in this scarf. Hopefully, it all came out in blocking :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Catch Up

Since it's now mid July and I've totally missed out on posting about June, here's a quick summary (Now with Knitting!):

I went to the Nat's Stitch 'n Pitch with my brother, my friend Nancy and her friend Chris. It was lots of fun. The stadium is brand spanking new.
See how shiny? We certainly got our money's worth at that game. Washington beat Texas in 14 innings (I have to say the 14th Inning Stretch is way more interesting than the usual 7th Inning version. Imagine what a 21st Inning Stretch would be like!). Chris worked on a sweater, Nancy worked on a hat and I worked on the second butterfly sock:
This pair has since been finished and sent to it's new home.

At the end of the month, I reorganized my yarn and fiber stash. It took forever, but many countless ziploc bags and plastic storage bins later, it's done. My sock yarn is tucked away in 5 drawers, arranged by weight (fingering or sport/dk) and type (solid, self striping, commercial variegated, hand dyed). I know people say sock yarn isn't stash, but for something that's not really stash, it sure does take up a lot of space. Cottons, dk animal fibers and undyed skeins took one container each. Worsted/bulky took two big containers, as did spinning fibers. Phew! Let's see how long it stays organized... During the stash toss, I unearthed some Kureyon and made a quick skinny scarf.
Extra bonus points for a) using stash yarn and b) getting started on the holiday knits. Score!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mt. Rainier

We had a late night flight back to DC and we decided to spend our last day in the Pacific NW doing something sort of outdoorsy. So we went to the mountains. Or rather the mountain. Ok, it's a volcano.
Mt. Rainier was asleep, but I guess it's always good to be prepared.

The drive there from Seattle was very pretty. The trees there are different from the ones back east, really tall and slender.
Once we got closer to the mountain and entered the national park itself, the woods were full of huge, knotted old growth trees. They had had more snow than usual over the winter. The two-lane roads were clear, but there was plenty of snow still left.
It was 8 ft deep in many places, and the higher up you went the deeper it got. We were there well into spring, and as the temps went up, spontaneous little cataracts came down.
We didn't see much wildlife. The birds were clearly very used to human contact. They knew well that people bring food, so they weren't shy about approaching visitors to get a free meal.
We didn't feed them, so this bird got bored quickly and left.

Now the mountain itself was stunning.
Real climbers can go all the way to the top but we tourists only went as far as the observation building (I said "sort of outdoorsy" remember?), which was a flying saucer shaped thing with windows all around, some of them completely blocked by snow drifts. From the raised viewing platform in the middle of the building, we could see the main attraction and it's little siblings too.

There are lots more smaller peaks not pictured. They may all have different names, but I suspect it's just one big pool of magma way down below.

And that, at long last, is the end of my vacation posting. Yay! Now maybe I can post about more current events and maybe even (*gasp*) current knitting!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thank You Secret Pal!

I got a package from my Secret Pal yesterday! Pretty sweet, huh? I love Patons SWS. The sock yarn is a beautiful variegated green. It'll make some pretty socks, that's for sure! My SP also sent 4 cute little Burt's Bees tins and an awesome mix CD of "background music," which I enjoyed listening to last night. Thanks Secret Pal!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And then Seattle

After the cruise, we stayed a few days in Washington state before heading back home. Seattle is a lovely city. I had expected rain - everyone knows it's always raining there, right? - but we were surprised by three days of sunshine and 90 degree temps. The locals seemed just as confounded. The lead stories on the news were:
1. Boeing lost a contract.
2. The Copper River salmon were in season.
3. It was sunny.

We walked around downtown and admired the architecture
If you insist on doing more than stare at buildings, they've got that covered too. We went on the underground tour, which I would highly recommend (if you have allergies though, be warned, it's kinda moldy and dank). The long and short of it was that for a while, Seattle had a sort of underground arcade area when the sidewalk of the old city were covered up by the sidewalks of the new city. It was kinda dark down there, so they put in some skylights, which, from the streets above looked like this:
I don't think it did much good - still pretty dim down below.
Since people didn't really take to doing business in the dark, lot of the underground got shut down. However, some businesses still make use of the extra space, like Pike Place Market.
It's really pretty inside the market. There are flowers, fresh produce, meat and dining on the street level and they use their underground space too for shops and more restaurants. Luckily enough, it turned out the Seattle Cheese Festival was that weekend. Mmmm, me gusta queso. Festival or no, there's plenty to see there. You could probably amuse yourself all day long with people-watching.

We rode the monorail to the Space Needle to have dinner at the revolving restaurant there. It's a very short ride, maybe a couple of minutes to go about a mile.
The Space Needle entrance fee's a bit steep. I know that, coming from DC, I always find it weird to have to pay admission fees for landmarks and museums. The views are really nice though, and the food's very good too, so maybe that makes up for it. Remember the Copper River Salmon? I had it for dinner on a bed of tri-color potatoes.
I think it's the best seafood I've ever had. Even better than the awesome grilled Coho salmon we had in Juneau, or the scallops with deep fried capers we had at Tulio the night before - hey, just because I wasn't on the ship didn't mean I stopped eating ;)

Just like on the Sears Tower trip, I saw a weird red sculpture from very far away:
We also had a view of the final stop on our trip (look over the horizon...)
Next time, Mount Rainier, the absolutely last post of this darn vacation, I promise!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

At Last, Alaska

Finally, I get around to writing about Alaska. Alaska was beautiful. Yes, it was cold and rainy, but I like cold and don't mind rainy so that was no problem. The scenery was awesome pretty much everywhere we went.

Our first port of call was Ketchikan. Not surprisingly, the downtown/port area is tailor made for cruisers. I'm sure tourism is a major chunk of income for these small port towns. I kinda like the look though. It's very cute and quaint-looking, despite the hordes of ship passengers milling around everywhere.
This is the, um, "stop light" in the port area. It was mostly foot traffic in that area, so I guess this solution is easier than putting in an actual light. Plus it's an ok summer job, if you don't mind standing in the wet.

It should be no surprise that things are a little different out on the edge of nowhere. It seems to take a lot more work, not to mention heavy machinery, to get stuff done. You could see the people/wilderness boundary easily from most places.

In Juneau, we went whale watching. We did see a few whales, or their tails at least, though from a distance, so the whale pics didn't come out so great. We had a much better view of the sea lions.

After a day at sea, we arrived at Glacier Bay to look at massive walls of ice.

Glacier ice is a sort of bright translucent blue, which is very pretty, even in cloudy gray weather. We saw some calving, where chunks break off the glacier. As an added bonus, we entered the bay just as the Infinity's sister ship, the Millennium, was leaving, so we had a nice view of her against the mountains and ice.
There was a lot of ice in the bay. Standing outside on deck 4, you could hear see and hear the ice thunking and popping against the hull. The onboard naturalist pointed out that though we didn't have an ice-breaking hull, we would be ok as long as we went slowly. I stayed close to these, just in case :)

After Alaska, we made a brief stop in Victoria, BC. The weather slowed us down so we didn't get into the port until late in afternoon. There was time for yarn shopping at the Beehive and then tea at the Empress:
I don't like tea at all, and now I know even fancy, properly prepared tea still tastes and smells like dirty boiled leaves. I know, I each their own. I have a fondness for chicken gizzards, so I shouldn't judge. But I will anyway: tea = yuck! Anyway I drank very little. But the sandwiches and desserts were very yummy. After tea, it was back to the ship (or as Amy Singer kept calling it, "the big big boat"), but not before a quick drive by the Parliament building.
Fuzzy, but pretty - a great big blur like my vacation week.