A quick recap of the road trip


I'm home in Portland with both a feeling of elation to be back with my sweet Leo and Little Miss Panda, but also a sadness that the trek is over and Julia has gone back home. I have so much to tell you about, but I’ll try to keep from making this post too long. It was an amazing trip; one I'll look back on as being among the most memorable, but I'm exhausted. Like all of the past few weeks, we've packed as much into as little time as our little psyches could handle and it'll be days before the effects wear off.

The trip started with an easy jaunt to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles. We stayed at a place owned by a friend of Julia's. This allowed us the opportunity to stop by Village Spinning and Weaving in Solvang, CA.

While there, we availed ourselves our their various wheels, including Ashfords, Majacrafts, Louets and a Windwheel. When I left the shop, I thought I was happy with the Ashford Kiwi. That's definitely not what I expected, but it was a lovely little thing, easy to use, and it felt fine.

As we embarked on the next leg of our trip, we decided that we'd see if we could try a Schacht Matchless at Carolina Homespun in San Francisco. We figured that with the $600 price difference, the Matchless would have to be pretty darn wonderful to sway us.

I. Love. This. Wheel.


After spending hours at Carolina Homespun, spinning until we had to concede to the road trip agenda (and our rapidly waning blood sugar), we made our way to lunch and then back on the road. It was noon, and we were going to drive to the Sequoia National Forest, a mere 38 miles from San Francisco.

Five hours later, several wrong turns, some swearing at the atlas and not a Sequoia in sight, we were in stop and go traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. In case the impact of that isn't entirely clear, that's a 5 hour detour to get us back to where we started, without actually seeing what we had hoped to see.

The sun was setting and the question became: Do we drive as far as we can at night, missing a good deal of the redwoods but still trying to get to Crater Lake the next day? Or do we drive a more reasonable distance, enjoy all the of the redwoods and skip Crater Lake?

We decided to drive as far as we could without overshooting the redwoods. There is no anxiety quite like that feeling that you've made a horribly bad decision. As we wound through the dark roads at night, hour upon hour passing, we calculated our optimal stopping point. Finally, having passed up most obvious points of civilization, we found ourselves in a quaint little area...where every light in town was turned off. The towns were silent and the motels could have as easily been abandoned, for all the life we could detect. Beam me up Scottie! I see no life here.

As the crew (all two of us) grew ever more punchy and concerned, we wound down one sleepy town's main street after another, until we found our oasis. Motel Ravenwood was open. As unlikely as it was, the owner just happened to be awake, awaiting another guest and he just happened to have an open room. We could have cried with happiness. Instead, we snatched the keys, paid our rate and made a bee line for the warmth of our beds.

The next day we awoke refreshed and ready to complete the last day of our journey. The redwoods are everything we hoped they'd be. Following the 101 up the coast, we stopped for a walk on the brisk sandy beach.

Doesn't Julia's sweatshirt look like it belongs on this beach?

From there, we followed the directions the motel owner gave us and found a quiet little trail off a well groomed dirt road.

My little spindle even joined us on the walk.

As we left the redwoods and headed to Crater Lake, I had a little twinge of excitement when I realized I had finally hit my new home state. If you are wondering, it's beautiful and Crater Lake is no exception.

We stopped at each little vista point and the little spindle joined in the oohing and ahhing. The atmospheric haze made the lake look dreamy and almost unreal. The spindle particularly enjoyed seeing the chipmunks. None of them broke into song.

Even the firemen were a delight to look at.

All said, it was an amazing trip. I’m still recovering, but I’m so glad I had the chance to do it. Portland is wonderful, and being back with my sweeties, is as grand as I hoped.

I should have more pictures up soon, and I feel pretty sure that Julia will have some stories to regale you with as well.

It has been a whirlwind week at Chez MOW. We've fit more of just about everything into these 7 days than I usually fit into a month. I love it. It's a fiber fueled binge and the neighbors are ready to call the authorities.

I won't say "the highlight of the week" because I think it's all been fun in a myriad of ways, but one of the best photographically documented events has been our trip to the Santa Monica Fiber Festival. Now, many of we yarnly types think of "fiber" as being roving and fleece and perhaps some handspun, and, boy oh boy, the best of that was available. But this fiber festival featured fabrics, beads, buttons, and antique goodness all around. Sure, there were some kittens and koy* but for every bit of questionably kitsch, there’s a great deal more of wallet emptying temptation.

The organizers (no fools were they) knew what they were doing and placed some baby alpacas at the entrance.

I'm not particularly gaga over livestock but these guys are pretty darn cute. Julia and I then went in for a quick first pass and some lunch.

A little side story, because I know she won't tell you herself. As we were eating our french fries..er...I mean...organic rolled oats, we chatted away at the small area set aside for such goings on. As we prattled on about what we wanted to see, what we planned to buy and which wheels we hoped to spin on, from behind me, came the sweetest "excuse me." A woman was trying to get Julia's attention. "Excuse me." She said, one more time "Are you a model?" As Julia decided if she could hug the woman while simultaneous spitting her food out and laughing, the woman persisted. "Don't you model knitwear?" Now, of course, I think Julia is plenty lovely enough to model, but one can't help but admire a complement like that. Further discussion revealed that the woman had seen Julia's various knitwear designs online, and presumed her role as "model" was paid and as opposed to practical.

After our highly nutritious lunch, we began our official trek through the festival. I knew my little shawl would be there, and we found it in no time. Despite knowing full well it’d be on display, I couldn’t help but be pleased beyond reason to see her there.

She stood among some of the most breath taking pieces. The photos submitted to Spindlicity just didn't do them justice.

After that, it was two circuits of the vendors and then a long break to spin, gab and spin some more. If this were a night on the town, at this point in the story, Julia and I would be crawling into Denny's at 4AM, makeup streaming down our faces, nylons ripped and at least one high heel broken. We were just about ready to pass out, but we couldn't bring ourselves to stop. We kept running into people we knew and things to see. We knew we were doomed when we finally found Miss Andrea walking around with her sister. So pulling out one of my purchases, a decadent 2 ounces of Merino and Silk roving, I decided to start spinning.

See Marnie.
See Marnie spin.
Spin, Marnie, spin!

And let me tell you, I didn't stop until yesterday morning. This stuff spun like it didn't even need me there. The results? 72 yards of 2 ply yarn on my brand new niddy noddy. Did I mention I bought a niddy noddy? No? Well I did and I’m smitten.

The yarn is about a DK to a light worsted weight and spun on my 1.9 ounce Golding Celtic Ring. And if the color and fiber composition weren't yummy enough, how's this for a little balance?

That is right off the niddy noddy. This yarn hasn't seen water yet. I'm so very proud.

As you can see, it's fairly loosly spun which I find easier to keep balanced. It was hard not to keep this yarn as singles because they looked so beautiful, but I knew I'd be unlikely to knit with singles, and I want to make sure I actually use this handspun

Oh and while I was at the festival, I may have also tried myself a wheel. And it just so happens that I love it and that it maches my new niddy noddy. I was thinking I might get myself the entry level model for Christmas, but more and more I'm thinking that what I want to do is save up for the super fabby model instead. As Julia says, in an entirely believable and reasonable sounding manner "If you get the good one, you won't need to upgrade later, then you'll only need one wheel ever."

You heard it here first, folks.That's my plan; one wheel, monogomous relationship for life. No really, I mean it.

*This will make more sense if Julia posts some of her aquisitions.

The audio of the blogher session I was in, and several others, have been posted. You can listen as long as you promise not to ever ever ever make me listen with you.

The MP3 file is here.

I want off


When I was a kid, I used to go to Canobie Lake Park every year with my parents because the company they worked for rented out the park for a day, once a year. I remember seeing all the roller coasters, even the one in the little kids' area and thinking "yah, I want to go on that." But as soon as the ride got going, I'd realize that this was definitely NOT what I wanted to be doing and in fact, if I didn't get off STAT, I was going to need to scream my fool head off. Luckily, I was a fast learner and quickly came to the conclusion that I was happier on more tame rides and getting "antique" photos taken with my friends. Odd, but I always loved the Turkish Twist which was like a tilt-a-whirl without the tilt and down in a pit where the floor dropped out from under you. So it’s kind of like being in a salad spinner.

Anyway, moving has been much like riding that roller coaster for the first time. I think, "Yah, no problem, I'm ready for this. While I'm at it, maybe I'll bring peace to the middle east too." Then suddenly I realize that everything is happening and I can’t turn back; Leo and Panda take off, the apartment is full of things I need to sell, and work is hitting a busy point. I see that apex of that long first hill ahead of me and start to think, hmmm, am I actually ready for this?

And what a ride it's been. Moving out of the old place on Tuesday was such a relief. I really do love LA, I've been very happy here, but I've been on a strict regiment of "no fun, all cleaning and selling old furniture" for the past week. I have a new disdain for flakey people who say they are coming to get your furniture and never show up. I also have scorn for people who try to haggle me on items I'm already trying to sell for much less than even Goodwill would charge. I'm not bitter, nah, not at all.

But I'm now a guest of a certain winter minded friend of mine, and life is good again.

I've made a small amount of progress on the Silky Wool cardigan. You can now see the full effect of the princess seams. She’ll look better after a little blocking.

The front and back are almost done and then I start playing around with sleeves. I do the bulk of my designing in Adobe Illustrator.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that using Illustrator is quick or easy, but I find it to be a great tool for the way I like to design for myself. In this case, the first thing I do is build a grid to scale. Then I create a pattern swatch that exactly matches a single pattern repeat for the stitch pattern. Since I generally create my document to be an exact 1 to 1 scale of the final pattern, I can use the actual inch markers on the built in document rulers, to draw the shape I want.

A little hint if you want to try this yourself, if you want a smaller scale, try working in centimeters instead of inches or picas instead of centimeters. For instance, if I draw my design pretending that each centimeter is an inch, I can basically scale the whole piece down by half, but I still have a ruler to go by when making modifications.

Just like working on regular graph paper, once my general shape is defined, I need to go in and redraw the shapes so they are made up only of whole stitches. Once the initial design is built, I fill it with my original pattern swatch and if all goes well, it will perfectly align with my gauge grid.

From there, I can reshape the piece at will and see how it will look. Then, I just print it out and work directly from the chart while I knit.

Since I have both a stitch-by-stitch, row-by-row representation of the piece and the stitch pattern, I can forego the row counter altogether. I just tick off the last row I worked and if I'm unsure if I remembered to mark off the last row, I can double check by looking at what row of the stitch pattern I just knit and comparing it to the chart.

I’d be curious to hear how other designers out there like to do their designing. Do many of you use Excel? Pencil, paper and calculator? Design programs? (I have one, but generally don’t use it for much more than calculating the armsceye and sleeve caps of multi-sized patterns.) Do you have another technique all together? Do tell.

Starting a reader gallery


It's long overdue, I know. I am working on starting a reader gallery. If you have ever knit one of my patterns and have pictures and would be OK with my posting said pictures and linking to your site (if you have one) please press that little CONTACT button up top and send me a note with all the details. You'll make my life 100 times easier if you also put the words "reader gallery" in the subject line.

Why I plan to try to do this mid-move to Portland is anyone's guess, but I'm chalking it up to a mild case of insanity. It's genetic, I think.

Speaking of moving, there will be many many things that I will miss about Los Angles, once I’m gone. I've had a wonderful 5 years here and I think I'll look back on them as some of my most fond memories. However, there is one thing I will not miss, driving in LA.

Yesterday morning's commute fresh off the Crap Cam (trademark Dave Barry) 6000

My clock is actually 12 minutes fast, so it's 5:48 AM and I'm driving to work on the 405 (known in all other states as I-405, hold the article). And on the radio, I've got my favorite local NPR station. Normally, I breeze into work at this hour.

Instead, this is what my commute looked like:

You aren't about to pass out, those spots you see before your eyes are break lights and they go on forever.

I'm looking forward to a few months of commuting from my bedroom to my computer room in my jammies. Boy oh boy!

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