March 2008


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Mim posted a request to see our favorite harbingers of spring.  Magnolia blossoms are, for me, a sign that spring is real and there probably won’t be more than one more hard frost.  (For years, when we lived in a house with a magnolia in the backyard, it would reach full bloom a day or two before the last frost.  Philly doesn’t seem to have so many late frosts, but the early conditioning is still there.)

I shot these on my way to work this morning.

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Some interesting and/or beautiful things I saw this week:

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I’ve been knitting a bit on Salt Peanuts and the flame scarf, and I’ve spun a bit of my onion-dyed wool, but I haven’t had much time for fibery stuff this week.

Per Chris‘s request, how I wind yarn into two equal balls (usually for toe-up socks):

before winding

For this example, I used a small skein of handspun that’s blue at one end and yellow at the other.

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First, I wind all of the yarn on the ballwinder.

2nd winding

Then I start winding again, starting with the outside end of the wound yarn.  I usually let the winding-on yarn slide between two of my fingers and hold the still-wound yarn in my palm.  (It occurs to me now that this might’ve been a useful picture…)

wound-twice

I wind until I think I have about half of the yarn left. These two balls of yarn weigh about the same amount; the second winding was a bit looser than the first, so the bluer one looks bigger. If I were actually going to use this yarn for sock toes, I’d weigh the balls of yarn on a good scale and then wind any extra around the outside of the smaller ball of yarn. (I often take one ball, tare the scale with that approximate half of the yarn, and then switch which ball of yarn I’m holding.)

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Anne requested more information about Clara’s class on Saturday. Basically, she worked through the main points of her book, discussing the contributions of fiber content and yarn structure to the functionality of the final yarn. We started with tufts of a few different kinds of roving and then moved through woollen v. worsted structure and a variety of different plying techniques. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to non-spinning knitters. For spinners, if you’ve spent much time thinking about yarn structure (which you probably have), you’ll probably already know some of the material from this workshop. It may still be useful–I definitely picked up some new stuff, and I enjoyed it–but spinners were clearly not Clara’s intended audience.

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I like fire, on the scale of candles and campfires and charcoal-grill fires. Oh, and gas stoves. It’s pretty, it does magic (melting wax, burning wood, cooking food), sometimes it makes fun crackly noises… I’m looking forward to campfires over MDSW weekend.

(I am also, however, a heat-wimp, so I tend to be very careful around fire.)

P.S.  Tomorrow is going to be a request day.  I won’t promise anything, but if there’s something you want me to post about, comment, and it might get added to the list.

On Friday, I went to Loop for Clara Parkes‘s book signing party. (It was fun, but that’s not the point of this post.) While there, I was talking with Anj and Martha about pictures of Philadelphia and how West Philly is the prettiest part. I maintain that West Philly is the best and prettiest bit of the city that actually feels like a city–there’s more green space and gardens to look at in the suburban-feeling sections of the northwest, but it’s too hard to walk downtown from there–but I have new evidence that Center City is not devoid of beauty.

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I shot all of these on my walk from Loop (I took Clara’s class on Saturday morning, too) to the Fitler Square farmers’ market to the South Street bridge. (There were more of them, including a few from the West Philly side of my walk, but I think I’ll save a few of them for Friday.)

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I bought some bananas last week, at absolutely perfect ripeness (just a hint of green at the ends). I ate two of them, but then the others developed brown spots, making them good candidates for banana bread. I wanted to bake something chocolate, though, so they became chocolate-banana stuff.

This is an approximation of what I did, which was an adaptation of my grandmother’s banana bread (“fluffy banana cake”) recipe:

2/3 c mashed banana

1 c flour
2/3 c cocoa
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 t baking powder
pinch salt

1/2 c oil
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2 T soymilk
1/2 T vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the oil, sugar, and other wet ingredients together, then add them to the dry ingredients. Add the banana and mix. Scoop into either muffin/cupcake papers or a greased and floured pan and bake at 375ºF until a tester comes out clean.

They’re very fluffy, and taste nicely of both banana and chocolate. (Hm, maybe I can try subbing in some peanut butter for part of the oil, for a cupcake version of my very favorite carob/peanut butter/banana cookies.)

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I have socks knit out of my handspun!  (Please overlook the cat hair on my pajamas.  Also, I have discovered what must be the purpose of the cropped sweatpants: showing off handknit socks.)

I’m amused that the ribbing patterns are different, but I don’t really care–the socks are still comfy.  These are my basic sock recipe, starting with a magic toe-up cast-on, with a short-row heel, and a cuff pattern that I could knit in the dark.  That’s crucial, considering the fact that I set up the back of the left (2nd) cuff ribbing while at the Mountain Goats show on Thursday.  (Yes, yes, it’s not like the Mountain Goats play dancey music, and it wasn’t like there would’ve been room to dance, anyway.  Better to knit than to play with my necklace.)

Maybe I’ll even manage to knit my next pair of socks in less than eight months from start to finish…

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