I'll Be Back.

Very short post today - I'm still fighting the ick that Baby A.K. doled out last week - I think it's a sinus infection. But the real reason for the short post is that I'm packing for a trip to NJ - sadly, to attend a funeral. I'll be back Friday or Saturday, but in case you need a good blog-y fix, try this one. It's all in the family, after all.

Despite the occasion for said NJ trip, there's always time to knit. I'll be bringing along Husband of A.K.'s socks, knit once again with Austermann Step sock yarn. This colorway is #18 - vulkan. So manly. I'll also have Wrapper's Delight with me. Whatever I get to work on, I hope I make some headway. They both really ought to be done by the end of next month, or sooner.

See ya in a few days.


I Need A Hat.

This happens every January: the entire Famiglia A.K. comes down with some horrendous strain of ick and ends up home together going stir crazy recovering. Now that I'm at the end of this thing, I can finally sit up and send out a call for help that's been on my mind since last Tuesday: I need a hat.

Obviously the first thing you're thinking is, "Just knit one, stupid." And yes, that's what I intend to do. But I don't want to knit just any hat. I want to knit a hat that actually looks great on me and that I'll wear happily all winter long. The thing is, I'm having a hard time finding a hat that looks great on me. I have a long face and pathetically fine hair, so most knitted hats make me look like... a boy. And they also make me look like I don't have any hair at all. And I really need a hat right now, because I went and cut all my hair off at the salon last week and my head's friggin' cold these days (ok, I'm being melodramatic. I didn't cut all my hair off. Just most of it.).

If anyone has any hat ideas for me to try out, please let me know. I'm cold just thinking about going outside tomorrow morning... or maybe I'm just still feverish...


Read Any Good (Children's) Books Lately?

Long before I became a Java developer, I was an underling manager for a certain humongous book store chain. All of us underlings had the usual "managerial" type duties - training new hires, opening/closing the store, handling irate customers. We also had to take ownership of a certain section of the store, keeping it relatively straightened and orderly. I was assigned the Children's section, which was like a death sentence at first. When you're in your early 20s and don't have any children of your own, you tend to find it rather difficult fielding questions from parents: "Can you recommend a few books for an advanced 7-year old?" "I need a gift for a 4-year old classmate of my son's." "What's the reading level of 'The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe'?"

In time, I became pretty knowledgeable about children's books, and today, my daughter is the proud owner of many of the ones I absolutely loved, either as a child myself, or as a bookstore clerk. Here are a few gems:

  • Knitting Nell, by Julie Jersild Roth. A little girl who loves to knit teaches her friends and family about the joys of charity knitting. A good read for the 6- to 8-year old set (Baby A.K. likes it, too. She likes how Nell knits in the bathtub.).

  • Smitten, by David Gordon. A (left) mitten and a sock who have lost their respective mates find comfort and friendship in each other... even when they're smelly. Check out what happens after Mitten becomes unraveled in a bizarre subway accident. Great for ages 2 - 102.

  • Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. You just can't find a better bedtime book than this. Beautiful in its simplicity, with adorable illustrations. Look carefully for the knitting reference in this one.

That's all I've got for now. Baby A.K. is, once again, rather unwell, and has escaped from her room 3 times already with a bad cough and chills. Come to think of it, I've got a bad cough and chills, too...


Looking For Inspiration.

Well, the title of this post says it all. I haven't blogged lately because I'm feeling kind of uninspired as far as knitting goes. Yes, I'm working diligently on Wrapper's Delight, and very soon I'll be starting another pair of socks, this time for the very wonderful and very patient Husband of A.K. Chalk it up to a very palpable need for a Yarn Crawl (Cris, I'm looking right at YOU!), the Winter Blahs, or PMS - I just can't seem to get my knit on.

I was hoping that a much-needed shopping spree would help jog my creativity a bit. Yesterday afternoon, I whiled away the hours (and my money) at the mall updating my wardrobe for Spring. Remember my New Year's resolutions? The one about treating myself to nice things (yarn excluded) once in a while? Well, check that one off the list. But as good a haul as I snagged for myself, nothing really screamed, "You need to knit something to go with me". Traipsing through the mall, I noticed many nice knitted scarves, but c'mon, I'm not gonna knit a scarf at this point - time to Think Spring. And I noticed many half-clothed, shivering pre-teens who clearly can't read a thermometer (or don't listen to the weather report, or don't care. What is it about kids who think it's a good idea to wear micro-minis and flip-flops in JANUARY? I'm sorry, but as a mom, I've got to be completely lame here and wonder, "How did those girls leave the house that way???") who I wanted to wrap in wool sweaters and spoon feed chicken soup. But nothing terribly inspirational.

Anyone else having a low point in their creativity during these long, dark winter days? Anyone know a good remedy?


Getting Gauge.

So it's finally started - the Wrapper's Delight cardi is underway. And I hope it goes well.

You see, I decided that I was going to be very, very careful with this project and do everything the way you're supposed to, starting with getting gauge in a careful and calculated way. But first I had to wind up the skeins of Claudia Hand Painted Boucle into center-pull balls. Which took 2 hours (maybe I need a ball winder).

I then carefully knit up a gauge swatch, 8 stitches wider and 8 rows taller than the pattern's gauge (15 stitches X 22 rows = 4"). I really concentrated on the stitches I was making, because hey, I'd better make friends with this crazy, fuzzy, loopy yarn since we're going to be together for... about a month, I'd say. And I took my time. I mean, this is supposed to be the ultimate indicator of your eventual success... or failure... so naturally it's worth spending some time on this important, yet tedious, step.

The swatch was completed around 10:30 pm Monday night. The dim light in my living room combined with the dark colors of this yarn rendered me quite blind by this time, but I could hold out a few more minutes just to measure my swatch and see if I got my gauge. I turned up the lights in my dining room full blast. I laid the swatch out on the table. I took out my tape measure and laid it on top...... and realized that I couldn't even see my stitches through all the crazy, fuzzy loops.

(The next morning, I took out the swatch and my tape measure and tried it again, this time under the bright fluorescent lights in my office. It took a few minutes, but yes, I did indeed get my gauge. 15 stitches across and 23 rows = 4"... close enough.)


Back To Normal... Whatever That Means.

It took a few days, but now that my strength and endurance has returned (I won't go into the running around I did on Wednesday again, but I might add that I didn't have anyone to bring me milkshakes and fried veggies, so no wonder my energy was lagging.), things have gone back to normal here at Casa A.K. What's normal, you might ask? Well,

I finished Mom's socks. Here's what one of 'em looks like.They'll be in the mail to her tomorrow. And let us all say, Amen.

I'm this close to starting my next project - an awesome, artsy little cardigan called Wrapper's Delight (those of you of a certain generation will smile at that title). Way back on Sept. 15th - yes, I had to look up the date - some of my S&B friends went to Knitter's Day Out, a knitting convention right here in Harrisburg. I bought the yarn and the pattern for this project there, from the lovely and helpful women of Uncommon Threads. Actually, I'm using a different yarn than the one called for in the pattern - I'm using this Claudia Hand Painted boucle (forgive the blurriness, but the color's pretty close). It should be started in time for our monthly S&B get-together (this Tuesday).

Besides the awesome gift Husband of A.K. got for me as one of my holiday presents, I spent part of an Amazon gift certificate on another amazing book: The Knitter's Book of Yarn, by Clara Parkes. This is a great book - one of those perfect reference books that should be on every knitter's bookshelf. Oh, the patterns are pretty amazing, too. Just buy it.

As usual, Baby A.K. is escaping from her room. It's not bedtime unless I put her down at least 2 times. Sigh.



Wow. That's all I've been saying all day: Wow. I'm completely amazed at the response I've gotten (and am still getting) from my live-blogging stint yesterday. I'm thrilled that so many people appreciated the coverage - even in the thick of it, I wished I could update even faster. Next year (oh yes, I'll be back next year!), I'll be making some adjustments so things will go smoother and faster, so I can bring more information and spend less time uploading pictures.

And now, here are some afterthoughts, explanations, and more pictures:

  • The Lamb And Wool Queen, pictured below, is modeling the shawl made by the kids who competed in the 1st Fleece To Wool contest, which took place before the Sheep To Shawl event. I'm not sure how much of a "competition" it was since they were the only team, but I truly hope that next year, there'll be a few teams competing. And yes, I'll be covering that event live as well.

  • The picture of Butler County Peddlers' shawl display doesn't even come close to showing how amazing it was. They had a lot of information packed into a small space, and I really really wish I could've captured it better. Note to self: buy better camera. NOW.

  • Turns out that PCN was streaming their coverage of the contest to the Internet, so for those who lost their feed on TV, apparently you were supposed to just "know" to turn on your computers. Also, check PCN's website to see if they're selling DVDs of the competition.

  • If you were there with me yesterday, you probably received a program that had all sorts of great information about the contest, the teams, the judges, etc. Since I had no time to transcribe the program in its entirety to the blog, I thought I'd include little bits of information/fun facts about the teams as I went. But I ran out of time. So, my apologies to the teams that didn't get a shout-out - I'll do better next year. Note to self: try to score program a few days before contest.

  • Know why my butt was freezing? I was sitting on a metal chair while I blogged, in front of an open garage door, where a cold breeze was constantly blowing.

  • I tried to get good pictures of the finished shawls as they were being modeled during the auction, but sadly, I only got a few that are worth posting. Carl and The Not so Lazy Kates:
    The Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon:
    Yorktowne Spinners:
    Red Rose Treadling Toes:

OK, that's all I've got. Only a matter of minutes until Baby A.K. tries to escape from her room... just a typical bedtime routine (BTW, thanks to everyone for the well-wishes. She's feeling much better, and went back to daycare today.).


The 25th Annual Sheep To Shawl Contest at the PA Farm Show.

8:32 am
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the 25th Annual Sheep To Shawl Contest live blogging event, sponsored by me, The Accidental Knitter. Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking: is she really at the Farm Show already??? The contest doesn't start until 3:00! No, I'm not at the Farm Show. I'm home this morning with a feverish Baby A.K., so I figured I'd take the time to do a test run.

8:39 am
Yep, everything's working well. Have a good morning, my friends, and I'll see you at the Farm Show a little later on. And while you're waiting (in case you haven't read Monday's post), read up on the rules of the contest here.

1:49 pm
Well, here I am, all set up and ready to go. Can I just say off the bat, that everyone I've spoken with so far has been wonderfully nice and eager to help me get ready for this. And now, some pictures for your pre-contest viewing pleasure:
The PA Farm Show: Our cows are big... and red,
Our alpacas are fuzzy,
Our Lamb And Wool Queen knows how to rock a shawl,
And our kids can card, spin, and weave with the best of 'em (there was a Fleece To Shawl Contest earlier today, and these kids are just amazing.)

2:02 pm
Just received some general info for today's contest. I don't think this is online anywhere to link to, so I'll try to summarize:
The teams are judged in parts:
Shearing (even shearing, uniformity, lack of second cuts);
Fleece (cleanliness, condition of fleece, luster, crimp);
Spinning (individual spinning as well as how their spinning relates to the design of the shawl);
Weaving (evenness in weaving, evenness of selvage edges and lack of pull-in. Finished shawl must measure at least 22" wide by 78" long);
Design (originality, difficulty, color coordination, softness, drape, execution of finished fringe);
Speed (self explanatory).

2:07 pm
Today's competing teams:

  • The Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon

  • Carl and the Not so Lazy Kates

  • Yorktowne Spinners

  • Loyhannon Spinners

  • Butler County Peddlers

  • Two Rams, Two Lambs, Ewe & Me

  • Red Rose Treadling Toes

(Just a reminder... for anyone who's following the action right here and right now, just keep hitting your "Refresh" button every few minutes for updates.)

2:16 pm
Where would we be today if it weren't for... THE SHEEP!

(You get the idea.)

2:43 pm
A thousand curses on my camera. It was state-of-the-art 5 years ago, but sadly outdated now. But, we do what we can do. Here are the best pictures I could get of each team's shawl display:
The Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon
Carl and the Not so Lazy Kates
Yorktowne Spinners
Loyhannon Spinners
Butler County Peddlers
Two Rams, Two Lambs, Ewe & Me
Red Rose Treadling Toes

2:47 pm
So far, I haven't been able to talk to any of the team members, since they're all getting ready to do their thing. But they all look so... calm. Serene, even. I guess that's not surprising - spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting... they all kind of put you in that Zen-like state after a while, don't they? In fact, when I look around, I'm the only one running around like a crazy person. Sigh.

2:56 pm
Ready the sheep!
Ready the teams!

3:07 pm
And they're off! Only one girl shearer in the bunch, but she's doing great!

3:15 pm
Wow... it took less than 10 minutes for all of the teams to shear their sheep. I guess that surprises no one here... but me.

The "After" shot.

3:16 pm
And they're off... again! At 3:12 pm, the teams were given the "Ready... Set... GO!" to start carding and spinning and weaving. And I'm off again, too... to get more pictures.

3:27 pm
Yorktowne Spinners
Loyhannon Spinners
Butler County Peddlers

3:39 pm
Sorry for the long delay... technical difficulties. OK, back to the teams...

3:49 pm
Carl and the Not so Lazy Kates
Two Rams, Two Lambs, Ewe & Me
The Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon
Red Rose Treadling Toes

3:52 pm
I'm trying to find someone to ask about what happened to PCN... be back soon...

4:00 pm
Well, no one's really sure down here about PCN. Some suggested that maybe they lost the feed due to the high winds sweeping through Central PA today. Actually, they kind of laughed and said, "Well, I guess it's up to you, then!"

4:09 pm
Our esteemed judges, Kris Peters, Christine Starry, and Kathy Davidson (I think I got them in the right order...).

4:20 pm
Some random photos...

Did you all know that The Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon is a group of 4-Hers ranging in age from 12 to 17? This is their weaving in progress.

I love this guy. He keeps staring at me, and occasionally gives me a "BLEAT!!!"

4:30 pm
These two girls are walking around modeling the "sample" shawls that the teams are now busily re-creating. The one on the left is from the team Carl and the Not so Lazy Kates, and the one on the right is from The Lovely Lambs... of Lebanon.
Did you know that Carl and the... Kates get together at least 4 or 5 times a year to demonstrate spinning and weaving at festivals and reenactments, as well as competing in Sheep To Shawl events around the state?

4:41 pm
Two Rams, Two Lambs, Ewe & Me are weaving this wild shawl with some nubby/slubby yarn in there - I just want to touch it... (sorry for the blurriness)

Ooooh... there's lots of cheering over at the Lovely Lambs... of Lebanon... wow, their shawl is off the loom!

4:45 pm
Note to self... next year, have a better camera. And bring a cushion. My butt's freezing.

4:49 pm
So here's how color comes into play... Red Rose Treadling Toes's warp for their shawl is a team hand-spun combination of commercial dyed wool/mohair mix and their own natural colored merino and mohair blend with highlights of purple, dyed by the team.

4:55 pm
Once the shawl is off the loom, as team Lovely Lambs... Of Lebanon are demonstrating here, they fringe it up,
then run it over to the judges.

5:06 pm
Ohhhhh... heaven. Tables piled high with pure heaven.

This lady has been knitting for pretty much the entire contest. And even though I'm having a blast doing this, I kind of wish I was her right now. She's making a skinny scarf for her daughter. I hear my mom's unfinished socks calling to me...

5:09 pm
Sigh. This is hard. It takes so long to run around and get pictures, upload them to my hard drive, fix them up, export them to the blog, write something, and hit "Publish" - sadly, I don't think I'll be getting many interviews, if any. Note to self: next year, bring a friend to help.

5:18 pm
All the news channels are here now... including a girl with a lavender cowgirl hat... I'm likin' that!
Yorktowne's finishing up...
Butler's off the loom and fringing. They're officially the 2nd team done, with an 84" shawl.

5:21 pm
More cheers... Yorktowne is 3rd finished.

5:27 pm
About 20 minutes to go... I think Two Rams might be getting close.

5:33 pm
Red Rose is finishing,
as is Loyhannon:

5:39 pm
Some of the finished shawls are on display. I'd really love to win one at auction tonight, but Baby A.K.'s scholarship fund just won't allow for that. Note to self: make more money so you can win shawl at auction next year.

5:41 pm
Loyhannon is finished!

5:43 pm
Red Rose is finished!

5:48 pm
I don't want to forget, so I want to give a shout-out now to Elaine Harvey, Media Relations, and Sarah Knisely, Timer/Photographer, for being so nice. I really enjoyed chatting with both of them in between pictures and mad typing.

5:50 pm
Two Rams is finished!

5:52 pm
Carl is finished! And so am I... well, not quite. Judging and awards to commence soon...

6:01 pm
A table full of finished shawls... still being judged.

6:14 pm
Just finished running around the arena, meeting the teams and letting them know who I am and what the heck I was doing all this time. And once again, everyone was SO nice, and so appreciative of what I did. Believe me, the pleasure was mine. Oh... and a lot of teams told me that they'd actually heard of my little blog... I'm just grinning like a fool right now.

6:17 pm
The arena's filling up again for the announcement of the winners...

6:32 pm
The Winners:
(First some words from Attorney General Tom Corbett (thanks for the spell check, Husband of A.K.... )
Champion Shearer: Carl Geissinger of Carl and the Not so Lazy Kates
Fleece Award: Butler County
Team's Choice: Loyhannon Spinners
Weaver's Award: Susan Rex of Loyhannon Spinners
Premium Spinning Group: Red Rose Treadling Toes
7th Place: Two Rams, Two Rams, Ewe & Me
6th Place: Red Rose Treadling Toes
5th Place: Yorktowne Spinners
4th Place: Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon
3rd Place: Carl and the Not So Lazy Kates
2nd Place: Loyhannon Spinners
1st Place: Butler County Peddlers

6:40 pm
Time for the Auction... where the heck's my checkbook... ?
Butler County Peddlers shawl: $850.00

6:43 pm
The Fleece To Shawl contest winners' shawl (this is the contest that occurred earlier today): $500.00
(I'll try to get pictures of all of these later... )

6:45 pm
Loyhannon Spinners shawl: $575.00

6:50 pm
Carl and the Not so Lazy Kates shawl: $1350.00 (holy cow!!!)
(this is so much fun! The auctioneer is awesome, and funny as heck!)

6:53 pm
The Lovely Lambs and Ornery Rams of Lebanon shawl: $525.00

6:55 pm
Yorktowne Spinners shawl: $850.00

6:58 pm
Red Rose Treadling Toes shawl: $1000.00

7:00 pm
Two Rams, Two Lambs, Ewe & Me's shawl: $325.00

7:04 pm
Now it's time for the Fleece Auction... but I'm callin' it quits. I've had a really, really great time today, but it's time I headed home, maybe see Baby A.K. before she goes to bed. Thank you, everyone, for supporting this little exercise in speed blogging... can't wait to do it again next year!

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