Friday, May 28, 2010

More purty things

Small update today on the BBF website: a new base, Heavenly Sport, which is the same base as Heavenly Lace except in sportweight, and skeins of 400 yds. The 70% baby alpaca/20% silk/10% cashmere blend is luscious and takes color beautifully:



I'm also trying out a wool-free sock yarn, called "Sheep-Free Sock", consisting of 44% cotton/43% acyrlic/13% nylon:

It's nice for those allergic to wool, or if you're looking for something for warmer months. These cool light colors would make nice lace ankle socks, for example.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quiet here

Not much to say here (for a change!) so here are some purty photos from our yard:

Snowball Viburnum



Friday, May 21, 2010

Save the date: June 27th, 2010

My oldest kid needs braces, so it's time for a BBF Orthodontia Open House!

model provided by Little Miss

Sunday, June 27th, 2010
Black Bunny Fibers Open House
chez BBF
more details to come

We had a great time at the last one, and if the weather cooperates, y'all can hang out on the patio as well as in the living room, and knit. Um, and drink wine....

If you were wondering about the recitals last weekend, rest assured that they went beautifully. Little Miss proved to be a graceful and adorable Ladybug:

and look at my handsome kids as we get ready to leave for the piano recital (which also went beautifully!):

So all is well in Black Bunny-land. Have a terrific weekend!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Checking in

This is my oldest on his way to the jazz band concert.

The concert was amazing. His group had only been playing together since February and still were quite impressive. It was especially cool to watch the kids improvising for their solos and seeing them get into the music.

Now we are preparing for recital-palooza. Tomorrow, Little Miss appears as a Ladybug in a ballet performance of "Snow White," and both Little Miss and her older brother are playing in a piano recital on Sunday. My mom is here to see it all and we're really happy to have her. I will try to post some photos later.

There are still some great skeins left from this week's BBF update, both miniskeins and llama-shetland lace, and some great wild multis in Superwash Merino Classic:

Rubik's cube

Pac-Man Fever

I'm also very pleased with the JumboSox skeins: 600-yd skeins of Superwash Merino Classic, so that if you like making kneesocks or want to be sure you've got enough for a shawlette, you're covered. (I also think thirty bucks is quite a nice price, especially if you use the free shipping code on the home page!)

Hungry like the Wolf

All You Zombies

Otherwise, not much going on. I've got some more book reviews in coming weeks, but right now is when the knitting world starts to hunker down to get ready for fall and early winter publications, so there's lots of knitting and writing and swatching going on here.

P.S. Don't forget to toddle on over to Mindy's blog to wish her a happy, goat-y birthday!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blog Tour: Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts

I am thrilled to be a part of the STC blog tour for Kaffe Fassett's Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts: 23 Original Quilt Designs (STC 2010; MSRP $35.00, but available via the link for $23.10 at the time of this writing), by Kaffe Fassett with Liza Prior Lucy. Many, I hope most, of you knitters are familiar with Kaffe Fassett's non-quilting fiber work. He's a frequent contributor to Rowan Magazine; has written beautiful books like Glorious Knitting, designs needlepoint, paints, and, of course, is involved in creating beautiful fabrics for Rowan with which he creates unbelievable quilting designs.

But who is this Liza Prior Lucy (as in "by Kaffe Fassett with Liza Prior Lucy")?

Well, Liza Prior Lucy is one of the most accomplished people you'll ever want to meet in the fiber world. When I first met her, I had no idea who she was or all of the things she'd done: needlepoint design, a longtime presence in the knitting world, and now the goddess of patchwork.

So how did Liza Lucy end up as collaborator and right-hand gal to the esteemed Kaffe Fassett?

Go back awhile in time. Liza Lucy was sales representative for several big-name yarn companies; her territory was Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. One day, Liza was in a shop that was selling a Kaffe Fassett knitting book. "I'd been knitting for years and I'd never seen anything like it," she remembers. "I immediately bought six copies of it. One for me, one for my mother, one for my cousin, and so on."

The next day, Liza got a call from someone asking her to add a new line of knitting yarns to her portfolio. Liza grumbled. "I kept saying no, I already represented all the best knitting lines. I said my suitcase was already too heavy. I kept saying no." Then she heard that the yarn company was working with a designer with an unpronounceable name, "Coffee Faucet," or something like that. Liza realized who it was, and immediately added that yarn line to her portfolio. Yes, dear readers, that little new yarn line was Rowan.

After Liza added Rowan to the companies she was representing (and rued the fact that if she'd waited one more day "I could have bought those six books at wholesale!"), part of her job became working with Kaffe Fassett to sell his knitting book. "Part of my job," Liza remembers, "was to take Kaffe around to the shops in my territory to booksignings. We went all over New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And no one showed up." At the time, book signings weren't regularly held for crafting titles, and shops that couldn't harness the power of the internet-- remember you young 'uns, there was a time in the crafting world when there was No Internet -- didn't have the tools they now have to get the word out and create buzz surrounding author/designer visits. "We went from shop to shop, and no one came. So we got to spend hours together yakking and getting to know each other."

Kaffe and Liza hit it off. They both had grown up in small towns and loved them, even as they knew they had to leave their small hometowns to do the work they wanted to do. They liked the same music and the same movies, and the similarities laid the ground for a strong friendship.

Several years later, Liza was pregnant and starting to do patchwork quilting. She sent Kaffe a postcard asking him if he wanted to do a quilting book with her. Kaffe wrote back, saying "Nice hearing from you, keep in touch." As Liza recalls, "He never came right out and said no. He may have meant 'no, thank you' but I never saw the words 'no, thank you' so I figured he hadn't said no." She began working on quilt designs, looking at Kaffe's other work and adapting some of his knitting motifs into quilted ones. He would write back with critiques and suggestions -- "that one needs a bit more yellow" -- and the foundation for their working relationship was born.

When Liza received a phone call out of the blue from a woman looking to sell a Kaffe Fassett painting that she had purchased in the 70s, Liza, who was considering buying it, first asked what the subject was. "She said it was a patchwork quilt. I said yes. Later, Kaffe saw the painting, and after that, I think we both knew it was meant to be." The world of fabric and quilting was changed forever when Ken Bridgewater and Stephen Sheard agreed to start Rowan Patchwork & Quilting Company out of friendship and support for Kaffe and Liza. Kaffe not only had a place to showcase his designs, but a supportive company to develop fabrics that he would design.

Four books later, umpteen fabric patterns later, the working relationship between Kaffe and Liza has endured. And the latest fruits of their collaboration is a spectacular addition to the fiber arts world.

Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts contains exactly what the name promises: it takes a handful of simple geometric shapes -- the kind any first-grader would know -- and shows how to turn them into spectacular quilts. The book, just under 200 pages long, is divided into six sections: Squares, Rectangles, Triangles, Diamonds, Quarter Circles and Circles. Each section begins with a montage of photographs featuring the shape in art or nature, followed by a few pages in which Fassett discusses how the shape inspires his work. Next, the quilts themselves are featured in gorgeous photographs and in many cases, alternate colorways. The patterns and instructions for the quilts follow, with a full-page photo of the quilt laid flat, and lots of color diagrams showing how the quilt is constructed.

I will freely confess that exposure to Kaffe and Liza's work has turned me into a quilter -- or at least someone who dabbles in quilting. The striking patterns of the fabrics, the combinations of colors, the way that shapes play off each other, all of these aspects of Kaffe and Liza's quilting fascinate me and make me want to play with fabric myself. But since my audience of readers is primarily knitting, what does this have to do with you?

Everything, really. The beauty of Simple Shapes is that you don't have to be a quilter to take away so much from the book. Simply as a coffee table book, full of gorgeous photography (done by Debbie Patterson), the book is worth the twenty bucks or so for its beauty alone. But as a knitter, we don't have to stick with knitting patterns for inspiration. Simple Shapes is full of color and interesting color mixes: fodder for combining color in your knitting projects. Simple Shapes looks at different shapes and combines them to form spectacular quilts: as a knitter, you can use shapes, either in knitting modularly or as motifs in your work. Simple Shapes shows individual geometric figures that anyone can see in the world around them and applies them to quilting: you as a knitter can look around in your world and find shapes and color combinations and textural effects and incorporate them into your knitting. I'm a believer in the subconscious aspect of creating, and even if you don't set out on a field trip to look for, say, hexagons in your daily life, just the exposure to this way of thinking will, I think, meander around in your subconscious and come out in interesting ways in your knitting and/or crochet work.

So this knitter (and peripatetic quilter) highly recommends Simple Shapes, Spectacular Quilts for anyone and everyone on your fiber-lovers list. It's eye candy, and worth it for that reason alone, but it also has a lot to show us about color, design and the creative process.

For more Kaffe and Liza quilting fun, check out the STC quilt-along here. There's a free download of a pattern, and links to a Facebook group where you can quilt along with others.

P.S. to my regular readers: update at the Black Bunny Fibers on-line shop went live yesterday, with mini-skeins that would be just perfect for using to play with color and shape...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

April Book Report

Wow, last month went fast. Here's what I read:

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. I'd never read any Barbara Pym before, and Wendy highly recommended her. What a treat! Pym writes from the perspective of one of those "excellent women" -- an unmarried woman in her 1930s, volunteering at her church and living what appears to be an unremarkable life in 1950s London. Pym writes with humor, charm and wit. I'm definitely going to seek out more of her writing.

The Chalon Heads by Barry Maitland. Another Kolla and Brock mystery, concerning a kidnapping and a valuable stamp set asked as the ransom. I found this one slightly less engrossing but it was entertaining and twisty.

The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham. Yes, I'm mad about Maugham. The main character in "The Painted Veil" is Kitty, a beautiful but shallow woman in London who panics when, at the age of 25, she is still unmarried. She rushes into a marriage with Walter Fane, a serious & reserved doctor who is about to move to Hong Kong to work for the British government. Walter adores Kitty but she can barely tolerate him, and after they are settled in Hong Kong, she begins an affair with a consular employee. The novel begins as Walter discovers their affair -- and vindictively gives Kitty a choice: either move with him to a remote, cholera-stricken part of China, where he will work on treating the disease, or get a divorce. Kitty realizes that the consular employee has no intention of leaving his wife to marry her, so she goes with Walter. Out of this inauspicious beginning, we see Kitty's transformation as her exposure to a different culture, different sorts of people, and the harsh poverty and disease of the province elicit her better nature.

Different from the first Maugham I read, but equally affecting in its simple and elegant but very powerful storytelling.

Still Midnight by Denise Mina. I've really enjoyed Mina's previous books, all mystery/suspense novels set in Scotland, but this one -- which I got an Amazon Vine review copy of -- disappointed me. I found the shifting narration to be jarring. The characters were flat and unconvincing, and the vast majority of them were unlikeable, including the lead detective, Alex Morrow. The story just didn't seem to have any meat on its bones; parts (Pat's infatuation with the kidnap victim's daughter) were unbelievable, parts were extraneous (the entire side story about Alex's half-brother served no discernible point), and much of it was dull.

The Moon and Sixpence, by Somerset Maugham. A heavily fictionalized version loosely based on the life of painter Paul Gauguin. Very different in feel from the previous two Maughams I read: more old-fashioned and ornate in language, with a more self-conscious style and a first-person narrator. One central theme is the nature of creative genius, and how society ought to treat geniuses -- the artist's compelling need to create, whether possession of great talent can excuse or mitigate the possessor's repugnant actions, male/female relationships when one party has genius or talent. I liked it, but not as much as the other two.

The Devil's Starl by Jo Nesbo. I read Nesbo's previous two Harry Hole books as part of my Scandinavian mystery binge of the last year or two, and although they were all good, this one is my favorite so far. Inspector Harry Hole is one of the best detectives in Norway -- but at the beginning of "The Devil's Star," he's a mess. In previous novels, he's struggled mightily with his alcoholism; lost his beloved police partner Ellen to an unknown murderer; and wrestled with his suspicion that a colleague is corrupt (and may have murdered Ellen). These plot strands continue to snake through "The Devil's Star."

As the book opens, Harry's in the middle of a major bender and has gone AWOL from work. He is reeling from breaking up with his girlfriend Rakel, and he's about to get fired. But after he's given the equivalent of two weeks' notice, Harry manages to pull it together and join an urgent investigation for a murderer. We see Harry's desire to find the killer warring with his self-destructive need to drink. We see his suspicions about colleague Tom Waaler -- chosen to lead the investigation -- deepen. And we see Harry's insight and intelligence, notwithstanding his personal issues, help move the investigation forward.

The action was gripping from the get-go and suspense steadily builds right through the end. The plot is complex and contains enough twists and turns to keep even a crime-novel aficionado guessing. And Harry is a fascinating character with plenty of complexity and inner conflict -- his longing for normalcy, his struggling with his drinking problem, his attempt to maintain regular human relationships with both his girlfriend and colleagues, and the self-destructive disdain for authority that most good fictional detectives seem to have. Now I've got to wait for the next one in the series to be translated and released in the U.S.

My Antonia by Willa Cather. When I read "Death Comes for the Archibishop" a few months ago, a friend who is an English professor told me that I would like "My Antonia" even more. I did. My initial impression: like "Little House on the Prairie" for grownups -- but that doesn't do justice to how beautifully written it is, or how well the novel works on so many levels. Heartbreaking at times, optimistic at times, characters with complexity, much that is said but even more left unsaid, with strong feminist undercurrents. An elegant portrayal of life in a midwestern prairie town in the late 1800s, but also a novel of love, loss, longing and grieving for a past and a way of life that are gone. Best of all, now I can debate with my English professor friend all sorts of things, like whether Jim is a reliable narrator, and which Cather book to read next.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Maryland Report, part 2 (or Eye Candy Monday)

One of my favorite parts of Maryland Sheep & Wool is going through the building that houses the prizewinners: finished projects and yarn that have won the ribbons. This year was no exception; the entries ranged from the absurd to the sublime. It's exciting to see how much enthusiasm there is for the fiber arts and how many talented people are out there. For example, look at these lovely lace entries:

The felted objects always fascinate me. This year someone made an entire, life-size LAMB using felting techniques:

For the kids, there were the VeggieTales

and a bunneh

and, um, other things:

I took a special interest in the socks; I think the first one was made with handspun yarn, too.

Look at this heirloom christening dress:

Last but not least, I am always inspired by the skeins of handspun that I see:

And now, with QueerJoe in mind, I present to you a special selection of : Men Wearing Kilts.

Kilt-lovers of America, rejoice.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Md. Sheep & Wool report

Two words that best describe yesterday's visit to Maryland Sheep & Wool: ungodly hot. The combination of ninety-plus degree weather, lots of sun, and lots of people and animals crowded into barns meant that it was an uncomfortable and sweaty day.

Fortunately, there were plenty of things to distract us from the weather. Our drive down was uneventful and very pleasant as we exchanged gossip and caught up with each other. Alas, faithful companion Jim was unable to attend, but Kathy was able to come, which was very fun (although it would have been even more fun if Jim came too!):

When I first started coming to Maryland, it was all about the fiber. But as my stash has grown and my tastes have developed, it's now become all about the people. We quickly found Anmiryam:

(I would like to point out that after years of dedicated trying, I believe I have finally managed to take a photo of Kathy in which she is looking directly at the camera, eyes open and smiling. It's a Christmas miracle (early)!)

We immediately went to Kid Hollow and found Mindy, and were delighted when Bridget joined us;

Along the way we ran into Lisa and Sherry:

and cutie-pie Turtlegirl76

I left Poorluci's cell phone number in the car, and I was really sad that I'd miss her, when look who we saw on the way out of the parking lot:

Poorluci and a bunch of Ravelry LSGers!

I simply cannot forget the Sisters D: Knitty D and her wonderful sister Alison:

As usual, they set up base camp near where Brooks Farms used to be (they changed the layout of some of the booths) and while I was visiting, I got to see Robin, Wendy, and some other Philly folks.

It seemed crowded when we first arrived, but as the day wore on, we got the impression it wasn't as packed with people as it has been in years past. Maybe the heat was sending people home early? It is kind of hard to get excited about wool when it's 90 degrees out. It's also hard to get excited about going inside a yurt made of felted wool in that kind of weather:

Were there cute animals there, you ask? Well, of course! Here's a bebeh alpaca:

and here are some of the Kid Hollow goatehs

and I won't even discuss the teeny gray bunny that I almost brought home to be Charcoal's pal. (I was afraid to, though, because I didn't want Charcoal, Tom and the new bunny to get into some weird love triangle. It's already bad enough when your husband comes home from work and greets the pet rabbit before he greets you.)

There was the requisite sheep shearing,

and clearly this sheep disapproved.

Did I buy anything, you ask? Not tons -- trying to save money for Elvis's braces, you know, but I did get some fleeces to be processed for BBF and I did splurge on some luscious Koigu roving:

As we reflected on the day, we couldn't help but think of friends who weren't there to share in the fun, like Franklin, and the rest of the Wolvies, and Ve-ve, and of course, Jim, and a bunch of others, including L. and A., my Facebook pals. Someday I'll meet L. and A., and when I do, I imagine it'll look something like this:

Tomorrow: a look at the prize-winners and a special treat for QueerJoe....