Monthly Archives: September 2013

Terroir in wool

So I yammered on for a few posts about my new yarn and roving from New Mexico a few months ago here and here, but all along I’ve been thinking about the wool I acquired in Italy last autumn.

We were in Abruzzo for a few weeks in September/October 2012, on a mission to hike nearly every day in all three of the relatively new national parks: Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, Parco Nazionale della Majella, and some regional parks and preserves including: Parco Naturale Sirente Velino, Riserva Naturale Regionale Monte Genzana e Alto Gizio, and Riserva Regionale Gole del Sagittario.  We had previously been in the area in 2008, less than a year before the devastating earthquake in the L’Aquila region, and had only a small taste of the hiking then that was later to come.  In the four years since however, more North American tourists have invaded come to the region, and though it is good for the economy, especially the areas still rebuilding, it isn’t the same immersive/escapist experience as it was before.  Now you hear the occasional loudly spoken English (I still can’t get past that someone-will-understand-me-if-I-speak-louder-rather-than-actually-learn-a-word-of-the-language habit), see flip-flops on ugly feet, pay much higher prices for apartment rentals, and stumble around overly large rolling luggage.  But I too am a North American, and a visitor, and have poor language skills, so I can’t be too much of a snob.

I first learned about Valeria and her AquiLANA yarn in a round-about way through ravelry when I posted to an Italian group seeking information about local wool producers.  She and her husband’s family raise sheep in the L’Aquila region – their business, Azienda Agrozootecnica Damiani Ovidio, can be found on Facebook.  Through another ravelry friend, we managed to communicate despite my awful Italian, (thank you Google translator) and because of her friend’s quite good English, to set up a time to meet in her town for a yarn purchase.

AquiLANA - Copy(Photo by Valeria/AquiLANA)

I would love to give more details about her wool and the company, but I’d have to commit to a serious translation session that I am too unfocused to partake in at the moment.  But to say her yarn is fabulous and it comes from these sheep off the mountains is enough for me.

But back to the area for a moment – our time hiking in the parks was simply awesome.  Some of the maps and trail markings were extremely good, some not so, and we had a hiking guidebook that should be burned due to some dangerous misinformation.  Many of the trails also had formerly been mule tracks and were best left for four-legged beasts or those very sure of foot and without any tendencies toward vertigo.  But overall, it was some of the best hiking I’ve done.

(But I’ll pack a few more emergency supplies the next time).

Abruzzo-Corno Grande


Abruzzo meadow

And of course eating was a nearly spiritual experience.

Can’t get any better to come down off a mountain, stop along the road, and dive into a plate of freshly grilled lamb arrosticini.


I’ve purchased wool from small producers at domestic festivals before, but this was the first time the wool smacked me in the face as coming from a very specific place – it had an intense “terroir” if you will.

Laquilana montepulciano

And to make it even more local, some is dyed with Montepulciano wine for a lovely muted rose-grey (this is fingering weight).

AquiLana skeins

At first, I only wanted to buy the Montepulciano-dyed wool because I almost never knit with white/natural.  I don’t have a reason why except that I usually like color more, I fear stains (I like to drink the Montepulciano too), and some whites look really bad on me.  I guess I do have my reasons.  But after spending some time in the mountains with the fluffy clouds, bleached rocks, and flocks of sheep with their fluffy white Maremma guard dogs, I decided that I had to have the color of the land (or, ahem, lamb).

Abruzzo sheep enclosures


Abruzzo sheep

So then my new stash of clear, clean, true wool went from the crisp vast mountains and valleys to the land of exhaust and grime…


I have a couple of ideas about what I’d like to do with the yarn, however I’m putting pressure on myself that both items will be my own designs. But I’m also realizing that with the strange turns of my life lately, my self-diagnosed ADD, work on portfolio pieces, and the chaos of everything else, I’m absolutely itching to dive right into this yarn NOW without the bother of critical design thoughts and only the happiness and escapism in remembering the land and enjoying the wool.

Laquilana swatches

I’ve swatched some of the natural wool in aran/bulky weight and it will probably turn into a cable-knit sweater – either something classic/vintage inspired along the lines of the Beatnik Pullover, or more modern like the Roam Tunic.  I’m leaning toward classic though since I pray for the day skinny jeans disappear (and will probably take tunics with them).  Unless of course it could be a dress on its own…

New England-new pattern shadow

The wine yarn will be a shawl, and that pattern is about halfway done, but I’ve run into a few snafus that I need to work out.  I’ll test knit a version of it in recycled yarn before I use the good yarn too, so it will take some time.

The bulky/aran yarn reminds me a little of Quince & Company Osprey – it seems that it may be processed and spun in a similar fashion and has that same lovely soft, sproingy, spongy factor – and maybe even more so.  It is soft, yes, but not weakly soft – almost cottony.  I even washed one of my swatches and it got even better – I wouldn’t say that it bloomed, but the stitch definition relaxed slightly while still being entirely legible.  I’m sure the yarn will wear quite well, yet be very comfortable.

It is already my favorite sweater.

And we’ve made plans for a return trip, so perhaps I may come back with more sheepy souvenirs!


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Filed under hiking, knitting, spinning, travel

My eggplant…

well-hung eggplant

is ____.   or has a ____.

(Fill in the blank with your favorite sexual innuendo or phallic euphemism, or else think of a proboscis monkey instead if you’re blushing).

And according to the latest science, this eggplant would make a terrible father.

I’m a little concerned that our organic CSA is within spitting distance of a large campus of a “global BioPharma company.”  That’s a big-assed evil major pharmaceutical mega-corporation to you and me.  When you drive past it on the way to the seemingly bucolic farm, a high-pitched hum slithers into your brain and vibrates your fillings.  I can only imagine what its doing to our vegetables.  I think it’s possible I’m growing another ovary.

I do know my thoughts and actions are becoming increasingly random.

Working x-stitch

I’ve nearly completed several portfolio pieces, but I either need to come up with several more, or be able to make the case that these few are enough to stand on their own and carry the whole thing.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately in the hopes that an artist statement and clear language about what and why I’m doing it will just tumble forth from my fingers without any effort and to my surprise.  Instead, I’m increasingly realizing that my hold on grammar is quite slippery, my comma usage is most certainly often wrong, and I really need a refresher on the basics in order to feel more like an intelligent and concise human being.  I am not a millennial, I don’t text, and I had to use typewriters and rely on knowledge of spelling for much of my early education so I don’t have an excuse – not that anyone should have an excuse.

It’s bumming me out a bit at the moment.

No limb sweetgum

You know what else is?  At home in our rental in the vinyl village, a tree company came in and sawed off half of our trees.  They didn’t take the three dead pines that will smash through our windows and walls with decapitating fury during the next superstorm, but instead took away 25 feet of branches (leafy shades) from the lovely Sweetgum right outside my window.

The bastards.

And now I’ll have to use my depressing vinyl blinds.

And lately WordPress keeps telling me that advertisements might appear from time to time at the bottom of my posts.  I do not endorse anything that might be down there (unless of course I do, but I doubt they advertise wool).  And I don’t think I have any control over what is there.  For $30 a year, I can take away these ads which I’d love to do, but then another year will go by and another $30, then another $30, and so on (boldly assuming I keep this up).  So my $30 will be going to things like health insurance and oats and toilet paper (and sexy mutant vegetables) instead.


Filed under art school, sewing, unemployment

Biggest-assed yarn bomb

It’s all over and too late to see now, but Knit the Bridge was pretty cool (and record-breaking).

We went to Pittsburgh for a little jaunt over Labor Day weekend and caught the bridge on a bright summer morning.

Knit the Bridge 1

(Got the ass-end of one of those obnoxious duck tour thingamawhats too!)

It was quite a bit more Crochet the Bridge, rather than knit, but they certainly couldn’t call it [yarn] Bomb the Bridge, which would have been more accurate, inclusive, and alliterative, but sadly we can’t say such things these days.

Knit the Bridge 2

The cheery hanging flower baskets were a nice touch too and complimented the bright acrylic yarns.

The whole thing had a campy, homey feel which was nice, but also played a bit into the knitting/crochet stereotype.

Knit the Bridge 3

But I won’t criticize that too harshly – overall it was a good thing and acrylic had to be used as the blankets will be massively laundered and donated to people and places that don’t have the knowledge, time, space, or frankly have much bigger issues rather than proper care of woolen hand-knits.

(There were actually many people out too, I just chose the pics without them.)

See also Cosy’s blog for more pics.

Knit the Bridge 4

I sadly wasn’t able to cram in a visit to Natural Stitches which is among my favorite LYSs – it carries loads of good quality stuff in good colors plus some fancy things for the occasional splurge (but not fancy-pants things that are just plain fugly).

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t acquire yarn of some sort.  We also hit a couple of thrift stores and I found a few sweaters ripe for harvesting.  Many of the thrift stores around Pittsburgh don’t take away the sweaters in summertime like they do on the East Coast.  I hate when they do that.

Pgh thrift 9-2013 4

As usual, I don’t have immediate plans for these, but they have the same sized/weight nicely heathered Shetland-like yarn, so something stripey with the two sweaters combined might be in order.  Maybe even a traditional Shetland hap shawl… Purple usually isn’t among my top favored colors though…

Pgh thrift 9-2013 3

And I pretty much swore I wouldn’t buy thin merino to unravel again, but I liked the colors of these and they’re the exact same sweater, so color work is a possibility, though I’ve fallen down the orange-green hole many times already.

Pgh thrift 9-2013 1

And one to keep as-is to wear (as if I need another).

I love the pale green – thank you late ’70s, early ’80s (and yes, I’m sure it’s probably a man’s sweater, but it fits).

Pgh thrift 9-2013 2

And I love the slogan on the label: “Wool. It’s got life.”


Pgh thrift 9-2013 5

And I got a few to full/felt.  Only some of them didn’t.  But that’s okay, I’ll unravel them instead.

The ones that did have already become phone cozys/socks/sleeves for some smart phone wielding friends.

I’ve got leftovers for sale too.

(My Etsy shop still isn’t stocked yet though.)

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Filed under knitting, recycling, thrifting, travel

I am not a sock monkey… I think?

Though I am trying to keep my mouth shut, I’m still angry sad depressed cynical pissed hopping-mad bitter rapidly-aging rabid seething kicked-in-my-imaginary-balls over that house sale f*cked-uppery.

But I will say no more.

Except this:

the rich-watermarked

And excuse the watermark, but I actually spent time modifying that image, so don’t steal it.  I need to work on the watermark thing though, so bear with me and get used to it.

In the interest of further experimentation in the art of procrastination, I thought I would check to see if any of my fibery images have been savagely pirated from webworld.  I know of one on Pinterest (which I’m largely on the fence about, but leaning on the hate side, or perhaps really really hate side) and I don’t really have many readers here, so I wasn’t expecting to find any gross violations.

So I did some Google Image searches by image.

I started with a pic that I’ve had on ravelry for a few years, and I actually loved the results:

Google Images-greys

(I won’t get any bigger with these because I don’t want to commit image gankery myself).

What you can’t quite see is my picture of a grey cowl matching images of owls in tree bark, cathedrals, shaggy dogs, rocks, chandeliers, and even a few other faces and knitted items.  All of the matches relate to color, texture, and shapes in my image.

Another image that I posted a few months ago – and again, I love the matches:

Google Images-yellows

Golden fall foliage, a fish caught in a net, a Byzantine Madonna.

But it failed to tell me that the picture did exist in webworld and was pinned on someone’s Pinterest board and on this blog.  Nothing came up for ravelry either, but I think that has greater privacy settings?

But otherwise, so far so good, no image theft yet.

So I moved on to other images I’ve posted in this blog.


Remember my artsy-fartsy sock monkeys from this post?

Sock monkeys are very popular.

Sock monkeys are everywhere.

Sock monkeys are made with socks and possibly some buttons.

Sock monkeys are for sale.

Sock monkeys are definitely not people (though friendlier).

Google Images-people are monkeys another day

So why dear Google, did my picture of sock monkeys bring up people!?!?!?!?!

If it’s some facial recognition algorithmic magic thing, then fix it ’cause I’m not buying that the ratios and comparative data and secret science are there.

My initial reaction was that this was horribly, horribly, horribly racist since many of the faces appeared to be from people who are not predominately caucasian.  But once I scrolled through more images I saw that it was very much an equal-opportunity free-for-all of people = sock monkeys.

Yes, monkeys are our cousins and they have skulls similar to ours – more similar than that of say a skunk or a horse, but stuffed toys with bulbous mouths that don’t exist in nature?  Knitted texture and only three colors?  No nose of any dimensions?  Eyes made of shoe buttons?  Exaggerated floppy ears?  No eyebrows, eyelashes, head hair, facial hair, (yes, I know some people don’t have that either) bumps, lumps, wrinkles, pimples, scars, beauty marks, or irises for that matter?

So I slept on it – maybe it was a joke.

The next day I tried the same image again:

Google Images-people are monkeys

More people.

And as a bonus, some soaped up ass cheeks.  (It did locate it on my blog though – the monkeys, not the cheeks).

So I tried some more monkey pics – I’ve got oodles of sock monkeys (or perhaps I should call them a troupe or troop).

This was a scan of some vintage monks wearing snazzy outfits made by my great aunt for my brothers:

Google Images-people are monkeys again and again

More people.

At least it picked up on the red.

I had another clearer pic of the same little guys in the first image:

Google Images-people are monkeys again

More people.

Though a couple of pine cones add some nice diversity.

So I thought that perhaps anything resembling two eyes and a mouth would always equate human faces and thus I was just making too much of this.

So I searched with an image of a pie with a face:

Google Images-pie

And I got pies and other foodstuffs for f*cksakes!

So I thought that perhaps there was a sock monkey apocalypse and it will now be up to me to re-populate the planet.

(By sewing of course, not lewd acts with a stuffed sock).

Just to be sure, I searched the term “sock monkeys” in Google Images.

Google Images-the real sock monkeys

What’s this?

Thousands, perhaps millions, of images of sock monkeys?*

There are so many sock monkeys that you can browse by various categories!

So what’s up Google?

Is this a joke?

Is this an evil plan that only you know about and we don’t and we’re about to become a new of Planet of the Apes Sock Monkeys?

Are we actually just a bunch of stuffed socks?

Is walking on a sock an act of torture and murder?

Should I fear my own sock monkeys?

Should I cut some holes in their box for air?

Please tell me.

*(It’s cool that Rebecca Yaker’s sock monk couture comes up right away).


Filed under home decor, knitting, recycling, sewing