Tag Archives: hiking

[Jet] lagging…

I made it to 5:12 a.m. this morning and feel triumphant!  Then I realized it was daylight savings,* so the jet lag beast has been tossed a scrap and is still pacing a bit around the room.  No more middle of the night pancake dinners/breakfasts though, but the last one was quite tasty with the last of our White Mountain edible souvenirs.

pancakes

My brain is still buzzy and unfocused and my body mildly flu-like.  I came home with mountain legs as firm as two well-aged prosciutti, but now they’re returning to their younger non-dead jiggly piglet state.  My body and mind are out of synch with my reality and just want to put one foot in front of the other until a pleasing distance and vista and lunch spot have been reached.

murder on the mountain **

I know it is incredibly pretentious, but I feel more culture shock returning to the U. S. rather than being outside of it (at least in the European bits).  Americans weigh too much, they are sick, they are loud, they drive enormous machines, they wheel enormous luggage, they can be demanding of bedraggled clerks and service workers, their children are wild, and worst of all, they build and live in suburbs – vast expanses of land without sidewalks or farms – utterly purposeless and ugly.

But this is where I was born and legally reside and thanks to N we can leave it once in awhile.

But I’m also just another American wishing she could eat, pray, love (mostly the eating part) under the Tuscan (I’d prefer Abruzzo) sun.  But there are a few things in Italy (and probably Europe in general) that are downright magical that even more increase my desire to stay.

  Dairy.  I have dairy issues in the states – I don’t know if it is lactose or casein or something else, but even when I get the organic grass-fed hoity-toity localish stuff here, I can have problems.  I can tolerate milk, ice cream, cream, etc., about 15% of the time here, so I usually just forgo anything not aged or fermented – cheese and yogurt are ok-ish.  In Italy, I have about a 99% tolerance rate – the only bad dairy experience I’ve had there was from a mediocre cream-based pasta sauce at an even more mediocre tourist trap restaurant in Rome a few years ago.  So I load up on the stuff while I’m there – cappuccino, gelato, cream sauces, oh yeah!  And of course cheese – I especially love the sheep and goat stuff – pecorino dolce, ricotta di capra, caciocavallo etc., etc., etc….

 Allergies.  I barely have them there, and leave behind my constant ropey mucous companion dangling down my throat here.  That probably has a straightforward reason about the different climate and fewer useless expanses of lawns and less proliferation of non-native species with their companion herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

So now that I’ve established that my brain is broken, my body atrophying, my nose dripping, and I’m suffering from a vague yogurt induced gut cramp, I must mention fiber – specifically my travel knitting.

I started the first pair of socks since my sock knitting debacle months ago.  Again, my sock mojo is off – I used a bit bigger yarn on my preferred shorty wood needles with my 64 stitch vanilla pattern, thinking it would firm things up and be ok, but they’re big – baggy ankle big.  But I don’t give a damn and still have to finish the leg parts, so I can firm up the upper ribbed section.  I’m constructing them in a strange fashion, but it makes sense in my head and should allow me to use up all the yarn.  I’ve dubbed them my “Nostalgia Socks” as the color reminds me of old quilts, 1970s sweaters, and now my trip.

sock in progress

The colors in this pic are wrong, but accurately portray the weak blue light that just barely stretched down to our nearly subterranean Italian apartment.

nostalgia socksThis is how the color should look – and if you look closely you can see one of the two knots I’ve found so far.

And remember my giddiness over Pigeonroof Studios Mimsy BFL roving?  And even more over the Hitchhiker pattern? I can call it a finished project now since I shoved it in my bag at the last minute.  It was one of those that ended sooner than I was ready to finish, and previously I only let myself knit a few rows here and there as a reward for meeting some goals on my portfolio pieces.  Ok, I may have over-rewarded myself, but this is my favorite handspun yarn to date – the softness and drape are wonderful (if I do say so myself) but most of that is due to the inherent qualities of the fiber itself.

Mimsyhiker on wall

My yardage was less than the suggested amount and I used bigger needles, so I didn’t quite make it to the original 42 points.  Mine is 41 1/2 – instead of a half a point, I just made the last one wider.  I watched 42 on the plane over and hoped I could have that numerical reference as well, but I didn’t quite make the team.

Mimsyhiker & acquedotto

Mimsyhiker & biscotto

I finished it in the first few days we were there, so I was able to wear it again and again and again – it’s finally taking a rest drying from a light blocking to stretch it out a little.

As for acquisitions, I bought some cheap (but ugly) sock yarn, and some cheap (but lovely) mohair in the market.

But of course I bought more of the real thing.

yarn-laquilana

It deserves a post of its own next time.

* Daylight savings happened in Italy last weekend.  We spent a day wondering why none of the cafes were opened when they should have been, rushed to return the rental car when we didn’t have to hurry, and even left for the airport an hour before we needed to – but none of it was the problem it would have been in the spring.

** I love this picture that N took – in the camera it appeared that I had been steamrolled, but now it looks more like a Nancy Drew book jacket for “Murder on the Mountain.”  I love sleeping on mountains – some bedroom designer should get on that – forget beds – rig up a soft inclined meadow and mimic warm sun and chilly breezes in a room instead.

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Trekking, face-stuffing, and of course, wool

I’m back from our few weeks sojourn to Abruzzo.

to the castle

(And yes, those last posts were pre-written and hastily posted from an internet cafe – I wonder how much longer those will exist, and/or how long it will take me to get a smart phone?)

Being away meant I couldn’t go to Rhinebeck this year, but um, I don’t care – though I’m enjoying reading about it.

I’m now suffering through the haze of jet lag (pancakes at 3 a.m. seemed like a good idea at the time…) and clogged ears, the depression of leaving a land I love, and the bureaucratic shitstorm and other items of work I left behind (and which gathered strength instead of my unrealistic hopes of dissipating).  So just a bit now, but more later – especially the wooly bits.

First I must take a moment to praise the porchetta panino.

porchetta portrait

We set an all-time record of eating 4 in one trip (not in one sitting though).

porchetta

And they are the perfect protein-packed porcine pranzo on the trail (even if they get squashed in the pack).

Valle Gentile

Days and days spent in the mountains with near-miraculous perfect weather and autumnal shades.

truffles

And let us not forget pasta – especially with saffron and generous shavings of truffles.

hexagons

And more hexagons too!

traveling yarn

And of course, wool!

Definitely more on that later – here it is on the journey to the states after eating a pretzel in the Frankfort airport.

greenland

And we got one last dose of mountains on the way home with some excellent views of Greenland.

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Hexed

I tend to get a little obsessive/fanatical about certain colors, textures, and shapes.  For a few years, I loved the diamond.  Not hard-assed sparkly rocks that people die for literally and figuratively, but the shape in a flattened geometric form.  I had some awesome diamond-shaped eyeglasses back in the late 1990s that I wore to dust; I have some argyle clothing, jewelry with diamond shapes, some great vintage diamond-shaped buttons I’ve yet to use, and I’ve sewn and knitted many diamonds.

Little did I know I had a thing for hexagons too.

I knew I liked antique hex tile floors.  I had an original one in my first roach-infested apartment (it wasn’t the first of several infested, it was the first and happened to be infested).  And I fantasize often about having one again (a tiled floor, not an apartment full of cockroaches).

I photograph tiled floors when I see them, including this one in the late 1990s, which also served as evidence in case I was brutally murdered or came down with an incurable STD or sudden Bukowski-like alcoholism from the seediest hotel I’ve ever patronized in Niagra Falls (I mean seediest ever, not one of many in Niagra Falls).

niagra falls seedy hex

And check out this awesome antique floor in a non-hipster cafe in Brooklyn I saw last year:

Hex - phone

(And yes, I have a cheap-ass pre-paid phone and can’t figure out how to email the picture to myself, so yeah…)

When we first started fixing up our former house, I was completely and entirely ecstatic when I found this in the bathroom:

hex3

However, my joy was short lived when I found other things:

hex4

And the absence of the tile throughout and/or layers of cement and other impenetrables that prevented us from salvaging the original floor.

I wanted to put down a new authentic porcelain hex floor, but the high price sent me to the big box for the cheap alternative:

hex2

Still porcelain hexagons, but not quite the real thing – the real deal is more flat and matte with thinner grout lines.  I loved that bathroom though, and I yearn for that giant cast-iron tub again…

But I’m still always on the look-out for hex floors and sometimes find them in surprising places:

hex1

Like out in the woods in the middle of nowhere.

But the fiber word is awash in hexagons as well.

One of the classic quilt patterns – Grandmother’s Flower Garden is all about the hex.

I found this in an antique shop last year:

quilt square-hex

Look how small the hexagons are!  The tiny little hexes are just a little bit bigger than a hex floor tile.

quilt square-hex-det

I wonder if the maker was sick of it after one motif, this was a leftover from a finished quilt, it was made to be a chair pad or other small item, or yeah, maybe she (maybe he but not likely) died.  I love the inconsistent greens as well – I wonder if it was made from old-time scrubs or nurse’s uniforms, or if the fabric was home-dyed.

For those of you in the knitting world, you’re probably expecting me to say I’m hip-deep in hexipuffs for the Beekeeper’s Quilt and that’s what this is all about.  Nope, though I like it a lot, and considered it for a little while, I’m going to pass for now (even though I may have purchased a few mega-sale skeins of sock yarn with this in mind).

I occasionally find myself designing floors for bathrooms, kitchens, and foyers of homes we don’t have.  In fact, one of the houses we purchased over the last year had a half-bath (I hate the name “powder room”) small enough that I could justify the price of the real thing and to my own custom design.  But alas, I must settle on non-floor hexagons for now.

But look at this!

63050463502674595_HcReHRQr_c

(Picture yanked from internet – no idea of its original publication)

Ok, so a floor again, but even though whatever house we’ll eventually get will eventually need to be re-sold, I’m really tempted to do something along these lines.  I don’t know if it is paper or fabric, but it would be fairly economical and a more interesting alternative to the paper bag floor (which I also sort of like, but can’t get past that leather crazy quilt jacket look of it).

But back to what I can do now, which really isn’t something I can do since I must finish other things first, but what I’m fantasizing about doing is a traditional hexagon quilt.  After a summer’s worth of basting letters for an appliqued quilt, and though at the time they often annoyed the hell of of me, I had the brilliant epiphany that a quilt can actually be as portable of a project as sock knitting.  Though that is probably obvious to all already, I’d never thought of making quilts outside of hours-long blocks of time at home.  And though my earlier thoughts of sewing a quilt by hand were along the lines of you’ve got to be f*cking joking, I now want to piece that bitch up one by one by one in airports, while visiting other people’s houses, in waiting rooms, and sprawled on the sofa while binge watching some mildly awful but addictive television series.

I haven’t decided whether or not to use my current stash and scraps or come up with something a little more uniform and floor-like, but I’ve sure as hell had fun playing with the possibilities – at least in my head, of course, since I really can’t be spending any real time on it.  (And I haven’ t yet printed off a bunch of blank hex sheets I found on this site).

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the hexing possibilities with crochet in the form of hexy granny afghans – see this Flickr group for pics – but alas, I don’t crochet.  I don’t like the looks of it sometimes, but that’s usually the maker’s fault for choosing crap acrylic yarn, or poor colors, or having no general aesthetic sense.

But I’d like to learn one of these days…

Oh yeah, and my inner jukebox plays this every time I think of the word hex:

The 1990s infected me with a whole wiggling writhing wad of ear worms…

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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-castle

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.

Abruzzo-lamb

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

See?

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…

AquiLANA in NYC

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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Mid-August progress…

We spent last weekend in the Adirondacks.

It was the last of the summer hiking trips for us.

ADK-pond hike

Our cottage was decorated in “Wal-Mart for cabin.”

ADK-bear

I actually miss the tacky painted saw blades, crude whittlings, and sh*t made out of driftwood and antlers of mountain/country crafts of yesteryear (or just a few years ago really).

Now it is plastic sh*t from China (often copied from domestic crafters).

ADK-racoon

But I managed to finally finish basting all of those damn letters.

Letters-done

The pile looks smaller than it really is.

I will never be so wordy on a quilt again.

Our CSA has been offering loads of lovely flowers.

It is a nice thing to have fresh flowers, but not in place of food – they really need to step it up in the veg department.  And as vinyl village apartment dwellers, we can’t compost, so I don’t like to have too many fresh flowers.

Quilt-shirt fabric

The letters are ready to mingle with the as yet unmade quilt blocks.

In Review

I’m also getting wordy with a fair isle scarf.

I don’t love stranded knitting.

I don’t hate it though.

PRS-lettuce on machine

My Tour de Fleece spinning goals fell short.

PRS-lettuce skein

But I finished plying my Pigeonroof Studios “lettuce” and have one braid left to finish spinning for a particular project.

I spun this one a little too thin and it came out lighter and softer in color, so it might have to become a different project.

Or the original project will be scrapped altogether.

That will have to wait.

I also started a major embroidery piece.

It will take some time.

It is pink.

I don’t love pink.

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Back to the woods…

We were in the Adirondacks last weekend for a couple of days of soggy hiking and down time away from our frustrating and increasingly desperate home (and my job) search.

ADK-Phelps

I know that I said earlier that I needed another bout of cabin time to finish designing that shawl but I have to focus on other projects at the moment now.  I took all of the letters I need to cut out and baste for my newest quilt (I think there are 26 total) but I only managed to finish a whopping four.  Pretty lousy progress.  And I’m not entirely sure I’m doing them right or how to handle some of the narrow slices that I really can’t fold down.

ADK-letters

So I easily got distracted since basting is tiresome to me and doesn’t seem to amount to much since I still have to sew the damn things on.  In my current overwhelmed and distracted state I forgot to pack socks for the weekend. It was a good excuse to buy a new woolen pair, though I could only justify the one and had to wash them after every hike and hoped they’d dry enough for the next time.  Our cabin was infested with carpenter ants and chasing after one to photograph it was a perfect basting procrastination activity.  Do you realize how hard it is to get a clear shot of a very busy (and harassed) little ant?

ADK-ant

Bugs were definitely showing off their strengths over the weekend.   Inexplicably, black flies were suddenly crazy about my eyebrows  and one little f*cker bit me so successfully that blood was shed on my favorite wool t-shirt.

ADK-bite

But the weekend also held one of those magical and rare summer afternoons when all that mattered was swimming in a mountain pond and feeling the sun.

ADK-pond

(Thanks to N’s family for their hospitality and the afternoon at their awesome lakeside cottage on Sunday!)

And since we were away, I had a late start in the Tour de Fleece, and promptly suffered a wipe out when I sliced open my thumb on a yogurt container of all things.

TdF-Wipeout

I need my thumb to spin dammit!  I should probably lower my yardage expectations now but I’m willing myself to heal quickly.

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New England travels – much hiking, some fiber time…

We spent a much extended holiday weekend (turned week and a half) in the White Mountains last week.  N is hiking all of the “4,000 Footers” and I am choosing a few as well, but preferring to collect mountain ponds and the smaller lesser-trod peaks and loops.  On the few days when he’s up at an ungodly hour to hit the trail solo, I’m groggily but happily thinking about my chunk of knitting time free of any electronic, human, or stuff distractions.  We usually rent cabins when we go to the woods and hunker in among the trees, only going out to hike or get ice cream and this time was no different, though we encountered extreme plan-changing weather and were greatly distracted by plagues of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

The only times when I’m truly and massively productive is when I have the ability to only work on a handful of things and I’m in a quiet place, save for bird yells and other nature song.  So spinning wheels, sewing machines, computers, phones (I don’t even have a “smart” one to begin with) and boxes of neat sh*t stay at home and I just bring along some balls and needles.  Good times.  I’ve been sweating over a shawl that I’ve been trying to design (more in a future post) and have been trumped several times over by reversing the pattern and some simple math for increasing and decreasing.  I just can’t get my brain to have an ‘aha’ on this one, but I finally worked out the left and right main portions and just need to figure out the ends and center now, but I might need yet another week in a sylvan sequester to finally conquer it.

New England-new pattern shadow on wall

Here is a shadow tease of some sample bits in worsted.  It isn’t earth shatteringly different or unique, but I haven’t found anything quite like it yet out there, so I’d like to offer the pattern for sale at some point, or at least get the whole damn thing worked out so I can knit it in the special yarn for which I’m itching to work.

New England-new pattern shadow

Part of the time we were there was downright frigid so I took my favorite old cardigan.  I patched the elbow hole with a mini-skein of Pigeonroof Studios handspun.  I love the colorway but don’t know what it is.  The patch is a little heavy for the thin sweater and looks a little bit like an eyeball, but it is a comfy cup for my elbow.

New England-elbow

I also finished a test knit that I love from a designer who makes fabulously fun patterns but it will not be released until next year.  I used Quince & Co. yarn for the first time which I’ll go into further in next the post.  N and I had a fun photo shoot with it utilizing the river and the the cellar’s stone wall.  In addition, I brought part of the cotton blanket and my latest Lacy Baktus along, but didn’t work much on either one.  The power went out on our last night there, so I was able to do a couple of feet of a blanket strip in the dimness since it was white.  While making the test knit, I learned to do applied/attached icord, so now it is a consideration for trimming the blanket – it will depend if I end up wanting a couple more inches of border or not.

New England-Mt Hale

But most of the time was spent on the trail.  We had to cancel our hut reservations for the first two days due to total white-out of freezing fog and snow.  When we finally got out, it was a slippery sloshy wet cold mess and made for some hiking misery on my soggy-ass part since I lacked good/newer waterproof gear (N thankfully hooked me up with a new jacket later on).  The first hike was up Mt. Hale and luckily the sun had returned, but you don’t see the bitter winds (or my bad attitude from having clumps of wet snow eggs plomping down from the trees and onto my head, down my neck, and penetrating my duds – I was wearing wool of course, so hypothermia was kept at bay despite the soaking).

New England-Mt HedgehogBut in just a day or so the weather turned gorgeous and we had a lovely time on Hedgehog Mountain, but then the next day the weather became stranglingly humid and sweltering in the 90s, and hiking became soggy again – this time from the inside out.  After that, I preferred to put the needles down and just sit in the cold river right outside our door.

New England-river

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