went to a garden party . . .

anne wrote this mid-afternoon:

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i know, i know . . . i sound like a broken record—the garden this and the garden that. the truth is, i have been spending nearly half my day out there just keeping up with it, haha.

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saturday night—ok, to be fair these are not from our garden, but we were grocery shopping and saw a great deal on organic strawberries, of which i do not have enough to get through the winter. so we brought home six boxes which i put up in the freezer after dinner.

but the rest of the week has gone something like this

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sunday

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monday

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tuesday

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even the winter squash is already well on its way to greatness.

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yesterday i took an enforced break from picking to block an FO (more on that in a minute) and work on getting a blog up—and i did get all my photos done, but then i had an afternoon of meetings. after our bike ride last night and a late supper, i cooked some of what was piling up in the fridge. yes, it was very late, but omg, ratatouille made with everything from the garden??

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very worth it. by this morning it was cooled and awaiting its garnish of fresh basil before being tucked into the freezer.  we are so going to appreciate this on some future winter evening.

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thursday (today)

of course when i got out to the garden at 8 am to grab that basil, i saw with some trepidation that i would pay for yesterday’s laxity by having to pick double the amount of everything. sure enough, i didn’t finish up til almost 11. i spent over an hour picking from the back fence alone!

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the weekly total for green beans since sunday??  fifteen pounds. i’m not kidding. and as you can see, i am now picking our peas as well. we only planted enough for a very small harvest—maybe one meal—but they will be honored by being cooked into something special.

don’t get me wrong; we are just thrilled at finally growing such a successful garden. i chalk it up to finally understanding our soil and how to grow in it as well as more regular fertilizing (we got a recommended schedule when we had our soil tested and we’ve been following it with great results). it’s just a surprise after all these years—we planted according to our previous success rate (not great, no matter how much i loved it). maybe now we can plant less or with more variety.

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i’ve been cramming as much as i can into any spare time that remains between work, managing the garden harvest, and taking advantage of the glorious summer weather (i’ve been running most mornings and cycling with david three or four times a week—as much as i can).

on sunday night i went to a yoga party and brought homemade gluten free cherry crumble bars to share with friends. i had cherries in the freezer that barb gave me, which i had been looking for an excuse to use.

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scroll down the recipe to see the gluten free version; i did what it said (with one mod; i prebaked my crust for fifteen minutes) and they came out great; after doing 2.5 hours of yoga together, everyone was ready for snacks and these were gobbled up right away.

back to the knitting part of this post . . . i feel a little silly about this fartlek hat project taking so long.

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wanting to test drive our first sample skein of ginny cotton sport, i started it on my way to NYC in june, but soon fell down the rabbit hole of our current green club project—the poor hat has languished since. finally on monday i decided to get serious and finish it up. honestly it took no time to knit once i put my mind to it. and it’s so soft and cute; why dilly-dally?

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fortunately, i do not dawdle over blocking the way i sometimes do over knitting. once it’s done, i am always anxious and thrilled to block an item. first thing tuesday morning, into a hot sudsy bath it went.

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fresh from the bath, it was dripping wet even though i’d squeezed as much as i could out of it. if you lay it out this way to dry, it will take forever, but also the weight won’t allow the fiber and sts to bloom as nicely.

i roll it in a towel and squeeze with all my might to remove as much moisture as possible.

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this definitely makes it drier, but also more distorted. no worries tho—reshaping will fix that.

reshaping is a process that has several benefits for your just-washed hand knit fabric. first, it is a way to bring the piece back to the intended dimensions. second, the process jogs the yarn’s memory, helping it to regain its original spring, and third, reshaping encourages the fiber to bloom and contribute to a stable, cohesive fabric surface.

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to reshape, vigorously pull the fabric on one direction several times. do not allow the way it looks at this point to scare or intimidate you—we are working with knit fabric; it is engineered to be flexible. in fact, you built it to be stretchy, so stretch away.

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now pull in the other direction (i bet you guessed that was coming, didn’t you?). the pulling should be aggressive at first and less so with each repeat. after a few times, you should notice the fabric becoming lighter and airier.

next give it a good shaking; this will help the stitches fall back into place but keep their new lofty shape. for blooming fibers such as mohair, alpaca, mink, cashmere, yak, etc., you can even slap the piece against a hard surface a few times to dislodge the fiber ends from the yarn

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they will rise up to form that beautiful halo we love in a luxury fabric, both visually and structurally desirable. you can already see it starting here.

once the piece is back to looking more normal, lay it down and smooth lightly to straighten one last time and then allow it to dry.

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i usually revisit it every hour or so while it is very wet to repeat the reshaping steps (pulling and shaking) and turn the piece to a different position; this encourages speedier drying time and prevents creasing. the hat “grew” in the wash, but consistent reshaping during the drying phase bought it right back to its proper size.

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and the bloom just gets better—so pretty. after a bit of wearing and handling the halo will rise to its full potential.

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once dry, the fabric has regained its elasticity but is airier and oh-so-soft; i still can’t believe it has cotton in it. ginny dries to a light, stretchy, and extremely comfortable fabric. another summer winner! i will definitely be knitting a hat for david with this yarn, yum.

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in fact, we have a bunch of terrific samples being knit up in both ginny and hempshaugh—you will be seeing a parade of them in the coming days.

i hope you are having some wonderful weather wherever you are—get out there and take advantage of it!

who’s ready for refreshments?

anne wrote this in the early evening:

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the dog days of summer are officially upon us. linked to the rising of the dog star, sirius, ancient romans observed the dog days from july 24 through august 24. well, we are right on schedule with rising temperatures and humidity that threaten to to throw us into sultry, late summer torpor.

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dog days were popularly believed to be an evil time when, according to according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria 1813:
“the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

hmm, no wonder our knitting mojo can go astray in this weather—makes you wonder how the world might have turned out if A/C hadn’t been invented . . .

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oh wait—you can just stop by our place, haha.
like those old egyptians and romans—and most people on earth today, in fact—we live without mechanical cooling and find other means by which to keep comfortable during these hottest days of the year.

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naturally we seek yarn solutions—as we do with all of life’s challenges. believe it or not, there are fabrics that not only make this time of year tolerable, but actually enjoyable.

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so naturally we wanted to represent our love of these fabrics in our yarn lines. we started a couple of years ago, sampling hemp and cotton blends with one of our mills, but those plans kept getting sidelined because the mill was too busy to handle the experimentation process.

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i happened to mention the situation to our ohio mill in the spring, never dreaming that they’d be positioned to produce the kind of yarns we desired and SNAP! next thing i knew we were holding samples. and not just attempts, but seriously fine test skeins.

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well we got right on that, swatching and knitting and making and drooling the whole time—we looooved these yarns!

and now we can share them with you so you can experience them for yourselves. i’m telling you, these will cure any knitting malaise you’ve fallen into.

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first, we’ve got hempshaugh, a merino/hemp/silk blend that has a wonderful airy crunch while feeling like a soft old t-shirt next to the skin. this one is a super wicking fabric; it never feels soggy, whether you’re knitting with it or wearing it. hempshaugh is available as a fingering weight in millet (left) and buckwheat (right).

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i knit my swatch on size 7US (4.5 mm) needles for an airy fabric that has plenty of structure for garments. i’m planning to knit a skirt with it as soon as i finish my current project, which is knit in hempshaugh lace.

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this amazing yarn has such wonderful body that the laceweight version can be knit into featherweight tops, scarves, and shawls on needles we can all deal with—size 5US (3.75 mm) and even bigger for lace.

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it makes just the most beautiful fabric; you won’t want to miss knitting something with this yarn. like the fingering version, hempshaugh lace is available in both millet (above) and buckwheat (below).

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but you know we never stop at one.

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what fun would that be? and how would we layer things up to create wonderfully varied looks if we had just one cool yarn?

plus, we just couldn’t resist—when our mill showed us this luscious alpaca/cotton/merino/nylon blend, we were lost. we’re calling this blend ginny and it is also available in two weights—ginny sport and ginny DK. right now it is in stock in the first shade, texas, a creamy off-white, perfect for hot summer days.

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haha, yesterday erica picked up this swatch and smiled, then said, “it feels like a stuffed animal!” i knit this one in the round to see if the yarn would work for the gearhead pullover and it will, though it will be very light and airy (but comfy!).

ginny is cool and smooth and amazingly stretchy with great recovery.

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the sport weight is perfect for lightweight sweaters and socks and shawls and just about anything you’d use a heavier fingering yarn for. i can’t wait to try it in some socks.

next time i will be back with another post about these yarns, discussing more of the nitty gritty facts and figures, as well as lists of pattern ideas for knitting some up now.

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til then, why not browse our selections of ginny sport, ginny DK, hempshaugh lace, and hempshaugh fingering. tell us what you think; tell us what you’ll knit!

 

it’s here!

anne wrote this in the early evening:

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yesterday our mail carrier, rick, rolled up to the curb in the big mail truck to deliver five big boxes—our monthly batch from our ohio mill, ANF. and you know what that means . . . our first batch of hemp and cottons yarns have arrived!

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well, you can imagine how quickly i had the box cutter out, haha. the first thing my hands landed on was the hemp blend in fingering weight (above)—don’t you just want to reach out and skuh-weeze it? these skeins are spun to the same yardage per pound as our other fingering weights and are equally springy, able to be knit on needles up to size 4.5 mm or even 5.0 mm for openwork fabric. after knitting with this yarn in laceweight (which we also received in two shades), i want a whole wardrobe in it and maybe some throws and other home items too.

after a bit i composed myself and kept digging, because that was just the tip of the iceberg. are you ready? cuz here come the cottons!

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this is the re-do on the lighter weight version. when we attempted the same gauge yarn as our other fingerings, it wouldn’t hold together all that well unless it was overspun, which made it feel coarse—not what we wanted. so to keep the same soft hand, we went instead to a sport weight gauge and that worked beautifully—it’s soft and springy, perfect for light sweaters, shirts, clothes and blankets for kids and babies, and my personal favorite—great socks.

yes, i really do think this yarn would make excellent socks. it has all the right fiber types to make strong, soft, and durable legwear.

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there is a DK weight in this yarn too (above, left); we are knitting a leaving sweater with short sleeves in that. we should be listing these new yarns in the store by tomorrow—we chose names for everything the other day at our company meeting and  now we just need some photos from david for those store pages. once it’s up, we’ll be back with a blog full of wonderful yarn prøn, pattern ideas, and swatches—stay tuned.

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also in this delivery, a delicious batch of chebris sport and lace in the divine crème shade. this is the first time it’s been spun at the new mill and the note tucked in along with it made me smile . . . our miller, carrie, is as enthusiastic about our yarns as we are (especially these mohair blends); she always sends little notes and texts when she’s excited.

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but she’s never wrong—they really do make delicious yarn. batches and shades vary, of course from one to the other; fiber in lighter shades is generally finer than dark ones and this batch is particularly soft and delightful.

also in this shipment was more better breakfast DK and fingering in poppy, warm coals, and waffle. it’s like christmas every month when our boxes arrive, haha.

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it’s been a really full week around here, starting with the kickoff for our ENVY club last friday, when the first pattern rolled out. yarn had been landing left and right for several days beforehand to shouts of approval, so clubbies were ready and waiting with fingers poised to download as soon as the chapter went live. in fact, we sold out our remaining few spots that week—thank you everyone; we SO appreciate that! since then, the threads have been abuzz with activity as everyone casts on to knit green.

with that underway, i spent the weekend catching up on things around the house, as well as trying to reduce the pile of work on my desk (and yet, still looking at one despite my diligence, haha)

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on friday afternoon i allowed myself to put my feet up and knit on my hemp blend tunic top and got surprisingly far in just a few hours. even though i’ve already recorded how quickly pieces go in this yarn, it’s still amazes me when i do it, haha. we also went out for a nice long bike ride that evening—wonderful. the weather here has been stunningly beautiful; it’s silly not to be out enjoying it when the work days ends.

after an early run on saturday, i drove to our local blueberry farm and bought a ten-pound box each for barb and myself. i hurried home home to get mine into freezer bags before she came over to knit all afternoon (she’s been away and we both missed knitting together).

 

as she was leaving, we took a look into the garden where, lo and behold, we saw green beans by the dozen just a day or so away from picking. afterward it was out for more cycling with david and a late supper.

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we’ve been eating very well from the garden around here, with fresh picked greens and summer squash on the menu nearly every night.

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that evening we had the quickest of dinners with salmon, wilted red chard, and a quick stir fry of summer squash, mushrooms, chard stems, and scallions.

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the garden is loaded with more that is about to come—peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and loads of green beans.

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i picked the first ones last sunday morning; aren’t they lovely?

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that day i had just a small take, enough for a dinner and the next day the same. but by yesterday, i picked a full basket—3.5 pounds

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i will cook those up tonight after our ride and get some of them into the freezer. this year i am going to do most of them as finished dishes—such as stir fry or stewed lightly in tomatoes—i think they taste even better that way and it saves time on the eating end.

another thing barb and i discovered is that the peas i have been waiting for and watching are not what i thought they’d be

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they are even prettier! i was completely surprised to see these dark purple pods coming out of the flowers. i didn’t even know we had these seeds, but there you go. they are filling out now and should be ready to pick very soon.

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another crop that is more lush than usual are the herbs—especially the basil. i don’t EVER remember having such big plants with so much foliage. since i planned to get a lot of other picking and processing done on sunday, i went ahead and brought in a basket of basil too.

most of this i just took off the stems, put through the salad spinner, and stuffed into ziplock bags for freezing. but some i kept in a damp towel to make pesto later in the week, mmm—hadn’t had that in a year; it was time.

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the big item i really need to get on top of was the greens—i had let them go a few days too long and they were halfway to my waist, like tropical plants.

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did you think i was exaggerating? this is what my kitchen island looked like after i came in with my haul of swiss chard and collards (that island is something like eight or nine feet long).

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what i had thought would be a couple of hours work stretched all the way to evening as i extracted the tough stem and rib from each leaf. but so worth the work—this is my very favorite crop and i like to have plenty in the freezer to eat all winter long.

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i ended up with eleven bags of chard, five bags of collards, and three bags of chopped stems to use in soup, stews, stir fries, and curries.

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i also had a large colander of baby leaves that i put in the fridge to use as “power greens” in salad during the week (we pay a lot for that mix in the store when we don’t have our own!).

then it was time to tackle the pile of squash and eggplant i had from the previous week—i was anxious to turn this into a pot of ratatouille, our first this year.

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i added a few store-bought peppers, and onion, and some tomatoes left in the freezer from last year, along with some fresh basil and garlic. so yummy.

i left the kitchen very, very tired on sunday evening, but with a good start on filling the freezer and a week of meals all cooked.

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on tuesday i used that bundle of cleaned basil to make pesto with fresh green beans, our first tomatoes, wilted red chard and stems, and some frozen broccoli flowers. i even used garlic from the garden, as david had dug up a bulb to see if it was ready. it was, and omg is it good.

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by wednesday, all signs were go for our garlic harvest and what a beautiful take it was—forty three bulbs total, most between 2.5 and 3 inches in diameter.

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haha, yesterday morning when i threw open the doors to the sun porch for air, my nose was met with the delicious aroma of fresh garlic, which david has laid out to dry there.

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we didn’t have a good harvest the last time we grew it and we didn’t have a garlic patch last year at all, so at the end of last summer i made a special effort when visiting farmers markets to buy a variety of big bulbs for seed.

i know i bought different kinds, but they weren’t labeled in the garden. some is supposed to be hotter or spicier or more mellow than other, but i know not which. heh, i might be able to tell which heads go together, but i doubt it; i think we will just play luck of the draw and use it randomly.

 

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and while we did enjoy the fruits of my sunday labor all week long, during that time, more has been growing—in fact it seems to double itself each week.

i let the squash go an extra day and they got a little bigger than i like for the table so i will cut these up and bag them for the freezer; they are excellent additions to chile and bean dishes.

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since we have eggplant and squash aplenty, more ratatouille and ciambotta are in the cards as well; we adore those dishes. with peppers just about ready to pick, i will have all the right ingredients at my fingertips.

and when they are joined by tomatoes (hopefully soon), i can cook up some vegetable based pasta sauces as well. we’ve picked a few tomatoes, but the real red tide is at least a couple of weeks away, thank goodness; i am staying just ahead of being overwhelmed at this point.

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even the winter squashes are big already and i’m not sure i really know when to pick them (yes, the stems really are that color, too). we’ve never had acorn squash succeed to the picking stage, haha. the butternut squash vine is loaded too—if it survives the hot weather, there will be lots of them.

as you can imagine, it’s been a bit of a challenge to keep up my knitting and most of what i did last week was secret stuff as well. i saved the work on my hemp top for when i needed a soothing, easy to knit thing in my hands and a little at a time, i finished that front piece by yesterday.

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i love the shape of this one—a bit different from the first design; looser around the waist and hip, it fits most closely just under the bust. the scoop neck will be home to a nice cowl with subtle stripes that will be echoed around the armhole. while i don’t think a short sleeve will look well on this design, i do think it would be very pretty with a three-quarter sleeve (like those on triticum).

meanwhile, i’ve been working a bit at a time on the pattern for the top i showed you earlier in the week and soon it will be off to the tech editor (like hopefully later tonight!)

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hey, here’s another great way to take advantage of the stunningly sunny days we’ve been having . . . use those rays to admire a beautiful yarn, haha.

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take a gander at this spectacular use of our cabécou brillant sport yarn in color poivre  that cherie used to knit her loden shawl from the recent wool people 9 collection. she knit this baby in just a few days—it’s fun and goes quickly on larger needles in the sport weight yarn.

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so many of our yarns work really well in BT patterns, which are created for artisan yarns. the designs take great advantage of the qualities unique to these yarns, such as greater loft and buoyancy, greater character, and a sturdier hand.

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cherie used two skeins of cabécou brillant sport for her loden project; details on her yarn substitution are described on her project page. thank you cherie, for generously sending the finished piece to us right away for photography; david took some gorgeous photos the other day with our model, karen.

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i will try to be back in a day or two with more—i really miss writing and hearing from you all when i’m not able to get here. believe me, my intention is to blog every other day, but then i go out in that garden and my day—and sometimes my week—has been planned without me!

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haha, last sunday when i was knee-deep in picking, my mom texted me and i sent her this photo. back came her response—”omg, are those squash plants??”. this, from a woman who lived on a farm for her entire marriage (and believe me, we had squash).

yeah, they are big alright; sturdy, wonderfully healthy things—at last. and all to soon they will be  memory; the days are getting shorter and our bike rides have to be a little earlier—fall is really just around the corner.

a great reason to take full advantage of NOW. and there is david, gathering his bike clothes—i better get going.

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have a lovely weekend; play hard!

going natural

anne wrote this in the early afternoon:

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right after my last post about this top, i took off the armhole trim and set in the sleeves i’d knit as an alternate look.

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i don’t know about you, but i really love it both ways! so obviously, i’m going to need a second one . . . good thing we have another shade in this yarn.

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AND another weight, a fingering yarn that knits up to a nice density. i’ll be knitting a skirt with it soon . . . but i’m also looking forward to a making a couple of long-sleeved tops for fall with it. i can totally see it as a cuddly thermal henley, for one thing—can’t you? (note to self: make three of those)

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after prancing about the bathroom in it and snapping photos, i put in into a basin with very hot soapy water to soak. normally i’d put it in a mesh bag and wash it in the hand wash cycle of my machine, but i had just the one item and it’s so light, i didn’t mind doing it by hand.

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the fabric bloomed beautifully in the wash and as it dried, i “encouraged” it some more by reshaping frequently (see my blocking DVD for this and plenty more great techniques).

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as expected shaping the pleats was simply a matter of pinching the fabric a little to make pleasing folds; after drying in place, they stay put on their own quite nicely.

the whole garment dried in just a couple of hours; i was surprised how fast. but then, the fabric weight and fiber blend really encourage it along—which bodes well for summertime wearability; that’s why i love my linen clothing in humid weather.

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in fact i wore it all the next day when laura and i traveled to pittsburgh for a teaching engagement—it felt like a soft, old t-shirt next to my skin from beginning to end; i wouldn’t lie to you about that. i’m changing just two things in the pattern—the sleeves (and only the sleeves, for some reason) lengthened a bit in the wash so they need to start out shorter and i think the neck could be just  little lower, maybe one inch. pattern is on the drawing board.

and see that skirt? that’s what i’d like to knit with the heavier hemp blend, once we have more shades to work with. that would work with lots of tops to make a two-piece dress.

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so yeah, on wednesday we went on the road—to one of our favorite shops that we’d never visited—natural stitches in pittsburgh, PA. i don’t know why we’d never been—it’s not far and we love them. the fact is that i just don’t get out enough, period!

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first of all, it’s BIG and has lots of great yarn. and secondly, they have one of the smartest, most connected staff i’ve experienced (see above).

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best of all, the bathroom is not to be missed; do you think that belted version of the ombré sweater would look good on david?  (have i talked you into it yet?) and if all that isn’t enough

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they carry bare naked wools!
zelda knit this beautiful tree ornament using several shades of stone soup DK. i don’t know what pattern that is (probably zelda’s own design) but you can find plenty to choose from in this collection by arne and carlos.

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natural stitches has stone soup in every shade and they’ve even knit some mighty beautiful projects with it

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david knit a wheaten wrap that is exquisite and was displayed in a very prominent spot in the shop.

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and zelda hit it out of the park with her distant shores pullover, designed by the incredible Iaroslava Rud (i have a serious crush on her work; go look!) knit in nature spun sport with the yoke in all shades of stone soup fingering—WOW.

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is that not spectacular?

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so yeah, we love this shop and we love the people that work there (david tried on my pedal pusher cardigan and received much feedback on how hot he looks in it).

anyway, after several staff members traveled here for a sweater fitness class in february, yvonne decided that they should being me over to pittsburgh to teach yarn voyage for the staff—i loved that idea!

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yarn voyage is jam-packed with cool information that i think is essential for anyone that knits or spins, especially those who teach or work in a shop. but i don’t run the world, so i have to be patient and wait til it occurs to knitters and shop owners to take the class themselves.

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and ideally, this is the kind of shop that you want to go to—where the staff is connected to the global community, they choose products they care deeply about, and they are  continually learning and applying new skills in an effort to serve you better. so next time you are in pittsburgh (you might be dropping a child off at college soon!), remember to visit natural stitches

well we just had the best day—i’m so happy we went and i hope we can do it again. it felt good to get out of the office for a bit too—it’s summer after all.

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after class was done, a few of us went out for fortification before laura and i headed home. a refreshing cocktail tastes so much better at the end of a good day.

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nice food is always good as well and i think everyone around the table enjoyed their local selections

as we headed out of town we chatted enthusiastically about all the great ideas we’d tossed around with our friends; that’s another thing i love about getting out and about.

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i settled in to knit with the last few remaining minutes of daylight . . . i’ll be back soon to show you what i’m working on next.

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