Archive for the ‘spinning and fiber’ Category

knit happens

Monday, May 18th, 2015

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almost there with the big spring woolen wash—it got cold again for a few days, but thankfully i hadn’t washed all of my own sweaters yet (hehe, i know better; i often wear the lighter weight ones into the month of june).

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i’m not going to run on and on about this, but i am SO GLAD i finally made my own wool soap—it is blowing my mind how fresh it smells and how nice it leaves the fabric. i’m serious; i’ve had my favorites, but nothing has ever made my knits this soft and fluffy and glossy looking to boot.

This pea trellis shawl came out so heavenly soft that it feels like cloud matter. i’m not kidding.

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i want to make some for everybody i know—as soon as i find a nicer solvent, which, thanks to the comment from grey dove, i am on it.

(be assured, i will eventually calm down and find something else to be this excited about)

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just two more loads to go and all the samples will be clean. i didn’t count them, but i bet we have a couple hundred items . . .just in BNWs alone. tomorrow we will start retagging the ones that are done to get them ready for our show booth and a special in-store display.

in addition to our booth at the great lakes fiber show next weekend, we will be hosting classes in our shop for our wooster retreat. we still have room for you, should you decide to join us! just email laura (servicesATknitspotDOTcom) if you’d like to come.

so, last time i was here i ran off to meet barb for knit night at the shop and when i arrived, what did she pull out of her bag but another triticum project.

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she’s knitting this one in briar rose sea pearl, a great choice; it’s silky, yet has nice body and wonderful wearability. in fact i have a batch of this exact same colorway—we each bought one at rhineneck in october and i got one for kim3 as well.

barb was so cute with her second triticum project, but i had a surprise for her . . .

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i was starting another one too! i’m knitting one in our stone soup fingering yarn because we are entering a sample in the fashion show at TNNA and i want it to be in a yarn that shops can purchase wholesale from us.

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by the time we left that evening, hers was another half repeat along

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and i had finished the hem ribbing on my left front; i was now ready to work through the body shaping toward the armhole.

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by the time i went to bed, i had worked to the waist and completed all the body decreases. the next day i worked on it a little bit over morning coffee and started the increase pattern that leads to the armhole.

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that night i worked some more and got myself nearly to the armhole; this sweater really goes fast once you get past the hem ribbing (it’s totally worth doing that hem in one diligent sitting so you can get to the fun part).

you can read more about barb’s sweater shenanigans in our triticum knitalong over at ravelry. there are actually TWO triticum KALs—one for bare naked wools too, in case you are knitting with better breakfast fingering or stone soup fingering (or whatever your poison!).

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it’s been so cozy late at night to watch TV with david knitting feverishly next to me on his blanket statement blocks. he has been very dedicated to this project, now that the knitting goes smoothly. at this writing has completed almost half the blocks he needs.

with a special thread in our ravelry clubhouse dedicated to david’s knitting journey, he is taking his obligation to his fans seriously by posting progress, observations, and philosophical musings as frequently as he can manage.

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his yarn and needles are always out and ready to pick up—he never puts them away. david is knitting with all the brown shades of the old breakfast blend DK, a wonderfully round and soft yarn. i really get the feeling that he’s begun to enjoy knitting immensely and look forward to it as a nice ending to each day.

soon he’ll have to pick up a hook as well to do his crochet edges and then sew them up. i am confident he will be fine with the stitching up; david has been sewing since he was a boy.

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my reversible triangle shawl project is quickly moving toward completion; i have moved into the cable and lace hem section and though the rows are getting longer all the time, it feels like things are going much faster.

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i hope to have this project done by monday or sooner; i would like to offer this new pattern at the fiber show next weekend (and of course for everyone online too!).

and once i get this off the needles, i’ll get back to my textured vintage cardigan; i miss it. i also have a couple of secret projects that i’m anxious to start; haven’t had any of those in a while. but with the green club starting in two month’s time, i need to get my samples done.

i’m trying not to think about how i’m ever going to squeeze my gardening in, but somehow it happens every year so i guess i just have to have faith that all will be fine.

i hope you’re having a wonderful weekend; see you soon.

danger—spring cleaning site

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

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when i was growing up, the mention of spring and fall cleaning made me grain inwardly—it wasn’t so much the work (spring cleaning always coincided with easter break from school), but the complete upset to the house that got to me.

my mom left no stone unturned as she made her way through every room in the house, turning out drawers and closets, polishing glass and windows, scrubbing wood floors, doors, and furniture to prepare for rewaxing, washing walls and ceilings, stripping off seasonal bedding, drapery, and slipcovers to replace with its opposite, and finally, tossing out anything damaged, worn out, too small for anyone to wear, or otherwise unfit to keep (some day i’ll tell you about her weekly cleaning routine, haha).

i don’t remember why, but all that disturbance made me feel insecure and at odds with the world.

which is why i never EVER did any of that in an organized way. sure i did big cleanings every six months or so, especially when i moved house (which was frequently for many years). i just never called it spring cleaning and i never did it at the same time each year.

but now that we live in a house—and one that we’ve inhabited for almost thirteen years (gosh, where did that time go??)—i see the point and i wish we could work out some sort of time warp once a year that allowed us a two-week bubble to tackle this place with the fervor it—and we—deserve.

the best i can do is to make sure that certain things are attended to seasonally—the care of our precious woolens, sorting out closets and drawers, a whole-house changeover of textiles (which has the added bonus of providing a change of scenery), cleaning and storing away out-of-season items, and a little extra tidying up.

this week, since i was washing all of my personal wool sweaters to put away for summer,  i took on the added task of washing and refreshing every single one of our (numerous) shop samples. it hasn’t ever been done and they really needed it.

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(washing a ton of wool garments may seem daunting but the resulting fluffy freshness of the clean fabric is totally worth it) 

 

since i work at the house and not in the office, i figured i could put in loads to wash while i worked at my desk. i created three different staging areas (one on each floor of the house) for drying them.

what i hadn’t counted on was running low on wool soap—by yesterday i was dipping into the last bottle of my personal stash of meadows patchouli wool wash. hmmm . . . i though about ordering a large quantity of the unicorn soap we sell in the shop, but realized that i didn’t want to wait til it arrived (ok, i was afraid if the washing came to a halt, i might lose steam or get distracted and not finish it).

i had been exploring the idea of making some solid lotions recently and in the process was introduced to the soap making culture (pretty big). i wondered if i could find a family simple recipe for making wool soap and sure enough, there are several options. and we already had everything i needed in the house. so last night when david went out for a few hours, i decided to try my hand at it.

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these are the ingredients i used. the only one i wasn’t sure about was the denatured alcohol (harmful if swallowed). but almost every recipe i found listed it as an ingredient; from what i can tell, it keeps the soap and any essential oil solvent (in a liquid or semi-liquid state). so i figured that as long as no one drank my wool soap, it would be ok for one batch and that i can search for a better alternative if i plan to make more.

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making wool soap is incredibly easy. first, you grate some soap; i used an old bar of homemade olive oil soap that was gifted to me by a very old woman we met years ago in spain, who makes all her own soap from her family’s olives (i saved it too long and it got hard). this was plenty for my first batch, but in the future i will probably use a commercial olive oil (castile) soap. if you shave the soap very finely, it will dissolve instantly and completely. you can also used commercial soap flakes.

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put it in a bowl and add the same quantity of boiling water; i also added a dab (maybe a couple teaspoons?) of lanolin here, to help protect my woolens. whisk the soap and water together—it will get thick and stretchy, kind of like a caramel mixture. when all the soap is dissolved add the denatured alcohol (1/4 of the water quantity) and optional essential oil (.5  ounce).

i like scent in my wool soap, especially natural ones like cedar, patchouli, eucalyptus, or lavender—they also do double duty to add a layer of moth repellent (not enough to kill moths on its own, but every little bit helps).

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the alcohol thinned and cleared the mixture, making it pourable. the one i used did not have the nicest smell, but the odor dissipated as the mixture stood and cooled. by morning, the soap had a clean fresh scent plus the smell added by the essential oil.

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but i was anxious to test drive it immediately so i rinsed out the mixing bowl and utensils into a washtub and got my most-worn scarf out of the closet to clean. this soap made suds, though less than i am used to, which is fine; it dissolved well in cold water. i used about a teaspoon of soap for this three gallon tub.

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my scarf came out of the wash sparkling clean and fresh smelling—the recipe recommended a vinegar rinse afterward, which i would do in the washer, but did not do in this hand wash test. this soap can be left in without rinsing if desired, but i always rinse my washed fabrics to remove any residues (why not?).

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my gray garden shawlette was looking very pretty by morning, the wool was glossy and full of life. i really love the way the dry fabric feels. while i may make a few tweaks (i would love to find an alternative to the denatured alcohol), i think my soap is a keeper. yay.

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today i did two large loads of woolens with it and i’m even happier now that i tried this approach—when i see the fabrics glowing like this, with that soft halo of fluffy fiber reaching out to me, i’m hooked.

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oops, time for knit night to begin—i have to run. barb will be here in a few minutes!

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everything’s comin’ up veggies

Monday, June 16th, 2014

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well, maybe there’s room for a flower or two as well; why not?

what a week for gardening, eh? at the beginning of last week i was stressing just a little because i hadn’t gotten my seeds in over the weekend. so monday morning i got up bright and early, put on my garden clothes and headed outside to dig in the dirt instead of running.

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there was rain in the forecast for late in the day and i wanted to get some seeds in to take advantage of the free water. it actually ended up taking two separate mornings to get everything squared away, but i finally did it. the first day i got my greens planted in the small bed—five or six types of chard, pak choy, zen greens, and beets.

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and the second day i put on all the final touches—seeding in radishes everywhere to help with insect control and planting marigolds to help with the same. we also plan out the garden so that we can take advantage of good companion planting between the foods we harvest. this seems to work a treat where we live and our garden, which used to be a gravel parking lot, can use all the help we can give it.

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temperate, alternating days of brilliant sun and showers combined in a perfect recipe of success—within a couple of days everything ha sprouted and what was already in the ground was going gangbusters by this past weekend.

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i can’t get over how big everything gets in just a week at this time of year!

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the squash plants are already putting our tiny zucchini and yellow squash.

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and the tomatoes won’t be shown up so out came some tiny fruits on those

i had seen some tiny fruits not the pepper plants but was amazed at the size they’d achieved the next time i looked (about two days later)

these beans have been in the ground just seven days—funny thing though, the same type seeds are germinating at one end of the row but not the other, haha. my fingers are crossed that the back end beans will catch up.

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and then this beauty popped aug the other day—fiore di melanzana; how pretty is that.

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i did not get out there to prune the tomatoes over the weekend as i’d planned, darn it. i’ve got it on the calendar for tomorrow because i don’t want the vines to run away with themselves; it will be extremely difficult to prune them later.

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i’m so pleased that everything—even the parsnips and carrots—germinated on the first try. we’ve had issues in the past with certain things. i do think the consistently alternating rain/sun pattern of the last couple weeks has worked like magic; i don’t think we’d have been able to provide that same consistency with watering.

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the other day i was out there snapping some photos, when our bunny friend bounded straight toward me from the backyard and over the strawberry patch.

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he settled in the middle of the grassy area to eat clover and allowed me to come quite near, snapping photos.

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i think i was only about eight feet away when i got this one. i don’t think he minded at all; he seemed mostly uninterested in me. then someone slammed a car door on the street and he hopped away.

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speaking of the strawberry patch, we have had a bumper crop this year. our berry plants are finally producing well; i think i’ve picked three or four quarts in the last week.

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though very pretty, they are not so sweet and not really full-flavored, but the taste is delicate and interesting, with hint of lavender in it. i pick them every other day and wash them up for us to use however we please; david has been eating his with ice cream at night, i think.

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the very first batch i cut up and ate with yogurt (here, paired with key lime, mmm).

but by yesterday we really had quite a lot on hand and they don’t last but a day, so i decided we should have strawberry shortcake at least once. and since i did my long run yesterday morning, i felt i’d earned it, haha.

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david and i heard about this gluten free cookbook on NPR about a month ago and we ordered a copy. america’s test kitchen is one of our favorite shows; we love knowing the science behind the cookery. i figured if anyone had a chance of making a great gluten free cookbook, it would be them.

i’ve only had it a couple of weeks but i am really pleased with this book so far. while there are a few ingredients i needed to buy that i did not have in my pantry, once these were purchased i have been able to use the recipes without finding myself lacking of another exotic ingredient. the book offers a recipe for their flour blend which is recommended for each recipe (and requires a bunch of ingredients you might have to send away for), but they also make recommendations for purchasing gluten free flour, which is what i did. i may invest in making the flour blend at some point, but we don’t bake enough right now to warrant that.

the book focuses on recipes that would normally be made with wheat—lots of baked goods, both sweet and savory, but also any food that requires a starchy component. the main thing is the educational material that allows me to take the same concepts and apply them to familiar recipes that might not be in the book.

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anyway, for strawberry shortcake dessert, we usually like a sweet biscuit to soak up the strawberry juice. i have a couple of good recipes, but not gluten free. so i took a stab at their biscuit recipe.

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as with my regular recipe, it was very simple to make with a short list of ingredients. there were some clever hints included to contribute to the success of the outcome. now, i like to play with recipes, usually giving myself free rein to change things. but even i know that baking is a delicate balance of chemistry and gluten free baking even more so. that being the case, i stuck exactly to what the recipe said. i loved the way the finished dough felt, handled, and tasted; i had a good feeling about the final result.

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and i wasn’t wrong—these biscuits were absolutely scrumptious, maybe even as good as my regular recipe. they were soft and light with crispy outsides and a light, sweet flavor. david is pretty critical of our new baked goods and these passed his palate with flying colors. i am so trying more of these recipes . . .

ETA: ooops!! speaking of baking, i forgot to announce the winner of the pies and tarts book giveaway yesterday, darn it. the winner is . . . cherie w. congratulations cherie!

and thank you again to our friend nathalie for both the review copy and the giveaway copy; i love this book.

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in other news, our new shades of stone soup are beginning to arrive from the mill—we love the boxes that they arrived in; you couldn’t say it better, haha.

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our darkest shade, which we are naming river rock. and holy cow is this batch sooooffft! we’re also expecting a new brown, which hopefully will be the start of a second line of shades. as soon as david has these loaded in the shop, we’ll let you know.

i’ve mostly been knitting on a secret project i have going but guess what?

in my little bit of spare knitting time just before bed, i have apparently been getting lots done because suddenly, my comfy pedal pusher cardigan is almost done!

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i’m working on the collar and after that i have to add button bands and sew up the underarm seams. then i have to knit a couple of pockets. hopefully not more than a week of work left (i only work on this piece late at night while watching TV).

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this knit up in no time using our confection worsted in the dark chocolate shade (david picked it out for me). i knit the 40-ish inch chest and it will most likely be done with just under five skeins of yarn. of course it isn’t blocked yet or anything but i just love the way it’s turned out. it’s comfy, but not baggy; that’s really important to me. the fabric feels smooth and velvety; it’s going to be a winter favorite for me; i can tell. i’m going to knit it again in a dyed yarn, in fact.

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speaking of confection, look what anne C and sarah knit for a friend’s recent wedding—is that not gorgeous?? just two skeins of each shade for all that yumminess. wow.

this is a pattern we will publish near the end of the summer or early fall. we got some knockout photos of it the other day with our favorite kids modeling.

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yeah, kids and handknits just go together like strawberries and shortcake.

the new kid in town

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

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a brand new limited-edition yarn has landed in our online shop—the third installment in our mohair series. this is one spun with the kid fiber we purchased from john frett at pinxterbloom farm, along with the yearling for our chebris blends. cabécou means “little goat” and is the name of a tiny goat cheese from the midi-pyrénées region of southern France.

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we named our delicious version cabécou brilliant (or bright little goat) to celebrate its beautiful bounce and sheen, the result of blending three lustre fibers—romney, kid mohair, and silk.

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this yarn is a true silver gray and honestly, no photo can accurately record how shiny it is. not garishly at all, but instead a bright, burnished reflection of its own depths—which seem bottomless. sigh.

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cabécou brillant has a lot of the same character as our chèvre worsted which sold out so quickly last year, but this one is softer, brighter, lighter, and has more sheen.

it’s so new that we haven’t got any finished samples yet to show it off, but we will at our next popup shop—the michigan fiber festival (if it lasts that long). in the meantime, i’ve swatched up several types of stitch patterns to put it through its paces so i can give you a quick report.

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(wow, look at it glow—doesn’t that just beat the band?)

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the first thing i tried was a straight stockinette swatch on size 5US (3.75 mm) needles, just to get a beat on how big or small i’d need to go to achieve the optimum fabric. and i would say that for stockinette, it will perform well on a range of needles from 4US (3.5 mm) to 6US (4.0 mm).

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the fabric will be soft, airy, and relaxed with beautiful drape; a light allover haze will provide enough body and structure to support it so that it won’t stretch or sag from regular wear.

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nice as the stockinette fabric is, i really think this yarn comes into its own in a patterned fabric that has a mix of knits and purls. in the brocade swatch above, the foreground gleams in knit stitches while the background recedes in soft matte purl, giving the composition tons of depth and shadowing (swatch is worked in the motif from my crocus patch blanket, which will soon be available as a standalone pattern—in fact, we should do a kit!)

below i swatched the obstacles pattern, which has a more integrated mix of knits and purls, creating deeply textured hills and valleys that are well supported by the network of fuzzy fiber in the yarn as well as its natural springiness. the higher elevations in the fabric are further accented by a soft sheen that is almost shameless in the way it grabs one’s attention.

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david and i came up with a whole list of patterns we thought would suit this yarn well. most of our favorites fall into the categories of shawls, wraps, and blankets, but there’s no reason not to consider this yarn for a slouchy hat or lush cowl.

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with a generous 375 yards per four ounce skein, a couple of these will make a wonderfully sized wrap or small blanket; it would be a treasure as cradle me or hillflowers (and so easy, too). light as it is, it would be an absolute showstopper as a full-sized coverlet for the bed—maybe wheaten, hourglass throw, or sky ladder?

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(wow, look at those fibers catch the light; they are on fire)

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this batch is a limited edition produced from the small supply of kid mohair we were able to buy in late fall; while we are anxious to put it in our regular lineup, that will depend on if and when we can obtain the same quality fiber. we’ve been trying to catch up with john to talk about getting more but he’s a guy on the go.

in the meantime, everything we have is now listed in the shop—i hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do. now the question is, what will i be knitting with my cabécou??