Archive for the ‘book reviews/events’ Category

going natural

Monday, July 20th, 2015

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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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alternate plans

Monday, July 13th, 2015

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i know, it probably feels like i ditched you midstream last week—ack, sorry. we feel compelled this summer to take advantage of sunny days whenever we can get them and this weekend we had a wealth of fine, fine weather. while i still spent time on knitting each day, i ran out of time to write about it (as well as other happenings around me).

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which is not to say that i stopped taking photos—oh no. in fact, by last night when i sat down to make sense of all the blog material from the previous four days, i had over seventy photos to work with for this post.

hehe, no i won’t bore you with all of them at once; i think i’ll break them up over a few days so we can enjoy them.

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well, as you can see, progress on my summery hemp top has moved right along. on wednesday morning i completed the neck finish and added some trim to one armhole. having accomplished side seams as well, i could now try it on. which made me decide that the armhole trim should be a bit more substantial, though i had to put it aside until evening to complete.

with daylight on my side, i did take time to begin the process of choosing buttons. i discovered way too many options in my button boxes—everything from ceramic to shell to vintage plastic, even.

many of these looked great but were too large or too heavy for the fabric.

i found two options in glass that i loved above all others—one of course from moving mud

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these are left over from a set i used on my brown india print henley and they go perfectly with the hemp yarn too.

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i also unearthed a one-off set in vintage glass that i purchased at a verb for keeping warm, when i taught there a couple of years ago; these were even more promising, with their rounded shape that picks up and diffuses light so beautifully. there is a little world contained inside each one! the gray-green color is also the perfect tone against the fabric; one material feels like sea water and the other like sand.

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without a doubt, these were the two finalists. and for me—since i had a choice—one was just a little more right than the other.

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it’s funny how that little bit of roundness makes such a difference—they look like drops of foam plopped down by the surf.

ok, i’ll stop waxing poetic about buttons now . . .

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that night i fixed the armhole trim and the next morning i steamed the seams and added my buttons

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the knitter may pleat up the fabric to any desired effect, or eliminate the short rows in favor of a flat front. personally i like the added dimension that the pleats give to the otherwise very plain front.

after applying the buttons, i decided to give the pleats a little steaming to help them stay in place. it probably wasn’t necessary, but until the top is washed and the fabric allowed to relax, they want to be a little springy.

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i’m not pressing the iron onto the fabric at all here—just shooting steam over the pleats. i have to say that this worked well—the top went through the first photo shoot (on and off, on and off) without budging a bit. i know the fabric will soften and relax quite a bit when washed and the steaming probably won’t be necessary, but good to know that such a small investment of time worked so well.

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it feels absolutely delicious on! i love the curves hem, too—it adds just that little something to the shape to set it apart.

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i hope you can get an idea from the photo how soft and cool the fabric feels—it’s just lovely. i can wait to wear this garment more.

my next step will be to take off the armhole trim and add the sleeves that i have prepared, so we can see photograph looks.

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no need to convince me that it should be sleeveless; i plan to have this top both ways, haha. but i know that the season for sleeveless things is very short here so i definitely want one that i can wear in cooler temps. in fact, i’m already scheming on how i’d work out a long-sleeved version—something that will take me well into the fall and early winter. i think this yarn would actually make a wonderful button down shirt . . .

once i can evaluate both versions, i’ll make any necessary adjustments and write up the pattern—probably in the next few days. we want this pattern to be ready when the yarn arrives for the rollout next month.

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speaking of new yarn by the way, we’ve restocked our chebris merino/mohair yarns and now have some lace, sport, and worsted weight selections in dragee, charbon, truffecrème, and a new shade, frappé—shown above—which feels as yummy as it looks!

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once i had a chance to look up from my work on the hemp top, i realized that the rain we had all week did much to move things along out in the garden.

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along with the lilies, our hydrangeas are all in full flower, even the red one, which for the first time has multiple blooms.

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when bret saw me photographing flowers for the blog, he invited me to cross the street to take a look at HIS hydrangea.

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holy cow—no contest, his are bigger. we were laughing about this one, it is bigger than a large cantaloupe. and it’s not an anomaly—take a look at his other ones

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i am such an amateur.

i knew you would want to know what he’s been feeding them, so i asked; he gave them rhododendron food. i have a full garden report from our yard to share, but i’ll do that in my next post.

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on saturday i got up early to run, because helena invited me to go up to the cleveland flea with her and we wanted to leave by ten. neither of us had ever been, but the website intrigued us into an excursion. thankfully, the day was perfect—warm but not too hot and sunny—a welcome break from a week of rain.

the flea market is spread out over a vast parking lot that served several huge industrial buildings at some time. the buildings are now repurposed (go cleveland!) into loft spaces for a variety of small and medium sized businesses.

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the flea happens once each month and  involved hundreds of vendors and makers, including a wide range of worthy food offerings.

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we found plenty of good vintage clothing, household goods, memorabilia, and even taxidermy (well, it wouldn’t be a flea market with that). i like how it appears that this guy is talking to those bucks, haha.

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helena found a cute dress and bought a beautiful set of brand new, hand-embroidered italian table linens, still tagged; i thought they appeared to have been produced soon after WWII. the linen was soft, in a beautiful oyster shade and the embroidery was light taupe in an abstract design, kind of deco-ish.

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our favorite vendor was alec, of fourth coast design co., who makes gorgeous hand-hewn wood items for the home from reclaimed wood—mostly trees that are felled by storms or removed from cleveland streets by the city. SO cool! and he was so nice.

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after lunch we headed to the museum of contemporary art, which is right around the corner from little italy. we walked to and fro, browsed the museum exhibits in between. by then it was 5 pm, so we headed home, a little sun drunk. what a fun day! we will definitely plan some more outings together . . . we’re thinking pittsburgh next time.

back at home i had a quick nap and then headed out with david for our evening bike ride. we’ve been trying to go as often as possible, before the summer completely escapes up. it flies by so quickly; the days are already getting shorter (i know, curse me for saying it). it takes a couple of hours to fit it in, but a healthy life is worth it.

we were in for the evening and launched hungrily into a supper of tuna sandwiches and salad. everything tastes better after a long bike ride, mmm.

while david did the dishes, i cleaned up my flea market finds. one i am keeping secret because i might give it as a gift (yes barb, for kim). the other has me so charmed i don’t think i can give it up—kim would love this one too, but i’m keeping it. my four dollar present to me.

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it’s a beautiful little hand carved box shaped like a dutch shoe (or maybe flemish, anyone know?), with a sunflower embossed lid. the carving is so rich and has such depth. i gave the wood a gentle cleaning and then rubbed it all over with wood beams, which gave it a wonderful scent of lemon and lavender as well.

the inside shows the marks of the carver’s tools; unfortunately it is not signed.

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the inside hinge wasn’t level and was throwing the lid off kilter, so i made a tiny shim from a flat toothpick, which worked perfectly to balance it. now it goes up and down without hitting off-center.

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one of the reasons i’m keeping it is that it goes so well with the little hamsa hand box that kim acquired for me many years ago on one of her exotic trips. now they will sit together on the table next to my knitting chair.

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the hamsa box holds my stitch markers handy and the shoe box is the perfect size to hold my cable needles. love.

reel me in

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

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sorry to be gone an extra day or two—we’ve had SUN here throughout the holiday weekend and into this week and well . . . david and i really needed to spend some time outdoors enjoying it. we did some awesome longer bike rides over the weekend; cycling is one of our favorite things to do together. and the weather was perfect for some nice runs and for gardening too. which didn’t leave too much time for blogging and desk work, eek (but taking time off was so worth it).

thank you for your wonderfully enthusiastic response to my 4th of july post; i’m not much for flag waiving or talking about patriotism often because my hope is that living and working my beliefs will tell you everything you need to know. but once in a while, i like to celebrate the relationships that make our products a reality, so thanks for letting me know you enjoyed that!

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now that july is underway and the heat has established itself, erica is dusting off the cotton KAL thread in our ravelry mothership group—please come over and join us in summer knitting! we’re starting out by knitting with our favorite organic color grown cotton by ecobutterfly while we await the arrival of our own cotton and hemp blend summer yarns. we are well stocked with most shades for small accessories or larger sweater and blanket projects.

this is the place to be when we start rolling out our new summer yarns a little later this month. in fact, erica would love your input on creating some fun kits for summer cotton projects—won’t you visit and let her know your desires?

hey, did you see that my alhambra design got mentioned in the american designers list on the love knitting blog? this was one of the very first “little nothings” and remains our best selling pattern to this day (along with several other little nothings).

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the little nothings were conceived as a series of accent scarves that were almost like swatches—big enough to fill a neckline or toss around the shoulders, but small and light enough to tuck away easily into a pocket, purse, or glove box. for the knitter, they are a gateway into the lace world, a way of exploring a variety of stitch patterns and architectures in bite-sized helpings that truly become “potato chip” knitting. their timelessness and continued popularity are proof of the need for them to exist.

i still add to the little nothings collection from time to time; i feel this is one of the most fun categories of my design work as well as a way to try new motifs and yarns within the simplest construction—the rectangle. so i am especially cheered by seeing alhambra on that list!

totally by coincidence, we JUST had a new sample of this scarf knit up in our cabécou brillant lace (in champagne, ooh-la-la), thanks to our dear friend hattie. and it arrived here just the other day.

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it is SO, so gorgeous in this yarn—light and airy as tissue, but blocks out to crisp points and lines, with big holes winking through. this little neck scarf version took less than half a skein, but the design is easily altered to be a wide stole or a long, long scarf—knitter’s choice.

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so . . . speaking of summer yarns, i have finished all the pieces for my hemp top and yesterday i blocked them so i could start putting it together.

as with most fabrics, this one has a lovely fluid feeling after steaming—i can’t WAIT to see how it looks and feels once it soaks in a hot, soapy bath and the fiber really blooms, mmm.

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it is much easier to handle the edges now that it’s steamed—i can never get over the difference that makes.

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it fits the form just perfectly with the side seams pinned together for now. this size has a 36-inch circumference and is intended for a smaller figure (mine). my form measures 36 at the bust and hips and has larger shoulders than would fit me properly—so the top has no ease on the form except that the fabric is inherently easy and relaxed.

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on me it will be looser—i’m not quite as well endowed as my dress form, haha. as you can see, i have picked up sts for the neck but have not completed it. i started working on it last night, but ripped back what i accomplished because i changed my mind about the way it should be constructed.

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i feel cool and comfortable just looking at the fabric; i just love the natural color of this yarn. the back has a slight downward curve at the bottom—just a nice detail, you wouldn’t HAVE to knit that in if you didn’t want to (and it is easily altered to be straight).

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i only had one and a half skeins of the yarn in this shade and we won’t be getting more til later this month. so my plan for this top is to finish the neck trim and add a narrow garter finish to the armholes, photograph that version, then rip the armhole edging out and add the sleeve i created for it. then we’ll rephotograph it as a second look. we will also do a full sleeveless version in another shade, now that our sample skeins have arrived.

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our garden is absolutely exploding with growth and life, now that we have some sun to go with all the nourishing rain. i don’t want to jinx anything but we haven’t had such big, strong squash plants in a number of years—they make me so happy i could cry.

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i’ve been picking baby squashes for a week now and it’s starting to look like we’ll have a bumper crop.

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look at all those tiny zephyr squashes! actually, several of those have grown big enough to pick since this picture was taken on saturday.

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for immediate use at the table, i like them tiny, when they are almost seedless and so tender. a quick sauté with mushrooms and they are ready to toss with buttered pasta or roll into eggs for an omelet.

i let them grow just a little larger to cook with eggplant, peppers, and onions for ratatouille or ciambotta (coming soon, i hope).

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acorn and butternut squashes are also coming along nicely, though it will be much longer before we’ll taste those. fingers crossed that these plants stay healthy and bring all their fruit to maturity.

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green beans are really climbing vigorously now—the fence is filling up with foliage and it won’t be long til it’s completely covered.

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the eggplants are getting big too, which makes me thing they have plans to be putting out some large and plentiful fruits—bring it on. we didn’t get very many the last couple of years and i’m really looking forward to having enough for freezing ratatouille and ciambotta in quantity.

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as if to encourage my faith, this plant has begun to fulfill its promise. let’s just hope the rest follow . . .

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and then there are the tomatoes and basil—whoa. our plants are really beautiful, with huge, thick stems and luxuriant foliage (which i’ve had to prune twice). but i’m always wary because that’s not at all unusual during june. it’s what happens in july that plunges me into despair almost every year. the sudden onset of high temperatures and low rainfall often does my tomato patch in. this year we have taken a LOT of extra care to get the soil and nutrient balance right so they have the best chance of surviving. again, fingers crossed that they make it.

the basil is really plentiful for a change; i’m hoping that is a harbinger of what is to come for the rest of the garden produce.

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if the success of the greens is any indication, we are in for a nice year of harvesting. i can’t get over how vigorous  and healthy the swiss chard is after several years of lackluster growth. this photo of one of the larger plants was taken on friday or saturday and by monday i came back in the house with this

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a full basket of big erbette leaves—aren’t they gorgeous?

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i got them right into a sink of cold water to remove the dirt, then rolled them into a towel and put them in the fridge to chill. we are eating these tomorrow, maybe in pasta or a curry, not sure; i just know they’ll be delicious.

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and the red chard is not far behind; almost every one of the transplants i did has taken and grown—by the weekend i should be picking again, this time for the freezer (we can only eat so much of it at once, haha). i love having greens in the freezer to eat during the winter, either by themselves or in dishes like pasta, chile, curries, and soups.

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so far the peppers are a little slow compared to everything else—just this one lone purple one on the vine. but they are coming; i saw some little marconi’s forming on another plant; i must have missed the flowers.

it was getting kind of dry out in the garden and while we were promised rain all day today, it never materialized. but then the skies opened up this evening and dumped buckets of rain, for which we are very thankful—any day we don’t have to water is a good one (i’m a freak about wasting water; i hear my dad’s chiding voice every time i hear a faucet run for more than a few seconds).

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that’s what’s so brilliant about bret’s pleasantry garden—it requires not a drop! isn’t it pretty now that it’s filling up with flowers of nice notes? next time, i’ll take some photos of the back sides . . .

well, speaking of finishing that hemp top, i better close my thoughts and get back to that if i’m going to show off a completed piece in my next post. in fact, i have lots to do; i got a little behind this weekend, having too much fun away from my desk.

hope you are enjoying summer as much as we are! and the best isn’t even here yet—ENVY club starts in just ten days and i’ve got a super special yarn and design that i can barely keep to myself (but i’m determined)—are you ready?

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eat your greens; you’re going to need them.

pride

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

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so happy to wake up this morning in a nation that now ensures marriage equality for all.

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so when erica got to the office this morning and opened the shop, we had some fun creating rainbows to participate in a yarn world day of celebration.

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we found rainbows in all shades, just like the people we rub shoulders with daily.

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some are cool and sophisticated, others are warm and inviting.

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i happen to own a hand knit sweater in every color we needed, yay.

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have a wonderful weekend; i’m elbow-deep in writing a pattern while the place is quiet—i’ll be back with knitting next time!