Archive for the ‘book reviews/events’ Category

new green

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

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ahhh, warm weather at last—we have finally shifted into those lovely sunny days of early summer when the air is still cool in the morning and humidity is low. things seem particularly lush this year, despite the lack of winter snow; i guess we’ve had plenty of rain during the spring to make up for that. our surroundings are extravagantly green—except for the sky which is brilliant blue most of the day.

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i think it’s going to be a perfect weekend for the great lakes fiber show (AKA “wooster”) where we will have a booth on saturday and sunday, may 28 and 29. but hey—it looks like we will not be in our usual spot, so please look for us if you visit the show!! we’re not exactly sure yet where we will be placed, but we may end up in the area under the grandstands.

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this is usually a really fun show for us, when we get to see lots of local friends and visit with customers. we will have all of our yarns on show and boxes of patterns, including all of the spring and winter ensemble designs.

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we’ll also be featuring those samples in our displays—if you enjoyed the photos in our spring ensemble look book, come feel the fabrics and see them in person. and of course there will be all manner of other samples available to see up close.

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saw this patch of iris on my run today—BIG bold blooms of bright purple, almost the exact color of my new running shoes (i wasn’t seeking out purple shoes, but when i saw my favorite ones on sale i grabbed them in my size).

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though it rained all day on saturday, we did manage to get ninety percent of the garden in the ground on sunday afternoon when it was cool and perfect. david made the planting mounds again this year, which worked out so well last year. he also opted to lay down this gardening fabric to cut back on weeding, the bane of his summer free time. we need all the help we can get.

we expanded our planting space a bit this year by creating a new tomato bed over by the garage, where our warmest, sunniest spot was pretty much going to waste. this gave us more space inside the garden fence near the house where we managed to get in quite a list of plants—everything from okra to cauliflower to lacinto kale. and there will be green beans—the seeds are soaking on the countertop now; i will likely plant them tomorrow.

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we have already been eating from the garden regularly—remember that random sowing of spinach and chard seeds i threw in at the end of march? those greens are already maturing and the clump of spinach that lived through the winter has offered up several meals so far. it’s beginning to bolt now, but i will keep trimming it until it’s exhausted.

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with a little R&R under my belt and some breathing room (and regular running/thinking time again), my thoughts are turning to what’s next for my needles. aside from secret projects (there is always something afoot in that department) i am, believe it or not, already putting together my contributions to our fall/winter 2017 ensemble. now that the second one is complete, i want to get ahead on the next one, in the hope that we might bring it out a little earlier this time.

and we are terribly excited about the response by fellow designers to our call for submissions this time—we chose a wide array of contributions and i’m super pumped about the variety of fall/winter projects that will be included.

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oh, these swatches are not for that project however, haha. i’m also working on a new group of little nothings scarves—you remember those fun, simple, “potato chip” projects? everyone enjoys them so much (they are still some of our best selling designs); i feel it’s time to freshen up that collection with some new choices. more on that project in the weeks ahead.

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while i have to work on mostly wooly projects over the summer, i will have some time to indulge myself in experimenting. you know by now how very much i love our hempshaugh yarn—the blend of hemp, silk, and a bit of merino is SO comfortable, cool, and dry to wear on the hottest days; i’m completely smitten with it, both in the knitting and especially the wearing.

well—and don’t laugh—i’ve had a bee in my bonnet to make myself a new pair of long shorts with it. i have a couple pair made from linen that i wear almost exclusively once it gets hot, but i could use another couple. and i’d like ones that are a little more dressy—as much as shorts can be. i am a pants person at heart, after all. so i’m going to go for it with our hemshaugh fingering in the kasha color. hopefully i’ll have them finished when the real heats descends on us.

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meanwhile i am rolling along on my illas cíes pullover in that same yarn, this time in the buckwheat shade. i’ve got the back and one sleeve complete.

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and the second sleeve is on the needles. this is a great project for me to knit on the go or when i want to veg out a bit—by now i have it so memorized that it really flies along (and you will too; you’ll see!). i can’t wait to have it finished—i keep dreaming that it might be in time for wooster, but i don’t know if i can pull that off, haha.

right now is the perfect time to have a sweater like this—while the days are warm and sunny enough for t-shirts, i’ve been wanting to pull on a light sweater after dark and this one, with its built in ventilation is just right.

ok, that’s all i have for now—oh wait, one more thing: eric lutz of the sticks + twine podcast is running a fun KAL featuring my the movie night sock design; you might enjoy the fun. it’s a quick knit and there are prizes. click to review the details in episode 18 of sticks + twine.

southern sun

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

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once we had a few days to settle in after being away at the sheep and wool show, we got down to the intense work of discussing recipes and cooking up dishes for our pairings club menu. there was a lot to cover over the week i’d be there and we wanted to make sure we included a variety of interesting, seasonal ingredients as well as unusual picks from more far flung places. get any two cooks into a kitchen together and food ideas will soon start flying, books will be pulled form the shelves, and favorite chefs will be mentioned. there was so much to squeeze into four courses!

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and so many dogs to help with that.

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because i got to bed earlier there than i normally do at home, i was awake at dawn and spent several quiet hours knitting to start each day—it was heavenly.

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katharine’s yard was busting out new and more beautiful blooms each day

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and all manner of birds visited her feeders as well.

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the hydrangeas were absolutely stunning—in the most perfect of stages, some still had that fresh, new green color i love. the tornado just missed getting them, all escaped unharmed by staying in their buds throughout.

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at home we are at least a month out from hydrangea blooms—which i adore—so this was a real treat for me.

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day by day my sweater back grew while i enjoyed these peaceful hours. it was just what the doctor ordered after two solid months of nonstop activity here at knitspot central.

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on saturday we took a ride downtown to walk around old wilmington and see the beautiful homes, churches, and waterfront attractions.

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this church is a marvel of roofing finesse—i can’t even fathom how those slates are installed (the angle is almost vertical), but they were recently replaced after a bad storm tore most of them down, so it can’t be impossible. i SO want to climb up to look out those windows, don’t you?

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i loved seeing the temple of israel synagogue with its moorish design and patterned windows.

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we hit the small farmer’s market at midmorning to search for a few ingredients we were missing for our last menu recipe.

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it was filled with flower stalls, plant stalls, and those filled with early vegetables and fruits.

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katharine made a beeline for the peonies (her favorite) and snagged a beautiful bunch of nearly unopened blooms. i scored a small container of the most awesome freshly ground roasted peanut butter i think i’ve ever tasted—just miraculous (yes, peanut butter can be!). we ate that with apples later on that day.

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i also spotted a dog collar that just had to be peppa’s. she may not be a knitspot fan yet, but she will be. as soon as she learns to knit.

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next we made our way to the cotton exchange, a pre-civil war complex of brick buildings that now houses shops along its cool interior passages, while maintaining some of the historical elements from its earlier days.

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the rabbit warren effect of the conjoined buildings work in its favor—one can duck in and out of the heat to visit retail establishments or linger in the less populated stairwells to admire the architecture.

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i really enjoyed this painting which is a study by ronald williams of the 1873 painting by edgar degas named the cotton office in new orleans. i didn’t really realize degas had been to the american south and painted there, but now i know he was; while the original was composed in degas’ studio, he combined elements he picked up from his travels in new orleans with models from his own family.

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nearby, an old cotton bale sits on a wagon that was rolled to a spot just under the scale attached to a ceiling beam.

on the way back to the car we took the “walk of fame” over tiles memorializing well-known performers, athletes, and other distinguished natives of wilmington.

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we had plans to go to another local attraction later in the afternoon, but stopped home to grab some lunch and get the flowers into a vase of water—it was a hot, muggy day. peppa seemed quite proud of her new collar; maybe it will inspire her to knit or at least to join ravelry?

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once refreshed, we headed to the airlie gardens to enjoy some of the seasonal blooming plants and a 467-year-old oak tree.

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the oaks were indeed magnificently bearded with moss that waved in a brisk breeze and made light shows with the sun pouring through.

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all over wilmington the magnolias were opening that day; most were just barely popping out of their husks but a few were fully opened to plate-sized flowers.

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several weddings were taking place at once in various garden areas from a spot under the old oak to one at the gazebo end of this path to the old church housed on its grounds.

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the jasmine arches were breathtaking and we felt lucky to have seen them at their peak moment.

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our main mission was to visit the bottle chapel, designed by Virginia Wright-Frierson and completed by a group of wilmington artists in 2004 as a memorial to minnie evans, a self-taught folk artist who was the gatekeeper at the gardens in her later years, from 1948 to 1974.

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minnie sold her artwork at airlie through exhibitions she held on the grounds, sometimes with her paintings spread out right across the lawn.

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the bottle chapel design, built from over 4000 bottles, metalwork armature, and concrete, incorporates figures and fauna of the type that appeared in many of minnie’s paintings, which were inspired by life in the gardens.

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up close the surfaces created by every type of bottle imaginable ripple and unfold in waves of abstraction

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stepping back you can see the larger compositions pull together from those elements.

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the chapel has a definite relationship to a southwest or mexican style of architecture, though i’m not sure yet why. it was a real treat to be able to take it in on a sunny day when the bottles sparkled with light.

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the lively kaleidoscope of color was repeated all around as we walked the paths to the exit; even in the tiniest of hidden places.

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one last treat was the cemetery behind the old church housed on the grounds, with graves from the last century—so poignant.

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there is even a mystery grave for an unknown person. it was interesting to see that each grave had both a headstone and smaller foot stone; i can’t remember seeing that before.

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one small headstone caught my attention and i pointed it out to katharine—martha b, are you reading the blog today? i’m not trying to creep you out, but we thought this was kind of cool.

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on the way home we ran an errand at the asian grocery where we got sucked in to walking the aisles to poke around in row upon row of unusual packages and ingredients. i desperately wanted to buy this breakfast cereal for the promises made on the package alone—who wouldn’t want to?—but i saw that the third ingredient is wheat so i left in on the shelf.

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at home, the dogs had the right idea—time to lounge around and rest; we were tired! we didn’t cook that day so we ate an early dinner of yummy leftovers from our week’s work and planned our last recipe test for sunday. and evening of knitting and watching TV followed.

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katharine swatched for her own illas cíes pullover project while i continued work on my sweater back until my head began to droop.

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sunday was a work day—in fact dessert day! and if you think this is a dish of blueberries well, i’m just going to let you think that, because what we made is a secret. the day flew by in a flash and our evening was sort of the same.

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pretty soon it was monday morning and the end of my visit—boohoo! over coffee we evaluated katharine’s sweater swatches (she’s knitting her illas cíes in ginny sport, color georgia—she was smart and bought some before our spring ensemble went live).

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i put the finishing touches on my back piece and then cast on for a sleeve to knit during the plane trip home.

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the dogs were alert that something was about to go down so they hung close all morning. they’re so sensitive, it’s really cute. we had a few things to do before heading to the airport, but eventually it was time to say goodbye and get on the plane.

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well, thought i’d get more knitting done but i started dozing during my second flight and that was that.

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back home i hit the ground running the very next day—there is always much to do after i’ve been away for a while and this time i was gone over a week. david has made good progress on preparing the garden and now we had everything in place for planting, yay. that was our weekend goal.

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next to the garage, the poppies are popping—i saw the first one on wednesday when i got back from getting my hair cut (much needed, haha). now this lone pink one has been joined by a red one.

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that afternoon i took out the finished pieces for the salt & pepper top i’d completed in NC and prepared them for seaming by pinning and steam blocking.

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i wove in all my ends and started seaming at knit night that evening and finished before going to bed.

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on thursday i woke up with a raging sore throat and a small fever, probably contracted during my flight—too much burning the candle at both ends lately as well. so i made an executive decision to stay off the computer and away from the office. instead i doctored myself and listened to a book while working on my neck and armhole finishes.

except for a short bit of harvesting in the garden . . .

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the spinach and asian greens i planted in march really took off during the week i was away and now there are plenty of stir-fry greens to be had. not to mention a carpet of volunteer cilantro from seeds that blew across the path from where it lived last summer.

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the small clump of hardy spinach that lived through the winter and began filling out again in april had quadrupled in size and was even beginning to bolt a bit, so they needed attention before we lost them. i cut off all the large leaves, which filled a good sized basket, yay. david is downstairs cooking them now into a pasta dish that he makes very well. and still i left behind plenty of small leaves to grow in; we’ll probably get another picking out of that clump. meanwhile, the new spinach plants are growing rapidly, though they didn’t germinate as plentifully as i’d hoped.

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by late afternoon my sweater finishes were all done and i put it into a hot soapy bath to soak while i took a nap. of course, i didn’t wake up in an hour or so as planned, but slept til the middle of the night! no matter, it was fine to rinse and wet block at that hour.

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the neck of the salt & pepper top is devised to be loose enough to slump a little at the front, forming a very short cowl (or you could go crazy and make it long! in the last sample i knit,i didn’t support it as it dried and i think that allowed it to shrink back a bit. so this time i supported the neckband with a rolled up washcloth to prevent it shrinking back.

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much better. don’t be afraid to change or tweak these details to your liking—your finished sweater should be just what you want it to be. if you prefer the neckband sucked in and flattened all the way around, then pick up fewer sts around that lower curve and/or use a needle one size smaller.

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sometimes i knit a neckband or sew in a sleeve two or three times until i’m satisfied; it’s not that the pattern isn’t “right” but that for my personal knitting style and/or fit preferences i may need to tweak it. better to spend a few extra hours getting it right than to have invested lots of hours in something i won’t wear because a small detail is off.

it’s true that sometimes i just want to finish and not fiddle, but if it turns out to need changes, a day’s rest from the project will usually reignite my interest in making it perfect, especially if i really like it overall. i’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, but that’s a whole other blog post.

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and right now i kind of feel like this dead monkey toy (peppa’s, i believe)—still not 100 percent. so i’m going to stop now and take up my knitting for some quiet time. see you in a few days!

NC is berry nice

Friday, May 20th, 2016

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i was lucky enough to spend the week following the maryland sheep and wool in coastal north carolina, on a sort of working vacation.

i’d been to myrtle beach many years ago, before it was filled completely with high rise hotels and enjoyed the ocean there very much, so i had been looking forward to this week for some time, using it as a carrot to incentivize me through the nonstop weeks of april and may.

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it was as beautiful as i remembered; the weather was sunny most days and warm, with a few cooler, rainy days mixed in.

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it is late spring/early summer there and gardens everywhere are simply exPLODing with life—during just that week, the jasmine, dogwoods, sunflowers, hydrangeas, magnolias, and many other plants were blooming. katharine’s almost grass-free yard and garden was a woodsy wonderland of discovery, with new flowers blooming every day.

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there was also the fallout of some freak tornado activity that ran through town just before we got home from the sheep and wool event—which thankfully left her property untouched, though some near neighbors were not so lucky.

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i finally got back to some regular running as well, which i had to put aside for a couple of the previous weeks, despite the fact that i really depend on it for keeping balance in my life. i even got a little sun color to show for myself.

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before we left home for the maryland show i had cast on for a salt & pepper top to take along in my travels—this project is an easy-peasy knit that can go anywhere, so i made great progress on it during the truck ride over and in the evenings over that weekend, knitting along with barb and erica. i’m knitting it up in the millet shade of hemshaugh lace with plans to stripe the neck and armhole finishes in the buckwheat shade (just as shown on the pattern cover).

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by the time i got to katharine’s i had just a little more to go on the main pieces. it looks funny here on the needles where i was working up one side of the scoop neck while leaving the other side to wait, but that all evened out in the end. once i had the last bit knit i put it away to finish up at home (see below) and moved on to a pullover project.

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katharine and i were spending the week together to devise and test all the recipes and menu items for our pairings club, which will start shipping in july. so it was a week of cooking and tasting things that are in season!

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first stop was the fish market, to get ourselves some dinner on that first evening.

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what a spread—everything was super fresh and yummy looking. we took home a nice piece of grouper, but perused all of the other temptations with an eye on which we could include in dishes on our menu.

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back home, i got acquainted with the “family”, three very large labradors, two boys and one girl—rex (alpha, oldest), jackson, and peppa (yes, named after the pig; need i say more?).

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katharine cooked up a lovely dinner to start off our visit (none of this is on our pairings menu—that’s a secret!). the grouper was amazing—as was all the fresh fish i ate last week.

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in fact, fresh was the name of the game that whole week, as north carolina is in the midst of their summer heydays—the time before the real heat sets in and kills off a lot of the vegetable producing plants. on another day, we took a trip to lewis farm to get some plants for her yard and to pick ourselves some berries.

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there was a gorgeous greenhouse display of annuals and perennials at the peak of their beauty.

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katharine picked out some basil and other herbs for her yard.

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what gorgeous berry fields they have there and all of it looked so perfect. and everything tastes as good as it looks—you can try the berries from a basket at the counter when you first come in.

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the strawberries were still very plentiful and the blueberries were just beginning to be ready for picking, with probably a few weeks of harvest ahead.

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my favorite thing there was this pair of signs, posted one after the other just like this:

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we didn’t get a lot of berries or stay for very long, but i did want to go back inside for one last treat that they are known for

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katharine agreed to pose with my cone of homemade ice cream—made right at the farm with fresh strawberries (top scoop only asi am a vanilla freak at heart; i try it out at every new opportunity).

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you can also buy pre-picked berries, preserves, and hand packed ice cream in containers to go. unfortunately the weather did not conspire to allow us a longer stay—in fact it began to rain just as we were pulling out of the parking lot. but we had work to do at home anyway.

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katharine was expecting delivery of a new sofa that day so while we waited for it, she set to work cleaning berries for a dessert treat (also not on our pairings menu, but we promise there will be another yummy and unusual dessert!)

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believe me, it was hard to pass on these berries as an option. instead we taste tested them for you in a gluten free berry crisp

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with a super simple buttery sweet cornmeal topping.

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a delightful scent was soon filling the kitchen as it baked. we worked on another dish while that was in the oven.

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mostly katharine cooked while i did the photography, though i helped out with prep and recipes. and the kids helped out with vegetable waste disposal.

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when the sofa arrived, i took some photos of katharine taking her first leap onto its pristine cushions.

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which the dogs found endlessly confusing and amusing.

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since she tried to keep them off of it for at least one day, haha.

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they weren’t quite down with that, but they obeyed . . . for a day. we found black hair on it by the next day, haha.

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katharine pulled out the wheaten blanket she is knitting in our chebris worsted, an ongoing project that she hopes to finish by fall so she can use it on the new bed in her guest room; it will coordinate well with the beautiful charcoal tweed fabric headboard.

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my knitting project for the rest of the week was my illas cíes pullover in hempshaugh fingering yarn—i have been wanting one ever since i finished up the one i knit in ginny sport. i love this fabric SO much; it’s incredibly soft and dry for wearing in summer; i can’t wait to finish it.

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i worked soon it a lot during the week in the mornings, fortified by the breakfast of champions. we did lots more cool stuff through the week which i will catch you up on in the next post. and i’ll show you the results of my north carline knitting, too. see you sunday!

here, there, and everywhere

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

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what a month! i have literally been all over the the map and filling every moment with some important task or other—and i have so much to tell you as a result, haha!

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well, you all know by now that we recently exhibited at the maryland sheep and wool show and then followed up immediately with the release of our spring ensemble collection.

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but i would like to back up and show you some of the gorgeous knitted samples that have been the real show in my eyes. we couldn’t put our beautiful booth displays and collections together without a considerable contribution of fine knitting to show off our designs and yarns.

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i don’t think one person came to our booth at maryland that didn’t notice whatever barb was wearing that day—in the two weeks before the show she knit this cute striped amalfi coast skirt AND a janet guthrie top in our hempshaugh fingering yarn. she also packed along the costa figueira jumper that she knit just before that.

SO many visitors to our booth made a beeline for “barb’s outfit” each day. believe me, we won’t leave home without her now!

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another eye-catching sample on display was this stunning ponte di rialto square, knit by vanessa with two skeins of our cabécou brillant lace, the champagne shade. this beautiful design by romi hill was part of our january ensemble and can be knit in fine lace yarn  or a slightly heavier weight, such as better breakfast fingering yarn.

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many people wonder how to wear a square shawl—the answer is that there are a variety of ways. with a super lightweight fabric like this lace sample, the piece can be draped in layers for outerwear or used as a light blanket or umbrella in a shower.

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lightweight lace is surprisingly (and efficiently) warm when layered up in folds—it traps air to reflect back our own cozy body heat.

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when the shawl arrived at knitspot headquarters, it was yet to be blocked—vanessa always saves that part for me, haha. it looks very crumply and somewhat homely coming off the needles, but that is easily remedied with the magical process of blocking.

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i put it in a soaking bath right away, but wasn’t able to actually pin it out til a couple of days later. no matter—undyed natural fiber is safe to sit in water for an extended period.

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it was well worth the wait—when i finally had a little time to stretch and pin it, it was a spectacular 60-inch square of lace finesse. this piece is not only a work of art, but one of considerable generosity; thank you vanessa!

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another generous contribution of knitted prowess was this outfit of the amalfi coast skirt, knit by our dear friend cherie and the costa figueira vest, knit by our good friend kristi. both pieces are shown here in the millet shade of hempshaugh as we had intentions of photographing them—along with the square shawl—as a wedding outfit.

while that plan went astray when we couldn’t coordinate good weather with a wedding party of models on the same day, we were still able to photograph it as a wonderfully summery outfit that will be perfect for a hot weather party later in the season. come june and july, we’ll be looking for a combination like this to wear . . .

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and guess what? i finally finished up the physalis shawl that had been on my needles since february, in our stone soup fingering yarn. there is absolutely no reason it should have taken this long except that i kept getting distracted by new designs.

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still, a few rows or a half hour of morning knitting at a time and it is now done. i even got to block it right away; my favorite part. i just love how those spaces between the leaves open up along with the mesh body.

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it’s a total transformation.

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we displayed this shawl at the front of our booth with the cream outfit above and it got SO much attention—the organic forms within knit in the rustic tweed yarn, made for an incredibly realistic (and dramatic) portrayal of leaves, vines, pods, and bark.

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i love this shawl—it’s so me; it’s really fun to knit and much faster and easier than it looks.

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i’ve knit it three times now and each one is my favorite, haha. from front to back in chebris lace (truffe), stone soup fingering (granite), and cabécou brillant lace (champagne)

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just before maryland and the ensemble release, erica and i had a date to spend the weekend with the miami valley knitting guild in dayton. on the way, we stopped off to visit our ohio mill for the afternoon. i love this photo because you can really see where all the gorgeous shades of our better breakfast yarn come from—carrie and robbie can tell you in minute detail about the coat of fiber each animal produces, haha.

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carrie does a lot of weaving and showed up this awesome rug that she made using the fiber that comes off of our hemp blend in the dehairing stage.

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she makes this really cool tubular yarn from it that she weaves into rugs. it’s so pretty made up, isn’t it?

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after a nice visit with them, we moved on to meet up with our friends at the guild. we set up a popup shop with yarn and samples so they could preview a few of the ensemble pieces.

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over the weekend we did some classes together in sweater fitness and finishing; it was a really great weekend. thank you miami knitting guild for a lovely opportunity to meet and work with you!

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back home everyone else was working to get ready for maryland—we even pressed doug into service, packing patterns and yarn to go into the truck.

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we pretty much stripped the shop bare and took every spare skein along with us.

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i love that our truck has a camel on the side that kind of also looks like an alpaca.

setup went like clockwork with everybody helping and before long, we had an adorable booth filled with yarn goodness and pretty samples—ready to show customers on saturday and sunday.

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on friday night we ate at a classy joint, haha. but a well deserved break for all of us; it felt as if we had not paused for weeks.

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and we had a terrific show—many many thanks to all who visited our booth and introduced yourselves to us. we just love meeting readers and customers and ravelers at our events. it makes the whole journey worth it; thank you all so much!

speaking of journeys, just wait til you see where i am now; i will catch you up in the next post, hopefully tomorrow.