a dapper boy and smart as a fox

Posted on 51 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events

a few weeks ago, i received a copy of this adorable new picture book, Argyle Fox, written and illustrated by Marie LeTourneau, so i could share it with our readership. i just love the illustrations for this simple story!

argyle lives in the woods with his mama (who we assume is the creator of his many dapper garments and accessories!).

while he loves hanging around with mama and knitting sometimes knitting along, he also loves to play outdoors and is very creative in making his activities come to life.

one spring day, the wind was wreaking havoc with his fun and games. as soon as he builds a card tower, climbs into a giant spider web, or takes up his pirate sword, down came the wind wreck everything.

Argyle goes home in a huff to sulk, despairing that he will not beat the wind and he may as well not try. but mama tells argyle that if he thinks long enough, he will come up with something to do.

following her suggestion and inspired by her knitting, he gets busy and works all the pieces of his day together to come up with a perfectly crafted solution.

can you guess what it is? i will leave it to your imagination or for you to discover on your own by reading the book!

argyle fox is a wonderful story to read to children who are getting interested in books (like my 2-year-old grand nephew eli), or for the beginning reader; the words are simple and the print is large, while the illustrations are rich with detail and style.

it’s genius to create a story where the child protagonist solves a problem by putting his favorite crafting activities to an industrious use. we see that with a little ingenuity, concentration, and clever crafting skills, we can “fix” a troublesome situation. in this case at least, “a busy child is a happy child”!

and speaking of solutions, this would be perfect for a little one’s easter basket if you are looking for something sugarless and more lasting to add (along with handknits, of course).

and best of all, tanglewood press has offered a giveaway copy of argyle fox for knitspot readers! leave a comment at the end of this post by
9 pm EDST on friday and tell me your guess about which game argyle came up with that plays nicely with the wind. we’ll pick a winner and announce it over the weekend!

my cutest cardigan yet

Posted on 60 CommentsPosted in book reviews/events, designing

boy has this been a lifesaver the last couple of weeks! there has been lots of adventure around here, both scary and exciting, which is why we’ve been pretty quiet for a little while.

back on st. patrick’s day, our little stray pal, cardigan, went missing and didn’t come by for his normal meals—usually we could expect him to show up several times each day to eat and play about the yard.

i got anxious right away and started calling the pound and the humane society on saturday, but neither one reported any sightings. we went down to the pound on monday morning, but no one had seen the dog. when i finally posted the disappearance on the lost and found pets page, i began to get a flurry of messages—”he” was actually a she and had been picked up by the pound early on the morning of the 17th. she was even able to have a visit with her natural dad, herman, because someone who works at the pound had adopted him last summer (herman is on the right below, cardigan on the left).

apparently they had both come to the pound last august with a pack of feral dogs that was rounded up in a nearby town. she was spayed, microchipped, and vaccinated, then quickly adopted out, but herman has some socialization issues and did not get lucky until melody decided to take him home.

when they called cardigan’s owner on st. patrick’s day, she said the dog had been gone for three and a half months and she didn’t want her back; maybe she was not prepared for the challenges of working with  feral dog. so with that clearance, cardigan ended up getting adopted out within a few hours. RUH-roh.

her new family brought her home to a rural town about twenty miles away and she seems fine in the house for a few hours, but when they tried to put her in a truck to go to the vet, she ran under the truck, started squirming like crazy, and slipped out of her collar to run away. oh no!—now she was lost in a place where she didn’t know anyone or have a familiar environment at all.

see? as far from our neighborhood streets as a place can be!

i found all of this out on monday and i felt just awful—we knew she was super skittish; that’s one reason we hadn’t gotten hold of her ourselves in all the time she was here. and then, we were doing so well at making friends and luring her toward the house—she was within a few feet of me several times, taking food. now she was lost, scared, and on the run again. i won’t kid you—i sobbed my eyes out to david over that; i was distraught for her safety and also because i wasn’t sure we would see her again.

i offered to help find her in any way i could and we kept in contact with the new owner; over the next day or so however, it became clear that the search wasn’t going well. we got to know the new owner, kathy a bit and after spending time working with us, she decided that if we could recover the dog, cardigan should come home with us. i really appreciated her understanding and empathy over this; she was awesome.

thankfully, the town where cardigan was lost has a very active Facebook community; everyone pitched in to keep an eye out and post sightings as soon as they happened. we went up there every evening (which is a dog’s time to roam) to follow the clues and get a sense of where she might be bedding down and getting food.

during the days when she was laying low and there wasn’t any point in searching, i could hardly focus on desk work, between worrying and keeping track of messages. i did however use the time to knit on my secret club projects for the month and make way on my second birches sample in cabècou sport.

i don’t have to tell you how soothing and comforting it is to knit when you have things on your mind. and it made me feel productive, instead of useless. i finished up the second sleeve and began the left front, which has that gorgeous cabled panel. this version will be nice and light and cozy-warm, a little fuzzy. i am constantly admiring the golden patina that is more apparent in this batch of the sel gris shade—the tussah silk used in this batch is a deeper honey color than in previous runs.

to ratchet up the odds of finding our little friend, i contacted a wonderful rescue expert named ramona, of jj’s ruff roads, who lives near us and specializes in recovering lost dogs to their owners. she was available to get involved and we started meeting to work on the case together (by now cardigan had been gone for five or six days).

working with ramona was fascinating. first, we just tried to figure out where she might be, based on the habits of most dogs who run. we looked for paw prints in places that were near the sightings—ramona was able to guess by her known weight which prints might be hers—then placed food bowls in likely places near those tracks, with a trail cam nearby. if she came along in the night and ate from the bowl, we’d see it on the cam.

once we could establish a food source she was using, we could set up a trap nearby. now, i know that sounds bad, but ramona (and my friend kade, a kitty rescuer) assured me it was better than being out in a dangerous place, where she could get hit by a car or attacked by coyotes. believe me, i was kicking myself for not trying this earlier when she was safe at our house; i just didn’t know where to turn for that help.

unfortunately, the place we thought were likely only turned up some possum and cats—no more paw prints. after a few more days i sat down and mapped out every sighting on paper and we met up on sunday to walk the route we knew she’d taken. ramona knew the dog would bed down near a water source, but there were several in the area. we hiked around each one, talked to several households, and left more food bowls in different spots. everyone was looking for cardigan at this point; some people already knew the story and were helping with regular posts. we just kept missing her . . .

we were walking back to the truck at the end of the afternoon and came upon a very small pond situated just behind a few houses, both of which had dogs in the yard. we were chatting away and making all kinds of noise in the field straw, when suddenly i saw her! there she was, sleeping like a baby near the pond. and of course we had no way of catching her—no trap, no blanket, just food and a bowl. ach.

we decided to wake her and see what she did—if we couldn’t catch her, we could at least see where she ran to and follow, then put food  down and an open trap to get her interest. we roused her gently and she got up slowly, very groggy looking. when she saw me with some hot dog treats she hesitated but turned and trotted away toward the houses and neighborhood. we followed and sighted her several more times, weaving in and out of back yards until we lost her. we got back in the truck and went in her direction, hoping to catch another glimpse. we checked in at a house where she was seen twice and sure enough, she was curled up atop of a pile of leaves there. again she got up, hesitated when she saw us, but then trotted off.

by now it was getting dark and rainy; we took one more turn around the town, placed the open trap up near the pond (not set to spring, just to lure her), and then headed home. then i saw her again as we were leaving town! sleeping in the grass in a field near one of the food sources. obviously she was tired; i hoped this would help us. we decided that since we knew she had plenty of food and she had certain places to sleep, we could let her relax and come back the next day.

omg, do you think i slept that night?

i was so anxious to get going the next day that i got into the car the minute ramona called to say she was ready. we hardly had time to check the food in the trap when we saw cardigan again, sleeping near the pond (thank you, mother nature for giving dogs predictable habits!). ramona set the trap and we laid out lots of yummy goodies in a trail leading to it. then we sat in the wet grass on a nice man’s lawn and watched from a little distance.

haha, and she slept on like a hog. after an hour and a half, during which we got to talk about dogs and working with feral ones, we decided we could probably rouse her gently and encourage her toward the food. we walked around near the pond talking to each other and mentioning her name a lot; she stirred but didn’t really move. then we got a little more assertive; i moved closer with some hot dog chunks and started tossing them while ramona quietly closed in from the back. cardigan got up and showed interest in me and the food, but was indecisive and hesitant. at one point she turned to go in the other direction but ramona rose up out of the grass and the dog ditched that idea to begin moving toward the trap, which was placed near her escape route of the day before.

she went right to it and faster than we figured she was inside and the trap was sprung. omg, BIG adrenaline rush for all three of us. poor baby was shaking like a leaf and trying to nose out of it when we got to her. ramona and i just talked and talked to her with calming words and tone but we were shaking too.

ramona went to get the truck ready and i stayed with cardigan, trying to soothe her. this dog has never shown any aggression in my presence and she didn’t now; she was just scared. we cleaned up the area of debris and carried the crate to the truck to take her home, then thanked the homeowners for allowing us to work in their yard. next stop, home!

as a precaution, she rode home in the trap so ramona could drive while i followed in my car. when we got there, david was on hand to help get the cage in the house and finally cardigan could come out. she was really very docile and stoic, though very scared. thankfully, not aggressive at all.

we all sat around her stroking and calming her as much as possible and after a while she relaxed some.

then a little more . . .

the first night and the next day she did not care to eat or drink, though she seemed a bit dehydrated. when ramona came by the next day, cardigan finally ate some peanut butter from my hand, followed by some food. she let us scratch her belly and ramona (AKA the dog whisperer, haha) checked her over a bit. i went to the pound that day to pick up some papers for her and talk to the vet there; they had administered flea meds and otherwise gave her a clean bill of health—negative for heartworm and parasites. so, no traumatic vet visits needed right now.

we spent the rest of this week figuring out what her schedule should be, what she likes, and how we can best help her adjust. i am finding that a drop of lavender oil on the back of her neck will calm her when she’s shaky; her bed is sprayed lightly with lavender patchouli deodorant that i use. i thought for sure she’d be thrilled to see our yard again, but she was visibly less relaxed outside than in the house. i suspect that being leashed made her feel limited in the face of danger—no ability to run from a threat. and that harness was uncomfortable too; we exchanged that for a martingale collar after two days. much simpler and very effective. david also bought a whistle 3 tracker suggested by ramona for dogs with flight risk; haha, she’s got her own fitbit now. not that she needs to lose weight—she came home a little lighter than she was before.

for this first few weeks, ramona recommends that we just work on building a bond with our dog and not push her too much into training and outings. she thinks that the risk of flight is greatly reduced in dogs who have a solid bond with their humans. being a feral dog most of her life, she does not usually engage visibly (usually looking away or down, even when interested) and doesn’t seem to recognize rewards as we think of them. food isn’t always of interest and she doesn’t seem to know what a toy is for; finding playful ways to interact is taking time. i’ve been reading like crazy and getting advice from ramona about what to try.

so far, peanut butter and long walks are very enjoyable and for that she has ended up with the right human—i love long walks. plus, she is now famous in the neighborhood; everyone wants to meet her. so far she is a champion distance walker; we can’t stay out long enough for her and i have great faith that she’ll enjoy running, once we know each other a bit better. even when it’s pouring rain, she really doesn’t like the walk to end and has begun showing resistance about coming in when we get to the back door, haha. i’ve ordered a waterproof jacket; i already know she’s not going to let me off the hook for a little rain—or even a lot.

the first day out, i took her on one of my usual running routes and realized that from her point of view, this option held danger at every turn—noise, traffic, runners, kids, deliveries, etc were triggering her run reflex from every turn. so the next time, i took her at quieter time of day to the less traveled spots nearby. the cemetery was perfect (we are very respectful at all times when visiting and we take care of all other business before entering).

she’s a shar pei mix (maybe shepherd?), so she’s very stoic and doesn’t bark at all. seriously, i have never heard it personally, though david heard it once when she still lived on the compost pile.

earlier today i had to wind some yarn and she enjoyed watching that, along with the great view from my workroom door. she’s starting to perk up a lot and once in a while she watches my face with that cute tilted head look that doggies give us.

it’s the little things . . .

yesterday we went to visit erica in the office; she did really well, so later this week we might go to a meeting with doug there. maybe one day this week we’ll try doing a bath—she hasn’t had one yet and it’s allergy season for us, haha. this morning we had our usual three mile walk, followed by some touching and cuddling before breakfast (still learning to accept touch and handling). this afternoon we’re having some serious work time in my office because i have so much to catch up on. you can see that she’s great help with this. we’ll go for another long walk this evening.

you know, i’ve never had a house pet—i grew up on a farm and while we always had dogs, they lived outside. then during my years in NYC, it was not really practical from the dog’s standpoint. since we’ve settled here in the house,  i’ve secretly been wanting a dog for a while, but i know david doesn’t believe in caging animals. then, when cardigan picked our house to take up residence, we began to talk about it and he thought that if someone actually abandoned an animal, then in all fairness we should find a way to open our home to her. and so we are living with a bit of dog hair on the sofa, a new set of accessories strewn about, and lots of great companionship.

i can’t thank ramona enough for all that’s she’s done to help us recover and adopt this adorable dog, as well as her continued coaching and guidance! in addition to working full time and parenting five dogs and four foster dogs, her non-profit organization, jj’s ruff roads is helping rescue community dogs in a variety of ways, restoring them to owners, rescuing and rehoming strays and unwanted souls, and partnering with similar organizations to meet joint goals (check out some of her cool rescue videos here, especially this one). if you have a few spare bucks and would like to support her mission, please consider a tax-deductible gift in any amount (click here for information on giving). and if you live locally, they have a big fundraiser event coming up on may 7, in partnership with pitties and kitties.

one last irresistible cuteness injection . . .

wool seekers

Posted on 89 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, spinning and fiber

a few weeks ago, i received a copy of this beautiful book—in search of the world’s finest wools, written and photographed by dominic dormeuil, current chairman of house of dormeuil  and jean-baptiste rabouan, whose photojournalistic work has focused on the cultures of nomadic people.

sensing  the profound impact of social, economic, and environmental change on the global wool industry and wishing to acknowledge the “growers and artisans of wool”, the authors set out to meet and photograph the animals, people, and places around the globe that produce our most precious fibers.

for the reader, the journey begins on the tundra in greenland to study the ancient musk ox, producer of rare, fine qiviut wool.

what i love about this book is the knowledge that is shared throughout its pages—it’s not only a stunning photographic encyclopedia, but also the well researched product of a passionate wool advocate.

dormeuil, whose family textile firm has operated for five generations within the global fiber market, writes with great sensitivity, depth, and concern for the relationship between man, animal, and environment.

from greenland, we travel across the book’s pages to mongolia, where the best cashmere fiber is grown and harvested.

one fact that is driven home time and again throughout this story is that much of the world’s most precious fibers are produced in the harshest climates. and while maybe not places where the majority of the world wishes—or has the temerity—to live, these environments hang in a delicate balance on which we all have an impact.

directly related to that fact is the realization that we would know nothing of these fiber rarities if it weren’t for the fierce preservation of ancestral traditions by highly skilled farmers and herdsman.

from the ability to understand climate, terrain, and husbandry, to the assessment and marketing of product, deep cultural traditions play an enormous role in whether or not we will knit or weave or sew with cashmere, qiviut, mohair, yak, vicuña, or taewit wools.

on kyrgyztan’s vast grazing lands, the authors teach us about that last one—taewit—gleaned from a unique cashmere-cross goat originating in the region during the period when the soviets used kyrgyzstan as an agricultural breeding laboratory and showcase for communism.

from there we move on to ladakh and the high western plateau of tibet, known as changtang, where pashmina goats are raised.

as with so many other rare fibers, these goats can only be raised by herdsmen willing to practice their husbandry in a wild, inhospitable place. not only is the climate in this area harsh and resources limited due to the extreme altitude, but predators are many. the lifestyle of the herdsmen is seen as almost anachronistic when compared to that of villages in nearby settlements, but for the time being the pursuit of the fine pashmina fiber helps it persist.

from ladakh, we are taken to the shetland islands, where sheep are the focus for the first time in the book.

thanks to its rather isolated location, shetland is home to breeds preserved and maintained from ancient stock of scandinavian sheep, brought to the islands from nearby norway by the vikings. the scandinavians established a sustainable rural society on shetland, which included the processing of wool and manufacture of wool yarn, textiles, and garments—first by hand at home for family use and eventually, for trade.

today, shetland’s wool industry continues to thrive and grow, with investment in eco-friendly milling and processing. while reintroducing us to a perhaps more familiar culture, the author still provides some thoughtful reminders that wool is a product of place, history, and environment toward which humans have a responsibility.

next we leap from nearly the top of the globe to the bottom, landing in new zealand and australia where the world’s largest percentage of merino wool is raised. thanks to the a scottish immigrant named eliza forlonge who gathered the first flock of saxon merino sheep and sent them to australia, almost every knitter is familiar with the squishy, springy, soft merino fiber.

a few of those first imported sheep were purchased by the ranch we visit in this chapter as we get a glimpse of what it takes to run a herd of 12,000 merinos while adhering to the strict oversight of the australian trade organizations. again, so fascinating to absorb and understand exactly what it takes to provide wool for our pleasure.

after australia, we hop over to south africa to look at the herds of  one of my favorite fiber animals—the angora goat, from which mohair fiber is obtained. unlike the double coated cashmere goat, angoras are single coated, producing only long locks of lustre fiber.

the angora goat has thrived in south africa since the mid-1800s, raised mainly in an interior mountain chain. here, a superior mohair product is produced on a third generation family farm. here, the goats can wander in a semi-wild state on the rocky terrain and are brought in twice each year for shearing.

the fleeces are sorted by hand and graded for fineness and color, then milled locally or exported, depending on demand. the author points out here, that while the entire discussion of the book is focused on fibers aimed for a luxury market, economics at the farm level are always precarious. market prices for raw wool remain low; retail prices on finished goods often reflect the high cost of transportation and factory labor, rather than compensation to the farmers and herdsmen.

our world travels with author and photographer wind up with an examination of the almost mythical vicuña, in the high andes mountains of peru. this once plentiful creature was driven almost to extinction by the 1960s, but under extremely close supervision by the peruvian government, a program of protection and breeding is giving new life to its future.

vicuña live and graze on a huge reserve, well-protected from human interference. in addition to preserving and multiplying the breed, the program provides for community based fiber harvesting, so that animal population may be monitored and fiber procured without hunting. while still considered and endangered species, today the vicuña is no longer close to extinction.

i’ve run on and on, just to give you a small chunk of what’s inside this amazing book! if you love the world of fiber, you will want to get yourself a copy. the subject matter is of such interest to me and i know from the popularity of our bare naked knitspot club that i’m not alone—just check out the discussion threads in our club ravelry group and you’ll see we have community that is quite excited about natural fiber).

now if you’ve had the patience and/or interest to read this far, you are in for a treat. firefly books, publishers of this delicious volume, have provided a giveaway copy for one lucky reader.

to be eligible, leave a comment at the end of this post before 9 pm EDST on tuesday, march 14th, telling me which of the above fibers was new and different to you. we will choose a winner at random and announce it in the blog post to follow.

 

shop update!

Posted on 74 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events

when we presented our first piece from winter ensemble 2017—the volta shawl by susanna IC, we sold out our stock of cabécou brillant sport in a wink—especially in the sel gris shade.

the shawl was such a hit that it caused a run on cabécou skeins and shawl kits and many who wanted some but did not see it in time for the grab.

and when we released the urbanza hat and cowl by elena nodel, where cabécou sport is cleverly paired with kent DK in an unexpected contrast of crisp and soft, we didn’t even have the featured sel gris shade on hand for the kits.

first, a box of the sel gris—gorgeous, taupey/silvery gray. each batch is slightly different from the last, because they are made from different lots of undyed fleece, but this one is a pretty good match for the last one (though not exact).

and the other box was filled with a brand new shade, shown above.

you might remember that when david and i went to the michigan fiber festival in august, i had a chance to attend the judging of the mohair fleece show, where i learned so much about choosing the fiber that goes into our cabécou and chebris yarns.

i can’t tell you enough how grateful i am to the farm producers and professionals in the fiber industry who take the time to talk to me about the raw materials that go into our yarns—this is invaluable to me and ultimately, to you, too!

i shopped this show and spotted a number of award winning fleeces from one farm, so i made a beeline for that producer and explained that i was looking for a larger quantity of colored fleeces for yarn production. he took me back to his booth, where he had a good sized store of them.

while we were hungry to get our hands on some silver and black fleeces, these were mostly reds—which is mohair speak for browns and tans. the bags held every color from silvery rose gray to toasty brown and i shopped as if it was 1999, all the while texting with our mill owner carrie; i was so afraid of buying fleeces that weren’t the right thing, haha.

great fiber is directly related to good health and diet in an animal—when we see soft shiny, strong fiber, we know our producers are well loved and taken care of. these fleeces were really lovely and of a consistent quality—the fair judge to handed them several blue ribbons, so we figured they were a good bet for us; only the best for you!

fast forward six months, when we are past the production of our club yarn, smoothie, and finally the mill had some time to make more cabécou sport. carrie was very low on gray fleeces for this run, but had those bags of browns i scored in michigan. into the carder they went and what came out is nothing short of spectacular!

this new shade is a tawny, shimmering gold, pale and buttery; barb nearly swooned when she saw it and instantly claimed  a sweater quantity (it really does look fantastic against her skin and hair!). we leave this yarn unwashed after it’s spun to tame the bloom, making it easier on the knitter while working, but when it’s washed—holy halo, batman! it blooms like crazy and doesn’t stop.

blended with silk and shiny coopworth wool for triple lustre, each fiber catches the light as they escape form the yarn shaft in bloom.

but we need to give this color a name and that’s where you come in. as you might have noticed, our cabécou shades are all named for fine french foods. we came up with a short list of possibilities and we want you to vote and help us out—if you leave a comment by 9 pm EST on monday 3/6, with your vote and tell us what you’d knit with it, we’ll pull  a name and send one lucky winner three patterns of their choice!

ok, here is the list:
Almandine
Croquembouche (spun sugar)
Crème Brulée
Choux
Escargot

tell us which one you like best and what you would knit with it!

consider this light-as-air version of the luce stellare scarf from my lace lessons book; knit on size 8US (5.0 mm) needles and using two skeins of cabécou sport in the poivre shade. big enough to be a stole but also a lush scarf to wrap around when the winds blow.

if lace isn’t quite what you have in mind, how about a version of the meander hat, scarf, and mitts set by irina dmitrieva?

or knit an abri hat and cowl set to match the volta shawl; this pattern includes notes on changing the yarn weight and stitch counts so you can easily adjust the size and weight of the pieces.

and if you’ve been holding out for a garment, you are in luck—here’s a hint at something delicious; this soon to be released beauty was held back from the bounty of ensemble so we could make a special feature of the design. knit in cabécou or chebris sport, we are looking forward to showing it off soon.

cabécou is brought to you by hardworking midwest reds like these two—support your regional producers so we can continue to bring you excellent yarn choices. and don’t forget to vote!