Archive for the ‘projects’ Category

it’s here!

Friday, July 24th, 2015


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


have a lovely weekend; play hard!

going natural

Monday, July 20th, 2015


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.


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.


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)


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!


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).


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


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.


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


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


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.


is that not spectacular?


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



and still growing

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015


another big, big week of everything the garden loves—much rain with some intensely sunny days to put the icing on the cake.


the plants have literally doubled in size and everything is flowering or fruiting.


i think i am most proud of our squash plants at the moment—we have not had such hardy, healthy ones in many years; they usually succumb to dusty mildew or insect infestation before we can even get a few squashes.


not so this year—i’ve been picking squash nearly every day (i like to get it when it is super young, less than eight inches long). this romanesque variety is new to us and we’ll have a chance to taste it tonight for supper.


yellow and green squash are the same; something to pick every day. and the bees are cramming into the flowers three at a time.


the jet acorn plant is also producing as if on steroids; i am so psyched. they are all so gorgeous.


just across the way, the eggplants are really spreading out—and to think david was concerned that we wouldn’t get them to grow.


there will be no shortage, i can see that now—little fruits are popping out on each branch.


i always grow a great variety, from long asian types to big round italian ones in purple and white.


we love them in many dishes, from indian and thai curries to ratatouille and ciambotta. each type works well for certain dishes. i picked this nice plump purple one to cook in ciambotta for dinner sometime this week, mmm.


we certainly have plenty of basil to go with it (and to make pesto another night!)


beyond the eggplant patch, the green beans are running a race up the fence; the early morning light is so pretty streaming through their leaves.


as helena and i pulled out on study morning, i noticed the very first bean blossom opening up.


by sunday afternoon, many more had popped, including the white ones on the bush beans and david took some pictures for me.


next door to the beans, the peas are twice as high as they were last week—they will be flowering soon as well, i think.


our swiss chard is also loving this weather—cool and wet, just what it wants to make big, fresh, sweet-tasting leaves. which we are happy to eat nearly any night of the week.


i cut them back to just a few leaves and a couple of days later, they have replaced themselves with more. it’s really quite amazing. i think my next weekend is cut out for me—putting some of these up in the freezer so we can eat them all winter.


on the other end of the garden, the potatoes are also blooming. one minute they weren’t and the next, pow, pow, pow, there they were. their flowers are a pretty as the eggplant flowers, delicate pastels and semi-sheer petals. just as the garlic is winding down its life in the ground, these are expanding. soon there will be new potatoes to eat . . .


and even more surprising, the apple tree is fairly loaded with fruit this year! last year the tree lost its buds to frost and this year it didn’t seem like it bloomed plentifully. but apparently, that doesn’t matter? i don’t know but every branch is loaded.

are you suspecting what i’m suspecting, that very VERY soon, i’m going to have my hands full with trafficking produce from the garden into the house and then into meals and freezer bags? yes, that’s what i was thinking too; it’s going to be a challenge. hopefully, i’m fit to meet it—i’d better keep eating my veggies.


alternate plans

Monday, July 13th, 2015


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).


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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 . . .


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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