Archive for the ‘projects’ Category

shell game

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

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ahhh, i’m back to the soothing tones of knitting on my hemp blend shell project.

i laid it aside for a few days last week in order to finish up a large secret project i was eager to complete. i’m like that—while i love to have several projects going at once for variety, once i find myself in the home stretch on something big, i just want to get it off the needles and see how it turned out.

i wonder; am i like that because i’m a designer and every project is somewhat of a mystery until its completion? i don’t really hear anyone else talking about a bad case of finishitis, but i get it all the time. in fact, i often shilly shally about starting a project when i’m not absolutely convinced i have my strategy in order.

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of course, a great yarn can serve to mask many, MANY misgivings and even lead me to knit myself into a corner from poor planning. not the case here, thank goodness—i am more in love with our new hemp yarn each day AND the shell is progressing beautifully, though i really did throw caution to the wind and cast on without much of a plan (it’s a simple shell, for heaven’s sake!). so far all the parts are falling into place without a fight; sorta sets the exact tone i wanted with this piece—fresh and uncomplicated.

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i finished up the front piece some time ago—i know it was early last week, but honestly, it may as well have been last year for all i remember (my days tend to blur into each other). isn’t it kind of cool how the fabric creases like paper? no worries—it doesn’t feel anything like paper, but it does speak about how crisp and cool the fabric is. and so light, like a breath of air.

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i started with a four ounce skein and after knitting that whole front piece, i still have about two-thirds left over. wow—i might be able to get a sleeve out of it after all. right now, my plan is to complete it as a semi-sleeveless style, with an armhole finish long enough to cover the top of the shoulder.

but now i’m thinking that i’ll have enough yarn to knit a pair of sleeves that hit just above the elbow and make a second, sleeveless top in another shade when the sample skeins arrive.

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once the front was off the needles, i cast on right away for the back piece and started the garter stitch hem. for some reason, that first three inches took a while, but i think that’s because i was working so hard on both the knitting and the pattern for the other thing i had going.

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i did work on it here and there when i needed a small, brainless project to knit during meetings and car rides. but i didn’t get much further than the hem until monday.

you might have noticed that the fabric seems a bit uneven or insubstantial. part of that is definitely the character of the cloth—the blend IS a bit uneven and quirky, but not so much that it lacks integrity as a fabric. i personally like the texture; it lends a nice character to otherwise plain knitting, but not so much as to be disturbing in lace patterns.

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and part of the inconsistency we are seeing in the fabric for this project is because i am knitting with the unwashed sample skein. this yarn is just as it is when it comes off the spinning equipment—it hasn’t been soaked and washed yet, so the fiber isn’t quite as soft and definitely not as airy.

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you can see that the washed skein on the left, from which i i knit my swatches, is brighter, poofier, a little fuzzier, and has much more body that the unwashed skein on the right.

i think that in this case, the washed yarn is a bit nicer to knit with and all of our production skeins will be washed at the mill. they will still transform a bit when you wash your garment at home, but not as drastically and you won’t have to plan around that.

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my shell is designed to be the fabric that i swatched, so once i wash it, it will change considerably—in this case the finished piece will be wider and a little shorter than it looks here, while the fabric will be more fluid and at the same time, more cohesive, like my swatches (plus, cleaner and brighter).

that reminds me—we need to come up with names for out two new summer yarns. must put that on my to-do list. suggestions are welcome, no guarantees.

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i’ve made considerable progress on the back since i completed my other project. on monday afternoon i finished up the hem section, changed needles and began the faster work in stockinette. because it’s such a simple garment, i’m trying something a bit different with the shape—i added a little short row shaping to the center back to create a downward curve over the hips. it adds maybe an inch and  half to the center back length.

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as of now i am past the waist and the body decreases and have begun increasing back to the underarm. in about three inches i will begin the armhole shaping and after that, the rest will fly. i’m excited—i could maybe have a new top to wear to helena’s graduation party on sunday!

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immersing myself in knitting to finish up a big project usually translates into putting other necessary tasks on the back burner—like garden work. well, we did also have a lot of very rainy days, so in my defense, we haven’t had good weather for working outdoors. yet the garden waits for no man—i think everything has doubled—and in some cases tripled—in size since last week’s photo.

i will take some close up photos for the next blog post so you can see what’s happening on the ground, but for one thing, i’m thrilled that nearly every chard seedling i transplanted has taken off and is flourishing. of course, the weather has been exactly what the greens love—cool, overcast, and wet. the original plantings will actually need to be thinned again very soon, which means i have to find space for more transplants.

don’t tell david, but i am eyeing the flower beds and imagining chard edgings . . .

heaven only knows what i’m going to do with all the chard, but i’m not complaining. haha, if we don’t start selling some more yarn, we may be living on it later in the year!

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while ours is about a week away from being big enough to provide a meal, i was gifted a beautiful bunch of homegrown chard by my friend kris the other day and on saturday morning, i divided it up into a couple of meals. first i separated the leafy green parts form the stalks and wrapped those in damp toweling to keep in the fridge for week night omelettes.

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i chopped the multicolored stems into chunks to throw into a mirepoix for soup (yes, it’s still actually soup weather here, haha). i pulled purple and yellow onions from our garden, along with parsley, basil, and oregano.

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i took out one of the remaining cartons of last summer’s tomatoes from the freezer and opened a couple cans of chick peas (i have no luck cooking those from scratch; they always turn out awful). i also cut up some waxy yellow potatoes and drained  big jar of roasted peppers.

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i wanted to make that spicy chick pea and tomato soup i had cooked while i was in NYC; i thought david would enjoy it.

he did and it was yummy—i forgot to take pictures of the result, but it looked very similar to the original pot. yum yum.

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yesterday i picked two tiny zucchini plus some male flowers and david cooked eggs for dinner using these plus the chard leaves i cleaned the other day. it was the best omelet i’ve eaten all year.

i’m going to stop now because our test knitter is waiting for a pattern and i need to get back to work on that. tomorrow we are releasing another new sweater pattern, so don’t go far—we’ll want you on hand to celebrate with us!

mixed greens

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

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our area was literally engulfed in rain during the time i was in new york and for several days after my return. it was so dark and dreary in fact, that i caught myself dozing off at my desk at the most unlikely times (like 9:15 am after waking up at 7!).

it wasn’t all bad though—our garden certainly got off to a healthy start with all of that delicious rain to feed it. but the weeds also benefitted and by the weekend, things were looking more than a little bedraggled out there.

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so when the skies cleared on monday and actually stayed that way into the evening, david and i made it our business to get out to the garden for some much needed cleanup.

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when i first got home last thursday, the swiss chard were mere sprouts, an inch high with a couple of cotyledons. by sunday afternoon they were six inches tall with several sets of true leaves and in dire need of thinning. i knew if i didn’t get it done on monday, it would be several days before i would be able to get back to it and by then the roots would have set, making the job more difficult.

so first i got to work on that, gently removing seedlings that were growing one on top of the next. the largest and most intact ones i replanted all around the garden, wherever i could find space; i figure they should “take” somewhere or other. there almost can’t be too many greens  . . . says she.
(i love greens; they are my favorite garden thing and i could eat them every day. that said, i have almost no time to deal with a boatload of garden produce each day, so we shall see!)

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there were many, many seedlings that were much too small or broken to transplant; these i placed in a small basket and plunged into an ice bath inside the house to soak and wash. after our garden work was done for the night (essentially, when it got too dark to see), we made big salads for dinner and used these as an ingredient. tiny green sprouts like these are one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat—go us.

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the next thing on my agenda was pruning the tomato plants. tomatoes produce best when they have few leggy limbs to divert energy from the fruits. lateral growth should be nipped in the bud because it encourages overgrowth of leggy, nonproductive limbs. this takes some time but is SO worth the trouble, especially if you are gardening in a smaller space. i will refer you to the experts for actual advice, demonstration, and illustration of tomato pruning:
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT PRUNING TOMATOES and CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

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our basil is doing wonderfully this year as well—david interspersed it with the tomatoes and it seems very happy (unlike our previous couple of years, when most of our basil failed). you might have noticed that he also put down some black cloth to discourage weeds—something new for us. it will keep some moisture in the soil on hotter days as well and help the mounds keep their shape, too.

BTW, the mounds really showed their advantage during the rainy weeks—the soil drained very well and there was next to no puddles laying around the garden (and by extension, very few insects or nasty fungus).

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this morning i was up at the crack of dawn and went to visit the garden for some photos before the sunlight got too harsh. still damp out there, but with everything weeded, thinned, and trimmed up, the garden looked much, MUCH better.

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tomatoes looking strong and straight, with plenty of space around their stems for air circulation (the better to keep fungus away).

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potatoes growing taller by the hour—they are looking super this year as well. we plant everything in rotation except for the tomatoes (because of their growing frames, we will move them less often). this year the potatoes are in the area where i had greens last year.

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the greens kind of failed in that spot because the earth was so heavy that they couldn’t put down a good tap root. this year we planted potatoes there instead, so they could go to work breaking up some of that clay soil. david made mounds on top of them planted with onions, leeks, and some peppers; garlic is also nearby. with all the root vegetables in one place, we can rotate greens over there next year (leaf follows roots).

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on the other side of the tomatoes, closer to the back street, we have rows of squash, eggplant, beans, and greens. the squash is looking very well so far; fingers crossed that it stays that way.

we have a great variety of squashes in all shapes and colors. another vegetable i love to cook with when it’s fresh form the garden—hopefully, it won’t be long before these first ones are ready.

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look at my eggplant!! i am so pleased over this one—i would have picked it by now but i really want to take it just before i’m ready to cook it and that will be friday night, for either a thai or indian curry. my mouth is already watering. round and oblong eggplants are also on their way to go with the squash into large pots of ratatouille.

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and last but not least at the very back of the garden, my green beans have started climbing the fence—they are on their way and looking good. we just have to make sure now to keep those weekends free in late july and august for putting stuff by when it all comes to fruition.

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remember what i said the other day about those lilies? there you have it, they are blooming.

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around the corner, the dye bed is exploding with meadowsweet blooms—how beautiful are these?

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they are complemented by tansy, also in bloom—no wonder i’m almost choking on pollen, haha.

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out near the front of our yard, the yucca is heavy with flowers as well—i remember when we moved here and this plant was a single short stem; these are well over six feet in height, maybe seven.

i know that these are the best days of gardening, when all the plants are still growing and the weather hasn’t gotten to them. june is so beautiful, but july can be very, very hard on them. let’s hope we don’t have too many big temperature swings or overly dry weeks; i would love to have a successful garden year for once, haha; the last few have been discouraging.

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it’s positively inspiring, to be able to look, touch, smell, and dream on all this luscious green. and you know where i’m funneling all of that inspiration, don’t you? if you guessed ENVY club, that would be correct. excitement is ginning up over in our ravelry clubhouse—if you need a little taste of what’s to come, i highly recommend a visit there, haha. kat is bubbling over to know what we’re going to knit first—let’s keep her company while she exhausts herself guessing, haha.

signups for ENVY club will close in one week; we have some single spots and some double dip upgrades available now, but when they’re gone, there won’t be more. our yarn orders for the entire club are now finalized—get these last ones before someone else does!

 

summer peas make me feel fine

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

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hello summer! with all of its plenty, the season of warm sun and fresh abundance is here. let’s parade it in with another pattern released from the 2014 BNK club—this time, two light-as-air shawl or scarf designs from the chapter celebrating luxurious cashmere.

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pea trellis is a pretty crescent in three sizes that is knit from the hem up, beginning with a fetching cable and lace pattern that forms natural scallops along its bottom edge.

soft as a cloud in a luxury fingering yarn, it is shown here in cashmere (mini size), but is equally gorgeous in blends containing mink, musk ox (quiviut), yak, bison, mohair, silk, and well, the list goes on.

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petit pois is the rectangular version of the same design, also presented in three sizes from scarf to large stole; the version shown here is a hybrid of the tall stole width and the petite stole length.

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as you can see, this duo makes the perfect mother/daughter or BFF set—not too matchy-matchy, but close enough that they identify you as connected forever. what a beautiful gift for a bride and her mom.

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both pieces are as versatile as they are beautiful—while shown as summer accessories here, do not let their airy weight deceive you into thinking they won’t work hard for you all winter as well—lace can be warmer than solid fabrics in fact—and luxury fibers even more so. part of their luxury is the fact that they are so very functional.

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i think these were quite a favorite with club members last summer and no wonder; the motif is easy to learn and knit, making either project a good traveler for summer vacation, days at the cottage, or quiet afternoon knitting time at home when the kids are away at camp.

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to freshen things up, erica has created a kit for the pea trellis design, subbing in yarn from another BNK chapter—soft, silky chambery mink. the shade is nearly identical and the fabric is slightly different but equally luxurious, with a heavenly halo. a nice change of pace if you’ve already knit up one in the cashmere option and if you haven’t tried a mink yarn yet, you will experience it at its best working with the natural fiber.

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if you’d like the standalone pattern for the pea trellis crescent, please click here to purchase or to view information in our online shop and click here to find the pea trellis pattern in my ravelry pattern shop.

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you can also find the pattern for the petit pois lace stole in our online shop as well as my ravelry pattern shop.

these patterns along with seventeen additional designs for luxury yarns in natural  shades are included in the BNK 2014 eBook—a great value. shop our entire selection of eBooks and club yarns in our online store

you can see various yarn ideas and size options by spending some time browsing our club project pages here for petit pois and here for pea trellis as well!

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it’s the perfect summer project, both to knit and to wear—why not start one now?

rollin’ on the river

Friday, June 19th, 2015

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during my last few days in new york, i began to panic because i thought i wasn’t being productive enough. though i really didn’t fill my schedule with outings and distractions other than running each day, i had spent most of the week on two designs only (granted, one was fairly complex; i couldn’t even have tackled it at home, haha) and was worried that i’d been “wasting” my retreat time.

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when that sort of frantic panic sets in, there is almost nothing that will quell the anxiety and distraction of it like stepping away. reproaching my work after a break is often exactly what’s needed to give it fresh perspective, allowing the brain to stre-e-etch and work out the kinks. i know this, but i often find myself dismissing a break as an indulgence rather than a productivity tool . . .

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last saturday though, cathy offered such a great opportunity for a diversion that i couldn’t resist and the fact that it offered wonderful blog fodder made it all the more appealing—we were going bike riding with a small group from her LBS, NYCe Wheels. with the added bonus that i’d get to try out the folding brompton bike, since NYCe wheels specializes in them—as well as a variety of alternate transportation solutions for city dwellers, from electric bikes to scooters (i love that).

our ride leader for the afternoon was jim, who is very knowledgeable both about the brompton brand and about local rides

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he had completely researched, planned, and done a test run of our ride in advance and was full of helpful and fun information about our destination. he’s also really well-versed in how the bike works and how to get the most out of it. after getting each of us set up and comfortable on a loaner model, he demonstrated how to fold and unfold it handily for stops.

we rode uptown on the east drive of central park, then took adam clayton powell jr drive from the top of the park to st. nicholas avenue and rode through  through harlem, sugar hill, washington heights, and onward to our destination—the high bridge, (NYC’s oldest standing bridge), newly renovated and reopened after a closure of more than forty years.

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the city has a really great web of bike lanes and bike-friendly corridors to many outlying destinations. the ride up took about 30 minutes at an easy pace; anyone could do this, but it’s nice to go with a group so you can travel in a pack.

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this bridge joins washington heights to the high bridge neighborhood in the bronx on the other side.  everyone was out enjoying the day and this new city destination.

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we rode over to the bronx, made a small loop, then took another small walkover bridge back to the manhattan side, landing near jackie robinson park, and used this as our turning point to head back downtown along the cliffside. david and i used to do a lot of weekend rides, sometimes with a group, when we lived in the city; i miss that! we still go, but mostly in the countryside here.

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the view from the other side, a slightly different take on the river. the day was stellar for taking in the views. here on the bronx side, we are looking across the river at washington heights, with the hamilton bridge first (far left) and then the fort washington bridge beyond that. washington heights is one of my old neighborhoods, where i lived in the 1980s (when it was far less attractive, haha) for about six years before moving to brooklyn.

BTW, the brompton test drive was a treat—i thought this bike rode and handled very well; it felt a lot like a normally sized hybrid type bike, even when standing up to ride. if i still lived in the city or if david and i travelled more, i would totally save up to get one for commuting, because they are super light and handy. cathy rides hers to work each day and takes it wherever we meet up, coat-checking it as needed. it folds up small enough to go into the overhead bin on a plane or packed into a suitcase. i once went on a bike trip with someone who rode it exclusively for travel, and witnessed him climb some tough mountains in italy on it.

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once small glitch is that it’s not very easy to change the back tire if you get a flat, like our ride mate did (which is easy to do on the street). david thought that a quick-release could easily be added to the back hub, though to make quick changes more convenient.

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soon we were on our way again, having crossed back over to find access to our return street, edgecombe avenue.

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at the end, happy and a little grimy, we took one last picture to prove we survived and were still smiling about it. i turned in my bike and headed back to brooklyn for the evening. i have to admit, i did not get back to work that night as planned—i was especially beat afterward, probably from the sun.

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that day and the one before had been very hot—you can see that those pretty purple alliums had already cycled though their color phase by the time i returned that evening (wow, i’m glad i caught them at their peak!).

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for the next few days i hunkered down to work and make the most of my remaining retreat time. i did take one more social break to meet cathy and agnes for lunch one day—a girl has to eat, after all. and i’m always glad for a chance to spend time with them; they are the best!

on wednesday i packed up all of my books, yarns, needles, and running gear for the trip home that evening; i was sad to go, but looking forward to seeing david, too

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for my travel knitting, i chose to work on my lightweight shell in our new summer lace yarn; mindless enough that i can listen to announcements and pay attention to what’s going on around me, but knitting up quickly enough that i’m motivated to keep going. i was a little bit above the waist when i left brooklyn; i worked all the way through the body shaping in the airport (i was there a while), and then worked the armscye  and some shaping on the plane. i’m about one-third of the way up the left shoulder. so far i have used just 1.3 ounces of yarn, can you believe that? i wonder if i’ll be able to finish this whole project with one skein?

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hey, i’ve been having so much fun reading your guesses about what this yarn is spun from; do you want me to tell you more about it now? first of all, no one has come even close to guessing the right combination of fibers, much less the right percentages.

almost everyone thinks this yarn has linen in it and that would be . . . wrong.

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we thought about working with linen and our mill even ran a few sample skeins for us. the linen just didn’t play as nicely with the other fibers as everyone would have liked. i personally don’t mind the slubbing, but combined with the other troublemaking that was happening and the fact that we found something else that was softer, the linen had too many marks against it.

instead, we turned to another favorite fiber—hemp. now hemp is sometimes thought of as a rough fiber (and some of it is), but look here

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you can see when we put it next to the linen that it’s actually finer, silkier, shinier, and more evenly constructed, without the hairy hooks that can cause other fibers to snag and slub in blends using linen.

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plus the hemp has that great golden color, similar to the unbleached tussah silk that we like to use in our blends (that’s the second fiber, BTW). i usually prefer the wild silks for their color, but it was interesting that when we ran these test samples, we found other good reasons to stick to the more earthy tussah, rather than the cultivated white mulberry (or bombyx) silk.

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the tussah actually behaves a little more like wool; it has a bit of crimp and is less slick, so it blends more easily with the other fibers. our millers told us that the bombyx was too slick to use with the other fibers in more than a twenty percent proportion, constantly wanting to gum up and clump in the blend.

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it does lend a little extra softness, though i’m not sure that’s actually benefit with this yarn; i don’t want the fabric to be completely without body. the color is quite cool compared to the tussah blend as well; i like it ok (and we might even choose to do a shade using it), but i love the tussah.

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as you can see now, we’ve also got some merino in the mix—that’s where our gray marbling is coming from (and we will likely manipulate that coloring by changing the merino shades used). back to the photos of the test skeins, i think you can see the other reason we didn’t like the linen as much—it’s kind of hairy and not always in a good way; the hemp was much smoother while still adding some airy body to the blend.

so that’s what we’ve got: 40 merino/30 hemp/30 unbleached tussah silk—you like?

unfortunately, no one guessed the correct fiber mix or proportions and most of you didn’t even come close. karen c. came the closest, guessing a linen/silk/wool blend in nearly the right proportions, so i’m going to email her a hamsa scarf pattern. thank you all for participating though; i love having these games, don’t you?

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can you believe the color green in this photo? this is right out of the camera, friends—no photoshopping going on here. the property around the ranch is GREEN. (which reminds me—signups for the ENVY club will close soon; don’t dawdle if you want a spot!).

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while i was away, our area was subjected to a LOT of rain and it has continued since i got home. i’ve been squeezing in morning runs between the raindrops to keep up the fitness i earned back during my trip, but the yard is very soggy indeed. i know it’s been all david could do to try and keep up with the weeds, but they are just terrible this year.

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nevertheless, there is much to celebrate in the garden—like these first fresh hydrangea mops; what could be more beautiful, eh? not a mark on them and still holding their early greenish tinge; just lovely with hose huge droplets pouring out of each blossom . . .

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i have literally never seen our thyme bloom like this—it loves all the water it’s getting.

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day lilies are preparing to pop as well; if you look very closely at the green photo up top, you can see hints of yellow breaking through on those stella door blossoms.

the thing i was most anxious to see though was around back—the vegetable beds. because the timing was all wrong for us, this was the first year that i was not able to do the planting and i really feel like i missed out. by the time our soil assessment was done and david was able to get the beds ready, it was mid-may and i was beginning a heavy round of shows, classes, and my NYC trip.

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when i left he had just gotten most of the plants and seeds in, but was still setting the onions and seeding in the greens.

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ten days later, just look at these onions! and everything is so tall; the eggplant look phenomenal (of course, they re the kind of plant that could drink water all day long).

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all of our basil plants seem very happy for once, growing tall, with full leaves. this basil gigantic, which i got as a novelty has the biggest leaves i’ve ever seen, haha. they would be lovely for lining an antipasto or cheese plate to perfume it from underneath. or maybe rolled up with some kind of filling? i’ll have to ponder that one . . .

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and there are tomatoes, yay!! again, all looking very good, climbing their ropes on the scaffold frame david rigged for them.

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my very favorite thing to look at though is the showy flowering plants, like this dark eggplant with the intense bloom. this one has a long eggplant growing down below as well—one of those type that are great for stir frying. i saw some peppers forming as well, so we shall be soon eating such a dish from our own plantings.

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and of course, king of the showy vegetable flowers, the squash is blooming like crazy, in all shapes and forms. this one is an intense orangey yellow with spiky, tightly curled petals.

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on another plant, a more traditional looking flower with a wider opening and shorter petals. home to many ants, apparently . . .

ah, it’s nice to be back. i’ve got a busy few days ahead to get some things caught up, but all in all, the fort was held down very well and i’m not too awfully behind. i should be able to indulge in some garden work over the weekend; looking forward to that.

i’ll be back with a pattern and kit release on sunday—see you then.