Archive for the ‘food and garden’ Category


Sunday, June 26th, 2016


finished up the seaming on my illas cíes pullover on thursday night and snapped a couple of photos the next morning once i’d pressed those last seams (sorry about the hair; in my excitement, i didn’t do anything with it). you might be able to tell that it was still a little short at this point; i had purposely kept it that way because i know how much the hempshaugh yarn will gain in length, once it’s washed. it already feels really nice against my skin—nearly weightless, soft, and dry—just what i hope for in a summer sweater.


after clowning around a bit with the camera, i immersed it in a nice bath. as usual with our natural colored yarns, a hot sudsy soak is best to remove any remnants of spinning oil and allow the fibers to soften and bloom. hempshaugh is especially respondent to this treatment, as the hemp fiber tends to be slightly stiff until well soaked. while quite soft right out of the skein, it will become even more cuddly with every washing for a while—one of its most endearing qualities.


right out of the bath a couple of hours later, its shape has softened so much as to be a bit alarming. don’t be, no matter how bad it looks—with some brisk reshaping (see my craftsy class or my blocking DVD for technique), this fabric takes on a super smooth look in no time and will benefit from further reshaping as it dries. barb and i have also discussed the strategy of using VERY judicious amount of gentle machine drying (like ten minutes or so) to get the drying process started and we both agree that it can work, but you have to keep a strict eye on it and promise to employ at your own risk. you know what i’m going to say—try it with your swatch first!! (you did make swatches and keep them, didn’t you?)


i didn’t do that here—just laid mine flat this time to dry. i used a ruler and my schematic to push and pull all the parts of the sweater into the recommended measurements. the fabric tends to grow lengthwise and narrow a bit widthwise after soaking, but by tugging the side seams in opposite directions until the chest, waist, and hem were the right width, the length shortened accordingly. i reshaped those gangly sleeves the same way, by pulling horizontally along their lengths and they shortened to the right length. the hemp fabric dries really fast in my experience, so i checked back every hour or so to pick up the garment, fluff it, and reshape—especially toward the end when moisture evaporates more quickly.


i couldn’t be happier with the results; the fabric is soft and dry but still has plenty of body and i don’t feel it will stretch out over time. i wore it with a t-shirt and linen shorts, but i gotta tell you, wearing it makes me want some hemp shorts more than ever. gotta get those on the needles next.


emily and i took it along with another item for a photo shoot at a nearby lake yesterday; it was hot and humid, but both of us were wearing garments knit in hempshaugh fingering and neither of us even broke  a sweat.


you might think that with all that softening in the fabric, i’d lose the stitch definition, but you couldn’t be more wrong—the heavy embossing in this stitch pattern is crisp and clear—maybe even better for being cleaned.


the length is perfect now—just to the top of my pockets, about an inch longer than when it was just OTN. i am 100 percent satisfied with this sweater; i feel lucky to be able to say it. you know what i mean—even when VERY satisfied, there is often a thing or two you want to change “next time”. but this time, not; i am completely happy and i know i will wear this piece a lot. and didn’t emily do a great job photographing it?

i’ve taken my time getting started on my shorts as i needed to work through my strategy for construction. while i knitted my other projects these last couple of weeks, i’ve been going back and forth about whether to knit them in the round, or in pieces. pieces appeal to me more because i can add stability with seams, but working in the round will make it easier to do the waist casing and the leg hems that i desire, as well as work the bifurcated architecture. decisions, decisions . . . i’ve got to make them soon.

with the pullover and the club surprise off the needles (oh yeah, i finished that too on thursday night!), i am turning my focus to a couple of sweaters i have underway for the winter ensemble as well as the next secret project.


i’ve got one sleeve done on this twill stitch pullover that i’m knitting in kent DK; i’m knitting several sizes larger than usual, so i’m feeling those extra stitches and inches. i’ve got to step up my pace if i’m going to get through all the designs i have planned. i need to decide on a cable for the side seams and have been dawdling a bit over that.


the plan is for a classic pullover/cardigan with overall subtle texture and cable detailing. currently it’s slated to have cables around the armholes and down the front of the cardigan as well. so it can’t be a huge cable—in fact, it will need to be rather petite so as to fit into the smaller sizes reasonably.


years ago i knit a sweater for myself with the same overall stitch pattern and used this cable on all the seams. it’s perfect for this style, but i think it might be too wide for the new design . . . and possibly too subtle for the kent DK. i’ll be doing that research today, as soon as i wrap up this post.

my ensemble submissions includes a skirt that can be worn with this cardigan to make a modern day suit—won’t that be adorable? if i had to wear a suit to work, that’s the kind i’d want.


a couple of weeks ago, while erica and i were at TNNA in DC, we met with author hannah thiessen, who is writing a book about wool and knitting that includes our yarns. over the next couple of days we got to talking with her in depth about her work in the knitting world (hannah has been managing projects and promotion for a variety of companies in our industry) and before long we all hatched a plan to bring her into our company to help out in that area as we go through some necessary updating of our site, our look, and our marketing efforts.

we feel hannah is a terrific fit for us and we want you to love her too! she’s smart, funny, organized, and super excited to work with all of us. you’ll be seeing her in our ravelry groups (she’s hannahbelle) and as a contributor to the blog; i know you will make her feel welcome and included. remember she is here to help make your knitspot experience as wonderful as possible; she, like us, values your feedback and participation, so don’t be shy.

and that’s pretty much all i have for today—it’s much too lovely outside to linger; i need to eat some lunch, look at some cables, and after that, we are going for a nice, long, bike ride in the country.


fortunately, a fresh, healthy meal is growing right outside the back door—earlier, i spent five minutes picking a bowl of baby greens to have at the ready for just this time of day. we tried some new ones this year that are delicious—mibuna greens (for a bit of spice), yukina (tat soi) greens (hearty and delicious), and crunchy vitamin greens, with baby chard also in the mix. i can’t help but look forward to lunch. i’m trying to keep healthy and eat right because i’ve been noticing that my legs are pretty tired after running and biking lately.


ok, now i’m really going . . see you later!

shouldering on

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016


nothing says summer like pie and with the advent of berry season—and fortunately, also biking prime season—it’s game on. on sunday i took a little time in the afternoon to bake one of my favorites—strawberry rhubarb.


i had more filling that i needed for the pie and a mess of ripening peaches as well, so i also baked a dish of fruit crisp with a jewel-tone filling. mmm. of course the two of us can’t eat two big plates of dessert in one week, so the pie went into the freezer for now. i’m sure we’ll be able to share it soon with friends.


slowly, slowly (or so it seems to me), i am approaching a completed illas cíes pullover in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, color buckwheat. because i am also trying to finish a surprise extra project to end our IMMERSION club, i am only allowing myself to work on the pullover as a treat at the very end of my day, late at night while we watch TV. haha, which means i often fall asleep over it.

but i managed to sew the sleeve caps into the armscyes over the last two nights and wanted to point out that if at first, your sleeve seams look like the one on the right there, it’s totally not you. it is completely normal for them to become quite distorted from the kind of handling they must take during the seaming process.


fortunately, there is a fix—ham to the rescue (see the left seam as proof!). a tailor’s ham, that is. you might have seen one of these in your grandma’s sewing room or you might even have one that you inherited somehow, but never knew what purpose it served. you might even know what it is and have used one before!


if not, you are missing out on one of the best aids for coercing your hand knits into a final, polished appearance.  let me now expound on the wonders of this magnificent tool. first, note the shape—it’s ham-like oblong form is comprised of every possible curve that might be used in a garment. it makes the perfect form for pressing and steaming curved seams or for molding wool into shapes that conform to the human body.


take that sleeve cap seam for instance; it’s a real mother to press, isn’t it, made up as it is from a series of opposing curves? if you get one part to lie flat than another part doesn’t and just when you think you’ve got it all right, you’ve gone and pressed in a nice crease where it’s supposed to tuck smoothly under the arm, unnoticed.

but with a tailor’s ham, you can lay that seam right over its form and steam in a smooth, crease-free final shape. nice. (for an even more in-depth discussion of the tailor’s ham and shoulder seams, see this post from 2012)


but look what a difference it makes to give that shoulder area the right treatment—WOW. so worth the effort (what tasks in fine finishing aren’t?).


when you consider that this seam is smack at eye level of whomever you might be taking to when you wear it, it is very worth investing in. we might not worry as much about dressing for success in our industry, but a little polish for any look goes a long way.

BTW, there are lots more terrific finishing tricks and tips in this DVD or this craftsy class. almost as good as having me there to harangue you in person.


with my shoulder seams complete, it was time to move on to seaming up the underarm and side seams. i worked on this at knit night this evening while chatting with barb (she is also currently knitting the same sweater, but in briar rose sea pearl for chris to use as a booth sample).

i got one side done and that leaves just one longish seam between me and a finished summer pullover. well, and a nice soak in a hot, soapy bath to make it über-soft and wearable. i am SO going to pack this for my trip to alaska in july, where i will be teaching on a knitting cruise.

i am so excited about this trip; i’ve never been to alaska, nor have i been on a cruise. i am doubly thrilled that our nephew amad, who will be visiting from switzerland in july, is going to join me on the trip. not only that, it will be his birthday week, so we plan to make the most of a wonderful chance to discover the unknown together. if you have some great alaska experiences or good advice to share, please leave a comment (i’m a little curious about what temperatures will be like).


another reason my knitting has been slow this week is that i’m getting used to incorporating the garden harvest into our daily routine.


we are currently dealing with an explosion of greens (much anticipated). this year we tried some new items—emiko cabbage, vitamin greens, mibuno greens, and kuniko greens. all delicious—i highly recommend them.


on monday, my friend mark came over to take some off my hands and while he was picking, i also hauled in a couple of big basketfulls.


half of them became this gorgeous stir fry with mushrooms, eggplant, carrots, and tofu. david cooked the other half this evening in his famous curry tofu pasta. (i know, but it is aMAZingly delicious, trust me).

and here’s the thing—we are not even nearly caught up; today i picked a HUGE bag for lillian to take home and asked the neighbors to please come and take some too. and still didn’t make a dent. i think i might have to start freezing some this weekend.

because even if i did feel a little caught up . . .


there’s a monster afoot right around the corner. it’s c-o-o-ming.

fruits of summer

Saturday, June 18th, 2016


SO nice to be home again—and to be in one place for five weeks straight. with summer in full swing, it’s time to enjoy what the season brings us. dogwoods were in full bloom when erica, emily, and i went to one of our city parks this week for the final immersion club photo shoot.

if you are part of the club and haven’t downloaded the chapter yet, you must go see—emily is gorgeous modeling our last blue project. and if you missed out on the blue club, please consider joining us for pairings—it promises to be lots of delicious fun.


speaking of delicious, it’s that time of year again when there are so many yummy foods right at our fingertips that we can hardly manage them all. first up, strawberries and you have to get those right away if like me, you want to freeze enough for winter. so the day after i got home from DC, barb and i got ourselves to a grower and i bought two flats. at home i set up a production line to get them washed, topped, and into bags to freeze. i remembered to keep some aside for a pie; i like mine with rhubarb and i plan to bake one or two tonight.


we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw they also had peaches in from south carolina—last year they were available much later. i bought some to eat, but i know now that i should plan to be freezing a batch before long, if they are coming in early everywhere.


with so many distractions pulling me this way and that, i am trying hard to stay on schedule with my knitting and design work (but summer fever lurks at every turn!). when i left for DC, i was up to the armhole bind off on this pullover project in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, so i left it behind to save space in my bag. once home tho, i was determined to finish it up so i could wear it. last night i blocked the pieces and today i started the neck finish during our morning sweater knitting class.

wait til you see it done—the fabric is surprisingly shimmery. it’s going to look great with my shorts (that i haven’t started yet, HA!).


our garden is exploding with goodies as well and growing faster than we can keep up with. the greens grew about a foot while i was away last weekend! believe me though, i am thrilled—it wasn’t that long ago that we had trouble growing plants this thick and lush. they are badly in need of more thinning—a task for early tomorrow. the good thing about getting that job done is that we will get to eat some baby greens this week.


not that we’ve been starving; we’ve been eating from the garden as often as i have time to cook. here we have asian greens, thai basil, and cilantro . . .


with snap peas, garlic scapes, spring onions, and mushrooms (those, we bought). with some ginger and tofu, we’ve got a fantastic stir fry meal; you can’t eat fresher than that, mmm.


and here’s another fresh item—a new little scarf pattern, in stone soup fingering yarn (mmm, SO soft and squishy). aren’t those little leafies adorable in the marble shade? i had two other projects packed to take to DC but i cast this one on just before we left—you know, in case i needed it. well, lucky me because guess what?? i DID need it (thus reinforcing my compulsive overpacking of knitting projects for travel). see, i would have preferred to work on those other projects but everywhere we settled down to knit, it was very dark. and those projects were dark too, so they just didn’t work for me. thankfully i had this one along and made excellent progress on it. and now i know the pattern by heart so i can take it even more places; it will be finished in no time.


this is one of the darker projects that got sidelined during my trip. it’s a sweater for david and for the next ensemble collection too. it’s a remake of a favorite sweater inking him years ago, this time in the mussel shell shade of our kent DK. it’s the perfect guy sweater in the most subtle of patterns that looks like woven fabric. just enough texture for him, just enough entertainment for me not to slit my throat from boredom—it’s a win-win.

funny, i had hoped to knit, oh, at least two sleeves over the few days i was at the trade show (dream big, i always say). as you can see, i did not (i know, what was i thinking??). in fact, we barely sat down the whole weekend, logging over eight miles each day; when did i think i was going to knit? most of my scarf knitting i did in the car on the way home, knowing i had to have something to show for myself this week, haha.


well, i’m home now and happy to be here for a while. i met with my sweater knitting class this morning and they are rocking right along on the whitfield shorty—the perfect first sweater project; it has all the parts and shaping of an adult sweater, but in a manageable size. paula is having so much fun with hers (and is so far ahead) that she even bought yarn today to make a second one. go team!


it wouldn’t be right to complain about all the knitting i have to accomplish and then run on and ON about nothing so i’m going to stop now, but i wanted to share this one last photo with you—isn’t it cool? it looks like a group of druids gathering on some misty scottish moor, but actually, it’s just a garden area in our park on a very humid morning. so pretty.

say cheese!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016


everyone at knitspot central has been working so hard the last few months; now that the great lakes fiber show is behind us we have a bit of a breather, so the first order of business was to have a little fun and throw ourselves a pizza night.


david and i prepared setups on monday for GF pizza shells, regular shells, and all manner of toppings. and since it was also doug’s birthday over the weekend, there had to be cake, too.


everyone put together the pizza of their choice—erica is vegan so she opted for veggies-only, but made a matching one to take home to emily, who couldn’t make it to the party.


i think doug was a little amazed at his pizza making success, haha; he might even try this at home.


after supper was cleared away, out came the cake—chocolate with chocolate frosting, yum!


doug showed us how it’s done by blowing out all the candles at once. of course we didn’t challenge him much by lighting one for each year . . .


our weekend at the fiber show was fun—it’s always great to visit with the friends we see at these events. thanks to all who made the trip to our spot under the grandstands; we SO appreciate you finding us.

while not our regular spot at the show, our space was a nice size and we were able to display quite a lot from our collection of samples—everything from the spring and winter ensemble collections was on parade, plus much more. our spring and summer yarns, lace weights, and stone soup fingering were the biggest hits at this show.

our next show is the michigan fiber festival in allegan, MI; our booth will be in the big new barn from 8/19 through 8/21—mark your calendars!


still working away on my illas cíes pullover in my spare time; i’m knitting my newest version in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, color buckwheat. we are restocked on most of the yarns that were sold out for little while after maryland, though a couple of those are already sold out again (thank you!).

i haven’t been able to work on this project as much as i’d like because i’m also knitting a secret project at the moment that’s a little time consuming (but SO worth it). that said, i’ve just about finished with this sleeve (#2) and after i bind off, i’ll just have the front to knit. and to be fair, this is supposed to be my relaxing vacation knit. but i’m chomping at the bit to get it done, too—i’m anxious to play around with those shorts i was talking about, especially now that the weather has turned so hot.

i also have several other projects started for the fall/winter ensemble that i need to prioritize before i get behind. i’ve been moving a little slow over the past week or two, but now that i’m feeling better, i think i’m about to launch into power knitting mode, haha.


plus, there is always something hanging around the edges of my well-organized (HA!) work life to derail me. these luscious little lovelies are test skeins for a yarn that’s been percolating in my head for a while—literally something new and shiny. they came in one of the boxes with the most recent shipment from our mill.


once i laid eyes on them, well, i just had to roll off a bit of each and do some swatching. i owe it to the mill to give prompt feedback after all . . .

when we get test skeins, i like to swatch them more or less equally in both stockinette and garter stitch.


plus some kind of pattern stitch—in this case, i chose a lace pattern.


they are a similar combination of fibers with one difference between them and the one on the right is spun a little finer as well. more about these as our testing progresses . . .


it’s almost strawberry season where we live—still a couple of weeks to go, but our plants are filling up with fruits. still small and green, they are almost like fairy fruits from another planet.

lottos inspiration for our pairings club going on here . . . .


peas are up and reaching for the sun and the fence to climb on. everything we planted is thriving so far except for the green beans—they’ve been in the ground a little less long and i’m still waiting to see if they will appear. i confess i’m a little worried that they haven’t sprouted yet and have ordered another packet just in case. not that i usually have to worry about having enough green beans, hehe.


i tried a new (for me) experiment this year—propagating my own sweet potato plants. we usually get ours from our friend jeff, but he wasn’t sure he’d have enough to share this year (and has since come through with a batch for us; thanks jeff!), so i started on some of my own, since i still had a few nice ones from last year’s garden in the basement. even though i was a little behind in starting,i thought it was worth a trial run and i’m catching up fast since the weather warmed up.


basically you stick some toothpicks in a sweet potato and set it in a jar of water, stem end up (kind of like sprouting an avocado). after a couple of weeks, little sprouts will grow from the top. when they get a few inches high, you cut them out and put them in their own jar to grow roots. the old potato will continue to offer several generations of sprouts; jeff usually gets enough for his own garden and more to share with friends.

we have a neighbor family whose kids seem intent on making friends with david; i thought it would be fun to offer them some space in our garden to grow these over the summer.

okay, well someone was making some noise around here about needing to knit more, so i think it’s the hour to make that happen; see you next time!