winter again . . . and again

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden

happy st. patrick’s day everyone! because we’re all irish on march 17th, right? i hope you’ll enjoy the day in all the best tradition; it’s a bonus that it’s friday, too—party down.

thank you all for participating in the giveaway of in search of the world’s finest wools book the other day; i found the comments fascinating and have plenty of food for thought regarding future posts and club yarn choices (of course that last always depends on what we can actually obtain, so i can’t promise . . .). again this is a book that i highly recommend for those who enjoy a good fiber read or those who are educators in our field—how i wish i could go on a fiber trek like this.

the winner of the giveaway copy is chris H, who was emailed about the win the other day; congratulations chris!

well, after a record breakingly warm february, march has proven less than appealing; we’ve been sharing the snowy, windy weather that the northeast states have experienced and it’s driven us all back indoors.

bad for running and biking, but maybe good for knitting and eating. i worked on the lower body section of my mega cable pullover, which i’m knitting in our better breakfast fingering yarn (poppyseed shade; darker IRL than it looks here).

this is knitting up much, much faster than i expected, especially considering that i didn’t spend a ton of time; it just moves along very quickly, being mostly knits and purls with just a cable cross every 28 rounds. suddenly i’m ready to begin the neck detail, which i’ll tell you about in a minute.

most of my knitting time last weekend was grabbed in between chopping chores—it had been a while since i spent any quality time in my kitchen and i was jonesing for some of that. and sitting too much in cold weather just makes me colder; i needed to get moving somehow.

so i kept warm by making soups to restock our freezer—we were suddenly very low. i cooked four kinds in all, including this curried butternut and red pepper soup (a mashup of  few different recipes), made creamy with coconut milk—so completely vegan. the flavors are both bright and summery, but warm and embracing for the cold weather; just what the doctor ordered.

in fact, this whole soup making rampage started because i noticed our standing army of butternut squash were beginning to suffer a few casualties, maybe because the basement was not as cold as usual this winter. every week i would find another small one collapsing. i knew i had to do something with the remaining ones soon. i just got a little carried away, once i started thinking about soups i like.

one new thing i tried was making these oven baked butternut squash chips. you peel the squash and take to the seeds, then shave or thinly slice the flesh. boil for two minutes in a big pot of heavily salted water (this supposedly helps them crisp up later), then spray or brush with oil and seasoning and bake. super simple and YUMMY delicious. squashes with long thin necks work really well for making round chips, but you can make them any shape. you can also cut them thicker to make squash fries, which i highly recommend as well.

since i was already chopping stuff, i decided to keep going and cleaned up ingredients for our favorite potato and vegetable soups as well (thirteen or fourteen vegetables simmered in broth? you cannot find a better tonic for what ails you).

and then, to complete the picture, i pulled some of our summer tomatoes out of the freezer and cooked a batch of tomato soup. i am always on a quest for just the right flavor—like campbell’s but better; not like tomato sauce, which is all wrong for soup. but i never get it; what am i doing wrong? this time i tried mushroom stock and a touch of vinegar at the end, but it’s still not what i’m looking for.

anyway, by the end of the weekend i had something like thirty quarts of soup in multi-sized containers to freeze, ready for quick suppers and lunches of leftovers.

when i had a break between batches or while one of them was simmering, i swatched for the pullover’s cablework detail. i think i showed you this first version last week; i learned a lot about what i need to do and it’s almost what i was looking for, but i feel it lacks depth and dimension at the very center front.

i cast on first thing last friday morning, aiming to inject more stitches faster so i could cable sooner and create that depth i was lusting for.

this kind of task takes lots of knitting, ripping, and reknitting, but i enjoy the challenge; i rarely tire of starting over. ok yeah, i guess i’m just a terrier when i get close to obtaining the results i want. grrr.

by noon it was looking good, but the more complex part was still ahead.

it was late afternoon before i could really see what i had and even then, it was scarily contracted and rumply looking. i was nervous that A) no matter how many extra stitches i inserted, it would always pinch and B) that even if i got it to block out, it would always want to shrink back. these are both valid concerns!

i soaked it well and pinned it out, stretching pretty vigorously to get the cable shape i wanted. i did not steam it, but that would certainly help. for now i just wanted to know if i was on the right track.

and it looked good; i pinned it up on the dress form to check the way it hangs and while it’s hard to tell with no seams securing it, it seems to work. there is inset body shaping that would eliminate those folds under the bust and help support the neckline. maybe a few small tweaks, but i was ready to start charting.

here it is pinned more at the height that i actually want it to land—i’m aiming for something a bit more sexy and not so sporty, so i want the neck a little lower. not plunging, but low enough to be dressy. low enough for a bit of cami lace to show out the top. low enough to maybe even drop off the shoulder a bit if one so desired.

later today i plan to steam this swatch well, then re-soak to see how that blocked shape holds up; it should be pretty malleable with some steam, which also serves to reshape in a semi-permanent way.

the pink rubber rings at the center of my actual sweater front are placed to mark the start of the cable feature, once my chart is ready—i better get back to it now!

it’s a little chilly at my desk, which faces out a west window, but i’m raring to go. and look, it’s begun to snow yet again; a good day to have indoor activities planned. feel free to substitute indoor beer lifts, of course.

our little pal cardigan continues to make progress in our quest for bonding. last week on a fine weather day, he played in the yard several times at catching the hotdogs bits i tossed from the window.

it is so entertaining to watch him come forward when he thinks i’m going to toss one and then retreat with lightening speed to eat it and watch for more at a distance. still, it was an interaction.

while still not allowing anyone to come very near in person, i feel like we are getting close to taking him indoors. and he definitely knows me by sight, smell—i’m the hotdog person (i just need a hat).

i know—i’m becoming one of those dog people, haha. eh, sue me.

knitting landscape

Posted on 14 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, lace/shawls, projects

back in november and december when the temperatures were well below freezing and it looked like the winter ahead might be rough, i decided i needed a warmer oversized sweater—something in a heavier weight. my fingering and sport weight sweaters get the most year-round wear and those knit in our lofty BNWs are especially cozy, but when the temps hit the teens and below, i reach for DK and worsted weight ones.

since i hadn’t yet knit myself something with our stone soup DK in the marble shade, i pulled six skeins and sat down to design a cardigan along the lines of my caïssa or my dock and cabin designs—longer, easy-fitting, and textured.

i swatched a few stitch patterns, picked one that i liked and, as we set off to spend thanksgiving with my mom, i cast on for one of the sleeves. i knit maybe three-quarters of that first piece during the trip but once we got back home, the project was laid aside as the work on the winter ensemble picked up and the deadline for another sweater design drew near. with not much knitting time to spare over the next few weeks, my cozy sweater languished a while, sadly.

it ended up well, though—the time away gave me a chance to choose and chart up a large cable pattern to place along the front edges. the sinuous background texture and the branched cable gave me the idea to call the design birches. and in the marble shade, it is the color of white birches, one of my favorite trees.

during christmas week, anxious for some time off to knit, i settled back in with this project and enjoyed some progress—working with lofty, soft stone soup DK on size 8US (4.5 mm) needles, i was able to gain inches in a single sitting, which was just what i needed.

i was liking the front panel an awful lot—the large cable segued to simple, lush ribbing at about chest height and once i got to the shoulder, i began to muse about turning the lapel into a shawl collar.

i threw that out on instagram and wow—the response was immediate and unanimous. shawl collar it is. the shaping didn’t even require much experimentation; it practically knit itself, for which i was awfully glad. i know it looks weird, but when you bend it and stitch it down . . .

shawl collar origami!

in january ensemble once again cut into my knitting time considerably, but with just this one project on the needles, i was still able to make progress through a second front.

then, shortly after the last ensemble piece rolled out and the club patterns were done and dusted, i gave myself a couple of knitting days to catch my breath and by that sunday morning, i had a satisfying stack of completed pieces. i was truly going to stop there and write a long overdue blog, but the call of the steam iron was too strong and i caved (sorry blog, next time i will be stronger).

could not resist of shot of the strange and wonderfully shaped front piece.

it actually took a bit longer than i’m used to spending, but was so worth it—as the sun was setting, i folded up the last blocked piece. would i be able to resist seaming them that night??

no i would not (i am so weak).
actually we did go to a movie too, but i spent the rest of the evening grafting my collar and seaming. another advantage of a looser knit sweater on big needles—seaming is super easy.

now this cardigan could be shorter (i will probably offer two lengths), worn loose and overlapping, or belted, or you could add buttons. i like buttons, so what i did was to add three eyelet buttonholes for public buttons on the right side, secreted away in the rolled edge and one buttonhole on the opposite side to secure an inside button. my thinking was that the buttonholes don’t show, so even if i decide to wear it open or belted, they would be tucked away out of sight.

i finally got around to giving this one a good soaking bath the other day. the toggles i ordered had arrived and i wanted to put that final touch on.

i have a choice of these kind of flattish ones made from horn . . .

which have a bit of warm brown along with the charcoal

or these antler tip toggles (i even have a choice of colors with these)

these are more true gray with streaks of a lighter, yellowy color and they are round rather than flat.

what do you think? i’m leaning toward the flatter ones because i like the contrast, but either one is really good-looking.

i don’t have modeling shots yet; every time i think about doing them, i feel like i’m just not looking my best right then, haha.

i still have to finish writing up the pattern and then send it through tech editing; i’m thinking that once it’s all done, it will be truly spring and this sweater won’t be in such demand. so we’ll probably save it for a fall release, maybe during rhinebeck month. we’ll see . . . one thing is for sure, i am going to knit another one of these from our cabécou brillant sport—i have been drooling over this yarn since we first received it in the sel gris shade and now i’ve found its match. can’t you just picture that collar in our minky mohair cabécou  or chebris blend??

gosh i just ran on and on about that project, sorry . . . i think i’ll hold off on sharing more right now because there is at least that much to say about my current couple of projects.

i’ll leave you dreaming about deliciously juicy mega cables.

what’s up, pup?

Posted on 10 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden


hello friends; i know it’s been far too long and i hardly deserve your attention, but i hope you’ll enjoy catching up for a bit? and holy cow, get a load of our daffodils; are they crazy-big, or what?

what a month! the last time we had a real post was when david unveiled the updated blog by telling you about our new friend. i want to update you on him first thing because i know many of you are animal lovers and were concerned about him.

during christmas week, this feral dog took up residence on our compost pile where it’s actually pretty cozy if he burrows down into the loose leaves. don’t get us wrong—we did  not WANT him sleeping out in the cold, but he seemed to prefer that over being near people and we didn’t want to scare him off to parts unknown by not letting him sleep there.

over the past eight weeks, we’ve been slowly, slowly gaining his trust by feeding and making a calm, safe place for him to hang out. he’s pretty relaxed in all ways except when humans come near. we love watching him; we’ve set up a dog cam inside the window to get a sense of his habits and eating times; you can watch a video of him on our youTube channel if you like! (it’s about five minutes long)

it took several weeks to get him to eat what i put out at all; he was so mistrustful. i even tried roasting off some plain turkey legs with carrots and sweet potatoes for him, but he wasn’t having any of that, thank you—into the freezer it went for a future time; i’m sure the day will come when he’ll be happy to have it.

as you can imagine, i’ve been secretly thinking of names for him because i love finding just the right one, haha; i decided to call him cardigan and david agreed it was a good name. i know it’s silly, but the dog is just so grampa-looking don’t you think, with that funny face of his? like a shawl-collared sweater. and if you take a look at the 7th earl of cardigan, well, he bears and uncanny resemblance.

our cardigan now feeds from a bowl much closer to the house and on good days, he allows me to get a bit closer, talk to him, and even began approaching me tentatively a few times. believe me, it’s not because i’m irresistible—he knows i bring hotdogs; what’s not to love? (thank you kade, for recommending that strategy!).

our neighbors are helping out by not feeding him randomly; we hope this will persuade him to come “home” to eat most meals. we set up a shelter crate for him but so far he’s not interested. he does roam the neighborhood throughout the day but sleeps here every night. he is generally well liked—no one has reported aggressive or annoying behavior from him, not even barking. we hope that we’ll be able to contain him within a the next week or two; after all these years, we are going to have a doggy, how about that?

i also had a birthday which went by quick, as we were still rolling out our winter 2017 ensemble collection at the time, but was lots of fun. david baked a gluten free chocolate cake that was deLISH and we went to pittsburgh for the afternoon and evening to visit the andy warhol museum.

in other new news, we are once again welcoming a new member into our human family—james and diana had another baby boy last week, jonah gray, arriving three weeks early with the spring weather.

isn’t he a sweet pea? and at eight pounds, i bet his mom is glad he WAS early, haha.

the rollout of ensemble and the start of our new bare naked knitspot 2017 club made my life crazy for a while, with plenty to do every minute between christmas and mid-february. we even produced a whole new yarn for that first shipment. saying that really makes me wonder A) about our sanity at times and B) where did we fit it all in??

but i’m SO glad we did because i just love the results—smoothie—a slow gradient fade of natural shades in a 2-ply sport weight alpaca/merino blend.

while the color range is the same for the entire batch, each skein is different and random—you never know how the colors in a particular skein will collide and play out.

some have a little contrast and are more subtle while others have more contrast and color changes. some are slightly more gray in tone and some are more chocolatey.

the club designs are an asymmetrical crescent shawl and a coordinating scarf. single dip members (full membership) can make their choice of one piece and double dip members (full membership + extra yarn) can knit one of each in the small size or a larger shawl or a stole size of the scarf. these designs are only available through the club for the next six months; you have to join to have access to them.

once the secret was out about this shipment, there were a flurry of new club signups and this yarn is flying out the door. but we still have a few spots left and will make room if you decide to join now!

and i’ll just add this—i’m almost MORE excited about the next shipment, which will go out in april. it’s a fiber i have wanted to feature in the club forever and just today while i was talking with erica about it, a new design idea popped into my head for the yarn that i can’t wait to start. i’m wiggling in my seat just thinking about it. ok, i better stop now before i give something away . . .

anyway, with all that high energy action in the late fall and winter, i had to take a little time afterward to regain my wits, knit, work on some designs, and fritter away my time (AKA swatching) a little more than usual.

i’ve been playing around with cables, some lace, and knitting on some designs for next fall and winter, but also for this summer. i know, i have my seasons all mixed up, but i’m chalking that up to the insanely changeable winter we’re having; one day it’s freezing and i want to knit cozy cardigans and the next it’s in the 70s and summer tops are my desire.

it has made me feel very erratic and scattered lately, but i’m going to organize all that progress now and write up a separate post for you to read on friday. til then!

dock and cabin

Posted on 9 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, patterns

i’m excited—today is the day that we’re releasing my very favorite design of this winter’s ensemble collection: dock and cabin cardigan, knit in stone soup fingering yarn.

this replica of one of my oldest and dearest sweaters, which i designed and knit back in the 1990s, has been several years in the making.

originally knit in morehouse merino 2 ply sport yarn, i had planned to reknit it many times, and even bought the yarn once, but always put it off in favor of more urgent projects.

i think i sort of doubted my ability to recreate it exactly, or that reknitting it might not reproduce the magic of a sweater i loved so much.

it’s not that i didn’t have a pattern—i did—meticulously handwritten notes for every step of the process (being that it was designed and knit before computers were a fact of life). i just knew there were some challenging parts that i wasn’t sure would translate to a range of sizes or that i could even reknit successfully again in one size.

then my dear friend stone soup fingering came into my life and after knitting one favorite sweater with it, i knew i had to reknit my old favorite in it too (and of course, it would be luscious in better breakfast fingering or ginny sport as well!). i pulled five skeins in color pumice and set to work.

once i got started, my confidence in my dog-eared, handwritten pattern solidified and i was off to the races. the details i worried over actually came together very well—i remembered a lot more than i thought i would.

i won’t lie, an oversized cardigan like this entails a lot of knitting, but with little fit or shaping involved, it’s easy to settle into a rhythm with a fun stitch pattern to watch unfurl, some cabling to keep it goal oriented, and the knowledge that a wearable beauty would be mine at the end.

and the fabric was just what i had hoped—very much like the original, but now in our own yarn. this size weighs just 17 ounces—not bad at all for a good sized slouchy sweater. i love it so much i am already contemplating another; just have to decide which yarn to use . . . or maybe the same yarn in a different shade—i love it that much.

let’s talk a bit about the sizing and fit, because you might be surprised to see that there are just three sizes, with a wide spread of measurements for each. this garment is intended to be oversized—i wear mine with approximately twelve inches of ease. that said, each size will accommodate more than one size person, so my small/medium sample looks equally great on turner, alex, barb, cherie, and cynthia, though we all wear different sizes in a sweater with a more traditional fit.

the fabric of this sweater is very light and airy, so it drapes against the body beautifully—i.e., all that extra ease does not add poundage the way a stiffer fabric with more body would do. also, while this is a drop-shoulder style, i still added some armhole shaping and a sloping sleeve cap, so as not to end up with a lot of extra fabric under the arms, the way a straight, boxy drop-shoulder sweater would have.

it’s still plenty roomy so that you can wear a heavy shirt or use it as a jacket over layers, but the shaping makes the fabric fall around our curves and not bunch up in bulky folds.

and it looks great on guys as well—a totally sharable knit, should you be so inclined. for everyone who told me they were awaiting this pattern, i hope you’ll start one soon and share with us in our ravelry group! this is wonderful knit for long winter evenings and snow days . . .