Archive for May, 2010

life’s a bowlful of berries

Monday, May 31st, 2010

i know i said i’d be here this morning and here it is 10 pm or whatever—sorry!
i had some computer issues earlier on (some kind of software conflict or other) and i really needed to work outside today, so i bagged the deskwork in favor of the garden.

and look what i got, haha; our first measurable crop of strawberries.
i was so tickled with the bunch that i posed them in a variety of bowls for photos. do you think that makes me a garden geek?

do we care??

ok, i know you’re waiting to see who won the book, but can i just say?? that was a stunning number of comments, you guys; i wish there was a copy for each of you (well, there is, but 571 of you will have to pay for it or get it as a gift, sorry)

the winner is: YARNDUDE
and you know what? i’m really glad it’s ending up with him, because when i went to his blog to see what he’s up to, it turns out that this week he’s graduating from college, too. so it’s sort-of a nice reward for a worthy effort, don’t you think?

in fact, let’s give him some berries, too . . .

(i promise, that’s the last one for a while, hehe)

BTW, the reason i don’t have stitchionary 4 is because that is the crochet volume and i don’t really crochet much at all any more. i have enough crochet dictionaries for my purposes.

many thanks to sixth&spring books for their generous giveaway; we really appreciate it.

so yeah, i needed to work outside today and if felt appropriate—nothing like a national holiday for getting away form my desk and spending time in the garden.

it’s been twelve days since i planted all the seeds i wanted and the results so far are mixed. shallots, chard, and other greens seem to have sprouted well and are off to a nice start. beets are a little spotty, but not too bad; i think we’ll end up with as many of those as we need.

okra, carrots, and parsnips are a wash—i dunno what happened but the showing isn’t very good. same for green beans (and really, what could be easier to grow than green beans??)

but there you have it; just three or four plants so far. i reseeded each of these vegetables a little more heavily in a row lying just parallel to the original row (in case the first sowing does make an appearance).

hopefully that will work and this little guy will soon have some mates. i’m too paranoid to wait and see . . . it seems in our garden that there is a prime time for seedlings to take off and if i wait til later in june, it won’t happen.

meanwhile, all the plants i put in as starts are going great guns—my squash, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are getting big and beginning to flower. hey—even the asparagus are coming up; every one of them, from what i can see. just think—this could be the beginning of success.

on the other side of the fence, our red rambler has broken into a shower of large, sexy blooms in the last day or two—really spectacular, especially in the morning light. it’s been very hot and muggy this week, which i didn’t notice as much out at the fairgrounds as i did at home this morning (you can see how hazy the sky is in the picture).

there was a good reason for the intense heat and closeness—within minutes of snapping that rose picture

the heavens opened and poured down the kind of rain we only see here in the midwest—with all the shrieking fun stuff that goes with it. we needed it so badly—all that standing water you see was absorbed into the ground in very short order

that meant a hiatus from the garden, at least for a bit, so i went back to my desk and sorted photos from my weekend to share with you.

this was the weekend of our annual regional sheep and wool show—and this year i taught classes on both days of the event.

this is from sunday’s finishing class, which was a LOT of fun and really productive

just look at them go—nothing like a row of stitchers hard at work, if you ask me, haha. we did blocking, too and learned some new tips and tricks for wrestling those finishing projects into submission. on saturday we did sweater fitness all day and though i have no photos (bad me), i can assure you it was equally fun.

jocelyn and her SIL, geri came out for our event and we were thrilled to accompany her through her first sheep and wool event. obviously, wool fumes do wonders for her . . .
(geri has a blog, too, but i can’t seem to find it, even on jocelyn’s blogroll; hmm)

i even have evidence that jocelyn planned to blog her experiences here.

i managed to get outside the classroom long enough to spend time with her and my spinning class—look at them; do they look innocent to you??

(if you said no, you’d be right)

apparently, i cannot stay out of trouble either, no matter how many pep talks i give myself while standing on front of my all-too-full fiber closet. in the process of helping jocelyn select and buy her first raw fleece, i managed to agree to “split it” with her.

we couldn’t resist—it was a gorgeous coopworth AND it won best in show. 15 minutes before the fair closed, we were perched like heckle and jeckle at ten paces with one eye on the fleece, maturely discussing how we’d sleep on the decision and come back in the morning.

then, a woman approached OUR FLEECE the object of desire with hands excitedly outstretched and we lost it. we ran over and secured the sale.
we may have shouted.

the woman turned out to be the producer who raised this fleece and her excitement was all about winning the prize. we weren’t even embarrassed—just relieved.
we are SO lame . . .

but we have the fleece, hehe; well done, joce . . .

after we recovered our composure and became ourselves again, we headed over to the briar rose booth to pick up chris and christy for dinner. we spent an all-girls evening on the olde jaol house patio, gratefully downing food and spirits.

chris gave each of us a pretty skein of her new cashmere yarn—it’s positively dreamy.

back home, i hardly did any knitting this weekend—just a bit at night before collapsing into bed. i worked on my secret project one night for a little while, then moved on to my little shawlette for TV knitting

it’s knitting up very quickly; i’m on the second repeat of the hem section. and it gets smaller as it goes, so i don’t anticipate this being on the needles very long—i might have to knit a second one.

last night, after the show was over, i swore i would just knit easy stuff that did not require a brain. but then i got thinking about my next baby blanket in fearless fibers MCN luxury and how much i wanted to get it on the needles.

so i finished up the chart i had underway and cast on—just like that. i figured, it could be my second swatch and i think it’s working out ok.

i’ve got rosebuds and a corner panel i love . . . and don’t even get me started about how much i like the yarn—it’s perfect—lightweight, soft, and such a cheery color.

this morning when my computer froze for the 13th or 27th time, i walked away to work eight more rows and closed off the starting point at the center, just to make myself feel better (it worked).

(we’ve been having an issue with carbonite; we love the backup system, but it doesn’t play well with our apple system software, grr)

so that’s about it for knitting . . . actually, that’s a lot more than i felt like i got done this weekend, considering. we did get out to do some garden work toward evening; it was a little wet, but not too bad. we put down the soaker hoses and got half the mulch down as well, before it started raining again (it was also getting dark).

it was really a rather piecemeal day, but very productive, too. i like that.

it’s supposed to be fairly nice tomorrow afternoon and evening so i’m planning on getting the mulch finished; it looks like we have a week or so of rain ahead, so it would be prudent to get out there and get it done.

we might need to energize ourselves for that with some strawberry shortcake

in stitches over it

Friday, May 28th, 2010

i love books. we have lots of them in our home.
a lifetime of studying knitting has led to owning lots of knitting books (and magazines and pattern leaflets . . . ah me).

my knitting library was largely acquired the old-fashioned way, by shopping in used bookstores and rifling through giveaway bins and trash boxes outside of used bookstores; there was a time when they couldn’t give old knitting books away. except to me, apparently—the geeky knitting person without a budget, who was always good for carting off unsellable books.

anyway . . . i was lucky to find lots of good (to me) things at cheap prices and able to feed my lifelong obsession with passion for stitch dictionaries this way

i guess if i had to say that just one thing was my muse, it would be stitch patterns.
stitch patterns are the reason i wanted to learn to knit and they continue to amuse, amaze, and inspire me. my stitch dictionaries are scattered all over the house, like most people would have magazines—coffee tables, desks, bookshelves, bedstands, the dinner table—wherever i might need one for reference (hey, you never know)

and in recent years, i’ve even managed to add brand new specimens to my collection. those i keep shelved, where they will stay in good shape. for me, they have aesthetic appeal displayed as a set.

this collection of beautiful stitch dictionaries from vogue knitting are an example; i like that they all match in size and shape. they are beautifully produced with good photos of well-knit swatches. i use them pretty frequently, but carefully—it’s sort of a “sunday best” set of dictionaries, which i “save for good” (go ahead, laugh; i would, if i were you).

i was recently pleased to see that a new volume was being added to this series, one that i have long thought they should add

so, when sixth&spring books asked if i’d be interested in receiving a copy of vogue knitting stitchionary 5, i was like, are you kidding?? knitspot readers will love this and my other three stitchionaries will have a new sibling, yay!!
(i didn’t say that last part to them; at least, i hope i didn’t . . .).

this new volume of lace stitches is equally well-produced with beautiful photos and layout. each stitch is represented with a chart AND written instructions, which i’m really grateful for. so, while most of the stitches appear (uncharted) in books i already own, having them charted is a big bonus for me and would tip the scales in favor of adding this book to my library if i had to buy it.

the layout and clarity of the material is also a big draw—each stitch has its own, clear space and the charts are generously sized. the book sits open on its own. i have one tiny criticism . . . some of the swatches were knit in a very dark blue colorway and unfortunately, those photographs do not show the patterns as well as the swatches in lighter yarn (it seems to be a matter of lighting, but i’m no pro). they are not terrible and were used pretty sparingly, though; most of the swatches throughout the book are very clearly descriptive.

even the ackowledgements page at the back has something to love

tana (our wizard tech editor) has participated in knitting for this production.

vogue knitting stitchionary 5 is a definite keeper for me; i know i’ll refer to it often.

now it’s time for it to join the rest of the stitchionary family—they have a lot to talk about.

now here’s the bonus for those of you who are staying home this weekend and will see this post: if you’d like to receive a copy of vogue knitting stitchionary 5 for your very own, sixth&spring books will send the book one lucky winner. leave a comment at the end of this post some time before 9 pm on sunday, may 30th. i’ll ask david to draw one name and announce the winner on monday morning as a little holiday gift.

starts

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

yay, we have sprouts.
several of the rows of seeds i planted last thursday are showing signs of life, as expected, the rapini was the first to germinate and generously so. i know i say this every year, but if you haven’t ever gardened before, or are showing a newbie how to grow things, rapini (or broccoli raab) is one of the most gratifying greens to begin with. typically this vegetable is an acquired taste, but we find that growing our own produces greens that retain their unique flavor without the bitterness (in fact, they are very sweet; i’m eating some right now from last year’s garden as my lunch).

the other night while we were knitting, susie mentioned that her hydrangeas were covered with buds, so i went on a detour to see what was happening with mine.

indeed, there is a bud on almost every branch of every shrub—fabulous news, as last year they got frostbitten and produced almost no flowers.

i noticed last week that they were looking especially full and green, even the row of scraggly ones we have at the front of the yard. i’ve despaired over that row of shrubs for several years, because they were supposed to fill out to be six feet across and as yet, have not (my dreams of a hydrangea hedgerow are struggling to stay alive with them).
i began fertilizing them last year on a more frequent basis and i think it’s helped; they look like they might finally gain a little height and width this season. and if they flower, it will be a big bonus.

banks of iris blooms are lining the yard this week—david seems to have gone to town in planting them everywhere, unbeknownst to me. they are really lovely, thank you david!

it’s been a perfect week of weather; hot and sunny with everything still a fresh, crisp green. we’ve been getting out every day for bike riding, which feels great after sitting at my desk all day. david scouted out a few new routes that i really enjoy, on country roads away from the traffic (which has increased since we first moved here). it’s a good change, since the new routes are a bit longer, prettier, and much less stressful to ride.

i’m getting ready for a few upcoming teaching dates by getting some new small projects on the needles to travel with and squaring away the charting for a few bigger ones to work on when i’m home.

i’ll be teaching at the great lakes fiber show this weekend (sweater fitness and finishing); there is still room for signups if you’ll be in the area and can make it (it’s a great deal and they will take signups right up to the day of classes).

after a few days at home, i’m excited to be heading next weekend to ontario, canada for a week to visit the kitchener-waterloo area. i’ll teach at shall we knit? and then adjudicate the kitchener-waterloo guild knitting show, which focuses on lace this year. just afterward, i’ll head up to toronto to teach at the purple purl for a couple of days.

as soon as i get home from canada, i’ll turn around the next day and head for TNNA—no teaching there, just business and networking with peers. but busy, that’s for sure. it will be nice to land back home in mid-june, where i’ll stay put for a bit . . .

soooo, traveling projects are needed. i did a little swatching with some possible yarns and stitch patterns and here’s what i came up with.

a little lace scarf in a stitch pattern that’s a bit like the one i used for caricia, but different.

i pulled out some enchanted knoll 50/50 merino/silk lace yarn and it worked a treat. i love the way the deep ocean colors of this queen mermaid colorway run over the pattern.

i cast on right away so that it’s all set to go when i am. you’ll be seeing more in the next couple of weeks . . .

then i cast on for another small project that i’m really happy about

you know i love little triangle shawls and this yarn has been begging to become one, ever since i received it last year from dani at sunshine yarns. this skein of her sunsilk in colorway mustard seed has been wound and sitting in the basket near my knitting chair for quite some time, waiting for me to make the right idea come together. it’s a rich, silk 2-ply lace/fingering yarn with a gorgeous sheen (like the sun itself is inside it); it handles really well and makes a lovely fabric. well, i finally came across just the right stitch the other day and 1-2-3, a triangle scarf was born (i have just one skein, so mine is a scarf, but the pattern will be sized for bigger as well).

it’s got all of those qualities i like in a summer project—an easy-to-work pattern with a lot of bang for the buck, small enough to tote around, easily memorized so i’m not chained to the chart. it starts at the hem and i’ve got ten rows completed; i’ll show you more details when that pattern shows a little more (i love the hem edge already!).

next i swatched a pattern you might recognize from the delicato mitts—i’ve always felt i did not get enough of that pattern from knitting the mitts and wanted to use it again, but i also feel that for me, it is best expressed in a certain kind of colorway.

then susan sent me this incredible skein of her nimbus cloud lace yarn, a soft alpaca/cashmere/silk blend that is simply to die for. this colorway is lilac frost, similar to the lilac swirl she has currently listed. i’m looking forward to knitting this up; i haven’t cast on yet, but soon . . .

i have a secret project on the needles that i’m making very good progress with (but what do you care; you can’t see it, right? i don’t blame you . . ) and another i just received the yarn for, that i’ll need to get on the needles right away (and now that i see the yarn, i’m not sure my original plan will work; wish me luck).

before i stop to go a bike riding before spinning class, let me show you something fabulous as a closer. for some time, our dear dear friend karolyn has been working away on a project with me to fill in some gaps in the knitspot traveling shawl museum trunk show.

(well, to be honest, she’s doing all the work and i’m just sending yarn and art-directing, heh.)

anyway . . . the other day i got a wonderful box with five completed shawls. okay, so let me just put that in perspective: i sent a big box of yarn to her the first week of march and this week i got five shawls in the mail. she also knit like, two sweaters and a couple of other shawls for herself during that time.

has your head stopped spinning yet??

anyway, one of the goals of doing this project is to show off some of the indie yarns that have been hiding in my stash for too long. so many incredible artists send yarn, more than i can knit by myself, even though i want to use them all. when i saw we needed replacements for shawls i’d given away, i thought this would be a good way to show off those yarns and get them out in front of an audience. as they arrive from karolyn, they will be added to the trunk show and also featured here, one by one.

and with no further ado, here is the new hypoteneuse.

this wrap is one of my all-time favorites—my eye is always arrested by its strict, formal pattern and simplicity. originally knit in handspun tweed as a gift for david (the very first manLace we did), here it is with a fresh look in oasis, a scrumptious 50/50 camel/silk blend from the woolen rabbit.

we are looking at colorway hot toddy and let me tell you, it is luscious. the fabric is dense, fluid, and extremely light. positively lust-inspiring.

it is super-soft, yet has great stitch definition. this easy-to-knit lace piece has been a perennial favorite ever since its first publication; it makes a great first-lace project or an entertaining TV project for experienced knitters. worked in a tweed, it is rustic; in a smooth solid it has a sleek elegance.

many thanks to karolyn for knitting it and to kim for providing the beautiful yarn—thank you both from the bottom of my heart; you should both get flowers

we will feature each piece on a different day as we can; i can’t wait to show you more.

campanula scarf

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

ready for something sheer and weightless to knit as the warm weather approaches? this pretty lace scarf is all whispers and light—hardly a thing to it, but the sum of it’s delicate parts makes a stunning effect. the intricate mass of campanula flower shapes belies the simplicity of the pattern—easy to knit and take along, it’s a project to tuck into a purse or pocket when you’re on the go.

shown here in great northern yarns cashmere lace yarn, colorway cherry blossom—the perfect pink, fresh and sophisticated.

to purchase pattern or view complete pattern information, please click here to visit the product page in the knitspot pattern shop.

and just look how pretty my friend beckie is—she doesn’t need a pink scarf to be fabulous, but she can work it.

on saturday, we took a trip to lily of the valley herb farm for a photo shoot on saturday with our buddy kian in tow . . .

who was delighted to find a new friend right away

he says, “i like the bunny, but meemaw is prettier!”

(i have to agree)

in between raindrops, we explored the gardens and ponds

a beautiful, kid-friendly setting with masses of herb gardens in flower, in addition to the greenhouse and shop.

we made some plant purchases (beckie bought thornless blackberry bushes) and browsed the herbal soaps and tonics

while the rain poured down outside.

kian found some dead bugs for me to photograph

which i was happy to do (he was being really, really good). they were a bit dusty but none the worse for wear . . .

after that, we headed home for lunch and naps (yes, me too; i slept for hours).

kudos to craig of great northern yarns” on his gorgeous new 100% mongolian cashmere yarns. if you haven’t been to his site, you should go—he has stunning yarns in unusual fibers and his customer service is unsurpassed. (plus, he’s generous and kind and we love that!)
you can find craig on ravelry, too and join his group there (kim moderates that group, so you know it’ll be fun)

my friend beckie is such a great sport and a wonderful model, too—thank you beckie for taking the time to help me out this weekend with these gorgeous photos.

and finally, many thanks to lily of the valley herb farm for allowing us to use their lovely setting as a backdrop for the photography (the scarf says it wants to live there when it grows up).