Archive for August, 2010

weekending at the speed of light

Monday, August 30th, 2010

the bumper crop of hydrangeas we happened to achieve this summer is drying now and i’m enthralled with the colors—the vivid blues and lavenders of july have faded into a mottled browny rose, tinged with green. just lovely.

i’m not one to gather dried flowers to keep over the winter (just another dustcatcher for my house), but if i were, this would be the year i’d do it. they’d almost be enough to detract attention from the loathesome wallpaper in our so-called “dining room” (no one will be happier than me to see that stuff go, some day).

linda already put dibs on a bunch to take home next week and i think i’ll gather some to give to my friend susie, who seems to enjoy keeping them in view through the cold months.

i can’t believe another week has begun again—even though my calendar tells me it’s been four days since i posted, the weekend went by in a 5-minute blur, i swear.

that said, i was extraordinarily lucky to knit the whole day on friday—i can’t even remember the last time i got to do that. and i made the most of it.

i finished up my helebores lace beret on thursday evening and immediately put it in a bath to soak. right off the needles, it was tiny and the lace was bunched up quite a bit, obscuring the curves of the pattern.

afterward, the yarn softened and the lace opened up an spread out enough that it was exactly the size i’d hoped for—not too big, not too small. i didn’t actually stretch and pin it, because i wanted to keep some texture and a “natural” feel to the fabric. i just pushed it out with my hands like a pizza dough to the shape i wanted, reshaping it periodically as it dried (which took all of a couple of hours in this dry weather).

this morning i snapped a few pictures of it on my head (maybe a little too soon after waking up; excuse my puffy face, haha).

this is so exactly what i was aiming for that i can hardly believe i got there, considering all the issues i had with it at the start. it’s small, but with enough dimension not to look silly. it stays in place really well because it fits more closely to the head, like the top of an acorn.

it’s nice and soft after its bath—i love how miss babs yet lace yarn washed up; the silk/merino feels lovely. and the outback colorway perfectly fits the idea i was going for. it’s not supposed to be a warm hat (it’s lace, it has holes, after all), but just a little something to keep the drafts off or keep one’s hair in place during the fall and spring. i plan to use it indoors in winter—i have wished for an indoor hat for several winters now and i think this is the one. yay.

now to come up with a matching accessory—what do you think? wristlets? neckwarmer? some sort of scarf (maybe a criss-cross model)? i’m all ears . . . anything that would take about 250-ish yards that is not mitts (i don’t think this stitch pattern will work for mitts, since it’s a bias motif).

sigh . . . i’m happy.

with that off the needles, i turned to the much anticipated front of my vintage shirt—which i’ve decided to name Bel Air—after the car and the los angeles suburb. i think that captures the rat pack style i’m going for here.

anyway, i cast on thursday night and started the hem ribbing. friday morning i picked up where i’d left off and knit exclusively on it all day while listening to a really good book.

by evening, i had it knit past the waist, ready to split for the placket. i’m crazy about the stitch pattern; i love the texture. it’ll really pop against all that stockinette fabric surrounding it. just look at the sunna yarn glow—it’s incredible

i’m trying something different with this sweater, because the shaping is particularly awkward to work with the stitch pattern. first, it’s asymmetrical. then, the instant you take away one or two stitches, you lose the ability to work any part of the pattern and it ends up with long runs of stockinette anyway. so, instead of taking the pattern all the way to the seam, i’m setting the patterned part in from the seam and working the shaped area in stockinette. much cleaner.

barb, who will be test knitting, totally agrees, haha (she got to see it yesterday during spinning class). so far, everything is knitting to gauge and going smoothly. once i have this piece done, i’ll block it out to the schematic measurements to be sure, then i can write the pattern and get that out to tana for grading and tech editing. yay. hopefully, barb will be able to start her samples by mid-september.

saturday was less productive on the knitting side but we got an enormous amount of other stuff done. david got up extra-early so i could drag him off to our farmer’s market for a pea vines photo shoot.

it was a gorgeous morning for it and we got some great pictures. we also stocked up on some local goodies, like corn, bread, and homemade noodles, and ran into a few friends, too.

we were home before 11am and took a few more shots in our own garden.

the pattern is almost ready and several test knitters have finished a successful sample, yay (go take a look at jocelyn’s pretty scarf-sized one, in woolen rabbit pandora, color lettuce; she’s already wearing it).
so i spent the rest of the day editing photos and working in the kitchen—i cooked up a big pot of tomatoes for puree, then dragged out all the produced i’d collected over the last part of the week and made a large batch of ratatouille (i had to buy the zucchini at the farmer’s market).

i put up a few quarts of puree and also made another batch of stuffed tomatoes, this time with a spicy filling of chick peas, chopped chard, and rice. i froze two bags of okra and dried a sheet of tomatoes as well. now we’re all set for the week, with a couple more meals tucked into the freezer for fall. yay.

that’s another new thing i’m trying this year—making fully-cooked dishes with some of fresh produce right off the bat. less tomato puree and more finished dishes, like sauce, soup bases, stuffed vegetables, casseroles, and stews. i’ll be really busy and traveling a lot in the coming months so i want to be prepared for good eating.

after that, i was pretty pooped and grateful to sit down again with some knitting, but found i was too tired to face the sweater for very long. so i actually got out an unfinished sock and worked on that for a while to rejuvenate, can you believe it?

i put this sock down sometime during may and haven’t looked at it since. i’ve taken it on a couple of trips in fact, but haven’t knit on it.
i’m ashamed, really . . .
but now i’m back on track, having got halfway down the foot on saturday night. soon it’ll be done and sitting on the men’s side of the sock shelf in my closet. once i finish that, i’ll look into starting a new design.

while we watched a late movie that night, i worked on the edging for the baby blanket—it doesn’t look all that different, so i won’t show another photo now, but i will say that last night, i rounded the third corner and am now heading the fourth side of the shawl—otherwise known as the homestretch. yay.

yesterday morning was spinning class, bright and early. i realized today that i’ve said nearly nothing about spinning all summer long. it’s happening, every week, but we’re all a bit lazy by sunday morning now and i forget to take pictures. everyone is about the same, but now there;s a bit hole where anne marie used to sit . . .

i’ve been working on the same batch of fiber most of the summer, but finally, it’s all spun up and i’m plying—i filled two ginormous bobbins yesterday and started a third; i think i’ll end up with a full three and then some of a fourth. this fiber is from beckie’s former flock of romneys, so it’s especially special

it’s been wonderful to spin, so soft and smooth to draft. i’ll be dying some of this for a winter knitting project that david and i have been planning for a while.

i couldn’t be happier, because once this romney is off the wheel, i’m going to set to work getting to know my new-ish norm hall better by spinning some lace yarn.

i’ve got a few different options in luxury fiber to choose from that i’ll be mulling over during this week. something very silky and fine, for sure . . .

and now it’s monday. back to work for me, hahaha.
i’m taking my mitts to class this afternoon to put in some time on them before they start to feel neglected. but before that, i think i’ll take advantage of the beautiful weather to get out on my bike.

it’s unmistakable

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

a week ago we were sweating through the evening, waiting breathlessly for a cool breeze to relieve the sticky heat of the day; blanket knitting was entirely out of the question.

this week, overcast and chilly, has brought a completely different air to the house—suddenly, it’s the end of summer and the signs are all around us; rich amber leaves are falling from trees and shrubs in round little piles along the walkways, the top quarter of the suger maple is bright gold, the kids are back in school, and evening falls all too early, especially on gloomy days like we’ve had this week. once the mail carrier switches to long pants, you know that summer is fleeing.

the toad lilies are blooming—like all of the flowers this year, they are more plentiful than in the past several seasons.

oh, we may have our warm fall days, but they are noticeably shorter and i’m pretty sure we’ve seen the last of the hot nights and humid afternoons. autumn is here . . .

and with it, the heavy-duty knitting commences.

rosebuddie, the thought of which made my skin prickle with rejection last week, is suddenly welcome on my lap and i spread it as far over my legs as i can manage while working the edging. that little bit of cashmere content in the MCN luxury yarn goes a long way to making it super-snuggly.

two sides done and the third begun—it’s getting there.

and i think the pattern is almost through proofing now, so we should be ready to release it pretty soon, yay. this is a wonderful fall and winter knit—the bright color is easy to see at night and the patterns are relaxing and simple enough to work while watching football or bike racing; what more could you ask from a big project?

i’m almost done with the second sleeve for the vintage shirt i’m knitting in spirit trail sunna. i just love the gorgeous bottle green colorway—i confess i’m probably wasting more time than necessary by stopping to admire the fabric, but c’est la vie. i’m just sorry i can’t provide you with a little feel . . . seriously, it’s crack for the soul. here’s a sample of what i’m talking about

i mean, how gorgeous is that stockinette? now, stocking stitch is easy to work, but it’s a mean and thankless taskmaster for integrity—it’s not many a yarn that will offer up such a perfectly consistent, smooth stockinette fabric. we are talking high-stakes knitting here, since so much of this sweater is an unbroken landscape of delicious stockinette. it’s gotta look good; you need a yarn that can stand up to the challenge. i’m glad i took my time and held out for the right yarn; it’s perfect.

and that’s not even getting into how nice it is to work with, how lovely it feels going through my hands—a big bonus when knitting plain fabric. i’m just dying to start the patterned front . . . i may even cheat a bit and knit the hem ribbing tonight so i’ll be all set to dive into texture when i finish the sleeve.

as i was saying last time, all of that stockinette can make me crazy after a bit, so i’ve been working on a few small fancy projects to keep things lively. i even finally resuscitated this lace beret i started in the spring and never finished (it got too hot for it to make sense).

it’s not that i lost interest—not at ALL; i really, really want a lace beret. but i had several false starts with this project and got frustrated that i might ruin the yarn before i hit on a good composition and size. and then the weather got very warm—that was the last straw.

we are looking at the beautiful merino/silk yet lace yarn from miss babs in colorway outback, a subtle combination of rich, warm hues that reminds me of hellebores.

so i wanted a motif that had the rounded, voluptuous shapes of that flower. a couple of patterns didn’t work out, then the sizing was all off and i thought that’s where i left the project—in need of complete reworking.

but the other night, in search of something different to knit for an hour or so, i unzipped the project bag containing this piece and found i had a plan in place and had the ribbed brim already knit—eureka! in my allotted hour, i knit the bottom part. yesterday morning i charted out the decreases for the top and last night, in another hour or so of knitting, i got almost to the end. talk about serendipitous surprises—this one takes the cake; i think this new version is just right.

i have some yummy sport in the same colorway to knit another sample and then i just have to figure out a matching accessory—maybe wristlets?—to go with it.

meanwhile, the fingerless mitts are progressing, though the progress may not be so evident. but i can now pull them onto my hand for a test of how they look

not much more to go on this one, actually.

what’s really missing (and leaving a big hole behind, i might add) is my sock mojo. i dunno if anyone has noticed, but i haven’t picked up a sock since june, when i finished two pair in quick succession for club deadlines. something about rushing out those last two pair has knocked my affection for socks back a step. and it’s showing

while i have piles of girl socks to spare (left side of shelf), my inventory of man socks it pitifully low and the season for them is right around the corner. when i saw my brother last weekend, he made noises about the socks he favors (my handknit ones) and david is always in need of a fresh infusion come november.

i know i have a couple in progress laying about, but i need to plan some new ones. i’m a little hard-pressed for fresh sock ideas, though. and my brother made it clear that his one pair of two by two rib ones are his favorite. just shoot me now.

at least there’s colorful yarn, right?

chillin’

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

not as in chillin’ out, but actually feeling chilly—temps here have dropped considerably since the weekend, with a gray sky to go with them. it’s in the 60s today and there is a definite feeling of fall in that air . . . just sayin’.

as promised, i have photos of my newly finished study to share. david got a lot of the heavier stuff installed and organized; now it just remains for us to hang some paintings and for me to tweak and put the last few things away (my credenza has always been perpetually cluttered, but going forward, i’m making a vow to keep it cleared).

i love the things in this room, many of them collected from the curb when i lived in brooklyn, or purchased cheaply from thrift stores and flea markets (can’t you tell, haha?). as we have the funds for it, we’ll get our furniture finds reupholstered, but for now, we just keep them very clean and enjoy the shabby textures. (the rug is not a found object; i bought it at rhinebeck two years ago for the third floor and found when i got home that it was too large for that bedroom and too small for the library. it’s just right for my study, though . . .).

my dad’s old desk look amazing—with years of darkened varnish and dust rubbed away and david’s special brand of TLC applied, it is a rejuvenated version of the piece we grew up with in our attic playroom.

the inside, which was formerly puddled with spilled model-building enamels and glues is now polished and smooth; the drawers are repaired to glide smoothly in and out. it still bears the deeper nicks and scrapes of a past enriched by child carpenters, mechanics, electricians, and pool sharks, but such are the wrinkles earned in a life well-lived and they are dear to me.

my favorite feature is the very old, wavery glass; i could look at that shimmery surface for hours. likewise with the windows throughout our house—the main reason we have not replaced them; i just couldn’t let go.

the effect is echoed on the walls, which are finished with david’s signature hand-burnished plaster and reflect any little amount of available light fill the room. we kept the woodwork light to enhance the effect—just a little limewax and elbow grease.

the front and back workrooms are connected by a short hallway, which makes it super convenient for me to grab supplies, yet ensures a desirable amount of separation from the mechanical clutter.

one space is for standing and moving work and one for sitting and thinking work (that one also doubles as an additional guest room). it’s nice to be able to accommodate both types of traffic flow (i’m a klutz and forever tripping over stuff if i don’t have a clear path).

once the renovation moves downstairs and the first floor gets torn apart room by room, i’ll have a quiet place to continue working.

the next project (and last room on the second floor) will be the main bath—a long awaited one. but while the weather is still good, david is going to tackle the sunroom and upstairs porches to get them looking their best.

our enclosed sun porch is a favorite summer hangout for us—this is where we eat our meals and sit with friends when the weather is nice. it has a great connection to the comings and goings of the neighborhood, minus the bugs. but it desperately needs a cleanup; he’s going to replace the ceiling and windows, polish the paint off the floor, and figure out a better solution for the entryways on each end (plywood inserts and aluminum doors, really??).

speaking of hanging out, instead of our usual sunday spinning class, we instead went to brunch to bid bon voyage to our dear friend anne marie, who is moving to the lancaster, PA area this week; BOO-HOO, we’re so bummed . . . but we already have plans in place to meet up with her a few times and she has made it completely clear that she wants to keep test knitting sweaters (thank goodness!).

anne marie has been a very special part of this wonderful class since we got it started and we’re going to miss her to pieces. i’m just grateful that we can all keep in touch easily these days . . .

and speaking of friends and keeping in touch, i received a nice gift from rustle, husband to my good friend janel. now, i’ve never met rustle (and that is soon to change), so i was especially touched by his kindness in sending me a new gadget he’s developing

the iFaraday stylus for iPhone/iTouch/iPad and other capacitive touch screen devices. i don’t text or email much from my iphone, but when i do, i struggle with the typing—my fingers are big and clumsy and i have to go slow to be accurate (and going slow is just not the way i roll).

i have an apple stylus, but it’s pretty useless—it just doesn’t work unless i pound on the screen. this little stylus is different; it’s quick and light and very accurate—just what i was jonesing for. i love it.

did i mention that it’s fast? it really is. this is the first product of its type that i’ve had the pleasure of working with (and there very well may be others like it), but it’s certainly a keeper for me—it’s going straight into my purse where i’ll clip it to the pocket i store my phone in. it’s just what i need when i’m on the go.

in other news (i know—all i’ve had today is other news), i celebrated the cool breezy weather by washing another load of sweaters

how’s that for a neat segue into knitting content?

because i spent a considerable amount of time getting ahead on patterns last week, i find myself with a little more knitting time this week. and with the much cooler nights, the rosebuddie blanket is now moving steadily toward completion.

we have edging, finally. i’ve finished one side of the edging over the last two evenings and if i set to work on it when i’m done here, i may get through another whole side this afternoon and evening.

i like this edging a lot. it’s an original pattern that i devised, using the motif from the main body of the blanket—tiny rosebuds surrounded in garter stitch with a simple eyelet join to the blanket hem.

by repeating a few elements from the larger piece, i think i’ve achieved the cohesion i like to see between border and body. now that the whole thing is rolling off the needles, one repeat at a time, we can see the composition so much better, too. here’s the view from the center out

just look at that chastity color—it might be chaste, but it’s unabashedly joyous, nonetheless; i’m still in love with it after all this time . . .

now of course karolyn has finished hers and since she’s working in colorway meadow, she’s sending her blanket along to me to be photographed. when it gets here, i’ll show it to you; it’s wonderfully different from mine, but still energetic and happy like a spring lawn.

ooooh, i just can’t resist giving you a little peek now—isn’t the limey-green just wonderful? a nice alternative to all that pink if pink isn’t so much your color (or the baby’s).

i’m tooling right along on the second sleeve of my vintage shirt. the spirit trail sunna yarn has got everyone here drooling—lovely, lovely stuff.

i’m working as fast as i can through this sleeve so i can get going on the patterned front piece. i would hold out and put that one off to the end if i wasn’t so curious about matching the gauge and confirming that my shaping will be right.

but still, all stockinette, all the time makes this knitter a dull girl, which has inspired some measurable progress on my fledgling mitt projects. they are the perfect thing when i need to knit just a few rows of something more involved.

lisa totally hit it on the nail when she (very enthusiastically) guessed that the pattern for this lavender mitt was adapted from the bougainvillea sock. i thought that a long, pair of these would set my niece to swooning. i’m using the same dream sox yarn i used for the sock, in a different colorway.

BTW, though dye dreams has been dissolved, stephanie plans to continue offering her hand-dyed yarns on her own. keep your eyes peeled for her new label, dirty water dyeworks.

and then, because one is never enough when it comes to fall fingerless mitts, and because my niece did request two pair, i took out a second ball of left over yarn to knit another pair.

this time in gray classy sox and based on the woodsmoke sock pattern (with a few adjustments). i’m so psyched—this is definitely a pattern i’ve always wanted to knit again, but haven’t for lack of time. mitts are the perfect way to relive the experience, in a shorter, quicker form. love that.

more on both those projects later; i have quite a ways to go before i’m done.
for now, i think i’ll take this chance to retire to my new knitting room and wile away the hours on the blanket edging . . . see you later.

food for thought

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

i think of this view in my garden as “tomato alley”. i can’t help but admire the plants for getting through the summer in such good shape; they are really holding their own against the usual suspects this year. as the end of the summer approaches, they continue to grow and produce lots, despite the awfully dry weather we’ve been having.

less than a month ago, before i left for knit nation, i took this photo from the second floor porch on a wet, rather gray morning.

i wanted to get an aerial view of the garden layout to remember for next year where i put everything (so as to rotate it sensibly next summer).

yesterday i took another, just to see how things have evolved over the last four weeks

wow, lots more dry and lots bigger. the angle of the sun is also different now; fall i approaching and the sun has moved to the right (or, well, the sun is where it always is, but we have moved to the left, i guess). sigh . . .

those very tall plants in the middle are okra—i can’t get over how big they get; some of them are as tall as i am now.

there’s not as much work to do out there as there was earlier in the summer; the weeds are very much under control, now that the plants are big enough to throw a lot of shade underneath. just a few to pull here and there.

i replanted a few new things to fill in spaces left by plants that are done—some squash plants and a new row of beets, which i planted in the space where the green beans didn’t germinate (again). i just wanted to see if the problem lay in the seeds or in the ground.

must’ve been the seeds. all the ones i bought from that company (okra, green beans, chard) were just so-so and required re-seeding; low germination from all of them. next time, i’ll stick with suppliers i’ve had better success with.

i did my last pruning a week ago and i don’t think i’ll need to do it again, unless those costolutos need one more haircut (very possible; they’ve been pretty high-maintenance).

i almost missed the entire blooming period of our gladiolas, which david planted for the first time this year. i noticed that we had them coming in before i left for london and by the time i returned there was just this one left (pout). these are an old-time favorite that reminds me of childhood; my mom planted them each year in her flower beds at home.

of course, less work to do out in the dirt does not mean we can sit back and put our feet up—there is plenty of garden-related work this time of the year.

every day or two i bring in a haul of stuff that requires washing, sorting, ripening, cooking, and processing, so that we have a full freezer by the time the frost hits (and many enjoyable meals of fresh food in between now and then).

on weekday mornings, i do the easiest of these chores, so that i can be at my desk at a reasonably early hour. i can do tomatoes three or four times a week by spending about 30-60 minutes on them before work. then on saturday, i take on the longer tasks, such as picking, cleaning, and blanching batches of greens for freezing, and cooking up dishes that will freeze well or ones that we can reheat during the week for dinner.

today was one of those days—i spent six hours in the kitchen, but i got a LOT done. one of those times when i turn off my planning brain and just do.

six bags of greens to add to the stockpile (i separate the leaves and stems for different uses). then i put on a big pot of tomatoes for puree and ended up with five containers to freeze

i think i have a total of 20 or so put away now; i’ll just need a few more. once i have what i need, i’ll focus on making roasted tomato paste. then, if the tomatoes are still coming in fast and furious, i’m thinking of making homemade ketchup. i’ve always wanted to try it and i think i have a recipe somewhere—we have a hard time finding a bottled variety we like, so i may as well make some and see if i can do better.

after the tomatoes were cooking, i put together some foods for our week and to store in the freezer for later in the fall.

remember beckie’s super-easy spinach pie we all went ga-ga over a couple of years back??
(if you weren’t with us then, you gotta check it out—BEST 5-minute recipe ever)

well, we hadn’t had it in a while and since we have all these greens, i thought it would be a good time to make it. i had a piecrust in the freezer and it just so happened that i found myself in the greek grocery yesterday, where i picked up some good imported feta. it was a no-brainer.

and then i thought i’d use up the pile of yellow stuffer tomatoes i had lying around. i don’t make stuffed tomatoes much (i can’t even remember the last time i did), but the idea appealed to me as something i could fix and freeze, then use a few at a time as a side dish. i just used orzo, cheeses, parsley, and chopped tomato, but any combination would work nicely. these might be the perfect thing with fish or with a few other vegetable dishes for a light supper.

by this time, it was 3 pm and i was sick of the kitchen—i like the feeling of having done all that, but i’m no martha stewart; i’m happy to get off my feet after a day of cooking to do something different. a bite to eat and a shower sounded awfully good.

there’s always time for knitting, too, right?? of course there is!
i finished my secret project completely now and i feel grandly optimistic about all the great new projects i’m now free to explore. heh. but i’m trying to be realistic . . .

i haven’t forgotten that i still have lots of edging rows to go on the rosebuddie blanket. and the heat was stifling again last night, so i didn’t make any headway on it. maybe tonight—after a steady evening rain, the air has cooled down nicely and hopefully the upper floors, where we watch TV are chilling a bit as well.

not that i wasted any time—i figured it was a good opportunity to get back to those mitts i started in london. i’m using the same motif i used for the bougainvillea socks, this time in a gorgeous deep lavender from dye dreams (sadly, no longer in business). i know it’s a color my niece will be crazy about.

i also finished the first sleeve of my vintage shirt last night and cast on right away the second sleeve.

i’m anxious to start the patterns front of the sweater, but i also know that it’s a good idea to sandwich that piece halfway through—there is a lot of stockinette in this garment and i know plain knitting doesn’t hold my attention as strongly. holding the patterned part back as a carrot for myself isn’t a bad idea.

david’s been busy too—he put an extra-big effort into my workroom this month while i was away and now it’s done. and it’s beautiful; i can’t believe it’s the same room.

he’s moved in the big furniture and is putting together my dad’s old desk (which he refinished for me a while back as a christmas gift). i can’t believe he carried it up the stairs by himself—it’s old and very heavy.

this is the part of my workroom where i’ll actually knit and work the most, so i’ve been very much looking forward to this day. comfortable seating, books, desk, and spinning wheels will all go in here. the storage and machinery area is in the small back room david finished in december.

when we tear up the living room for its makeover (very soon), i’ll have a cozy, quiet, out-of-the way place to knit and work. and finally, a permanent place to spin.
more photos when it’s all settled and we have some lovely daylight glow . . .