Archive for June, 2011

swatch mania

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

since i’m down to two current knitting projects—my cashsilk scarf and my rene cardigan—i’ve been devoting a somewhat disproportionate amount of time to swatching, so that i’ll have plenty of knitting projects to tide me over during my upcoming travels.

not that there’s a lack of unfinished knitting to do—i have a couple of those laying about as well—but i am designing full-swing now for our upcoming fall in full color club. and to make myself feel like i’m actually in control of my life, i sorta want to get all of those pieces finished—next week if possible, haha.

well, that’s what my inner OCD freak wants, anyway.
the outer me is walking in a lavender and patchouli scented circle of calm.

right.

samples of all the yarns are now in the house (woo-hoo!) and yarn shipments are beginning to arrive (we’re getting another big box today, yay!). as david readies the house and our supply closet for packing and shipping, i’m filling my little notebook with swatches and calculations.

it’s actually even a little more bulging that it appears in this photo; the shoestring helps keep it tamed, heh. anyway, three of the club projects are in progress already and one pattern has even made it through proofing. the excitement is building.

and have you been over to the FiFC clubhouse?? holy cow, they’ve got the shingles shakin’ over there. many thanks to kat and kim for heading up the funnest club ever—they are really keeping the waiting period interesting. they’ve had so may great activities during the ramp up that i’m a little worried the actual club shipments are going to be a mere distraction from the REAL fun, haha.

just kidding, i’m pretty sure everyone’s going to like those too.
(circle of calm, circle of calm)

ok, now besides that stuff, i have made big progress on my scarf, but let’s face it, another photo would not really tell you anything new. ditto for my sweater front, which i’m embarrassed to say i have not yet finished (i know—tonight, maybe).

and despite the fact that i did not finish that front, i still allowed myself to swatch more on the sprössling sibling. oh yes, it’s a slippery slope; this time i’m justifying myself to bring you blog fodder—pathetic, right?

i’ve got one, maybe two more swatches i want to do and then i’ll wash them all and see which ones survive that step nicely. you never EVER know until they’ve been washed, especially with this type of yarn.

i’ve been thinking about the name . . . sprössling is the german word for sprout or shoot (a baby plant) and i kinda want something in the same vein. so i’ve been poking around in my german dictionaries and in google translate (dangerous, i know, haha) and i’ve come up with a possibility: schössling which means offshoot and even sounds similar, which i like.

now, i’m not married to this yet and admittedly, i don’t speak german, so i’m not even sure it’s appropriate, but our german/swedish/norwegian/dutch speaking friends are welcome to throw in suggestions any time—i’d like something that goes with sprössling phonetically and has a meaning in the same general vein if possible.

ok, that’s really all the knitting i have today, but i do have flowers

tons of them, in fact. along with the wealth of rain we’ve had comes a veritable sea of floral abundance

the honeysuckle bloomed this week and will probably continue to have flowers throughout the summer. this year our 5- or 6-year-old vine seems to have matured a lot and is covered with flowers.

i got these begonias for the pots we have near our doorways and i’m really happy i did. the blooms are full and so pretty in yellow and they coordinate nicely with our day lilies across the yard (not that i actually organized that look; it’s more of a happy accident)

the lilies are very thick this year with flowers; later today i’ll do some dead heading on them to encourage a longer blooming period

i love this line of them along the back of the garage—the flowers really pop against all that green.

along the path from the garage to the house, i planted my summer squash and surrounded them with a heavy planting of marigolds in the hopes of driving away squash bugs.

we’ve yet to see if that will work, but even if it doesn’t, i’m VERY happy with the merry making of these flowers in that spot—just look how they’ve filled out. even if we lose the squash plants in the end, we’ll have lots of great color. and again, coordinated with the lilies, which was totally unplanned.

closer to the house, the new magnolia tree we planted in the fall is in bloom

the flowers are small and only last a day or so, but the fragrance is beautiful. in a couple of years, when the tree has filled out, we’ll be rewarded with more of the same. we have a lot of space to fill in near the fences and we decided on a few new trees the other day—a forest pansy redbud, a daphne shrub, and some oak leaf hydrangeas for under the porch windows. we’re also getting a chinese fringe tree to plant in front of the office window, which is desperately in need of some shade.

and when i get back from my trip, i’ll start dividing some of our giant hostas to transplant into the beds over there.

our hydrangeas have more flowers than i’ve ever seen on them—all shades of pink and blue.

of all our bed plantings, these and the hostas are probably my favorite.

and right now they are at their peak. we haven’t had any nasty storms to tear them down or damage the petals. and it’s been so wet that they look very fresh every day. if i wanted to save them for winter, this would be the time to cut them for drying.

my very favorite moment for these flowers though, is when they are at this stage—almost completely open, but still showing those beautiful green undertones. wow.

oh look—the first-ever flowers on my variegated shrub have begun to open (this shrub is six or seven years old). this has been an agonizingly slow process—the one thing i can’t wait to see and it’s taking forever, naturally. looks like this is a lace cap variety (i had no idea til now). i wish i knew which one—haha, we might have to name a sweater after it!

wow, it’s so pretty—i didn’t know what to expect, but i love it. and if our climbing hydrangea is any indication, this shrub will make more and bigger flowers every year from now on.

ok, speaking of the garden, i owe mine big time and have a day of catching up planned, so i better get cracking. not that i don’t love you, but i can’t wait to get away from this desk and out into the sunshine.

something tells me that the next post will be all vegetables . . .

swan’s way

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

after a solid 7-10 days of rain, we finally had some beautiful summer weather yesterday and as i headed out on my bike, i decided check in with our swan family. they’d been keeping a low profile all during the previous week and i hadn’t been able to get good pictures from my vantage point on the roadside.

and even on my first pass by yesterday, they were not in sight, though i saw that two blue herons had taken up residence in the same water (and maybe that accounts for the hiding swans). but the second time i winged around, there they were, sailing along near the far side of the pond.

almost as soon as i stopped my bike, the daddy swan headed my way. i don’t know if you can count them all that well, but there are indeed, just four youngsters left in the family and the daddy seems even more protective now than he was when they were tiny.

he set up a firm stance between me and the water’s edge as the rest of the family headed over (see, they really do want any food you might be throwing their way, but they don’t want any of the risk associated with it).

it’s not that easy to get in close anyway, now that the grasses, weeds, and wildflowers have grown up so much around the water.

and there they are—this is about the best angle i could get on them from where i was trapped stood, but you can see how much they’ve grown since the last time i photographed them.

pretty soon, the mom came up on the bank too, leaving all the babes in the water alone (but under the circumstances, what could be safer?). she poked around for a few minutes and preened a bit, but then skedaddled right back to her brood.

i’m trying to keep up with this family during the summer because i’ve been sending a little photo journal to my nephew amad (AKA our favorite junior sock appreciator) every week or two, to keep him up to date on our life here in ohio. (i love writing to the kids; james and i used to do it when he was a boy and i still have all his letters, haha.) anyway, it’s a good way for amad to practice his writing and keyboard skills and he just LOVES getting email (we do both written and electronic).

since it wasn’t as sunny or warm as expected, i spent a lot of time this weekend catching up the bookkeeping and finishing a secret project, accomplishing quite a bit on both fronts. in fact, the secret project is off the needles, washed, blocked, and on it’s way to its destination, which means i am down to just two or three current projects (well, besides the second socks that are languishing, but they don’t really count, do they?).

which means that last night, i felt very much ok with doing some more exploratory swatching for the sprossling redux (we have got to figure out what to call it!). right now, i’m just trying a bunch of stitch patterns to see which one looks best when washed and dried. i’m concentrating on smaller, openwork rib patterns with lots of soft elasticity, like the original fabric. but i’m wondering if i should consider a solid fabric rather than openwork for this “new” spross . . . hmm.

anyway, that’s sort of my treat right now—if i get a bunch of knitting done on my other two main projects, i allow myself knit a swatch in sea pearl.

my sweater progress stalled temporarily when i got so close to finishing that secret project; i just can’t stop when i’m so close to the finish on something. now that it’s done, i’ll be back on this front piece which only requires about two hours of work to finish, maybe. i’ve actually missed working on it—there’s something to be said for knitting along in worsted weight yarn, haha.

and i gotta say, this woolen rabbit grace is especially delicious—i love the way it glides through my hands, making beautiful stitches without any effort on my part.

i left off at the armhole shaping, just about at the point where i’ll need to start the neck shaping. once this piece is off the needles, i can cast on for the back, which is the last piece.

i’m not doing badly on the sweet georgia cashSilk scarf—i knit a couple more repeats in class yesterday afternoon and a couple here and there last week. i broke down and measured it this morning and it’s about 28 inches long. since this yarn grows almost 50 percent in the blocking, i could stop pretty soon, but i’m probably going to knit to the end of the skein—no point is having a little ball of leftovers, when the lusciousness could be around my neck.

last night we had a change-up in the class schedule and the spinners piled into the house almost as soon as the knitters left. now, “spinning class” is one of the highlights of our week—it’s really more of a spinning free-for-all, for one thing, haha. though we do manage to get some learning accomplished as we go, it’s usually an accident. and since they appointed themselves the knitspot board of directors, it’s gotten even more hilarious and out of hand.

which isn’t to say that we don’t get any spinning done, not at all. in fact, we are all signed up for the tour de fleece, spinning on team superfleece. we actually didn’t discuss our goals for the tour, but maybe they’ll list theirs in comments. or you can follow us in the team superfleece ravelry thread.

barb, the most prolific and productive spinner in the room by far (she recently spun yarn for and knit up fingerless mitts for each of her seven high school girlfriends. we hate her.), is working through a batch of shetland that she bought at wooster last year. the fiber is really nice and soft, but unfortunately, chock full of VM, which we didn’t see when she bought it.

so barb is learning with this project to let go and not allow the rustic inclusions get to her. she is picking out the worst of it, but trying not sweat the small stuff—literally.

and she’s doing a fine job (really, this is a huge step for barb). we keep assuring her that a lot of the junk will fall out and that the rest will soften up and eventually disintegrate out of the yarn (it’s true, it will . . . some day). since this yarn most likely won’t be worn next to the skin anyway, it will be fine.

and anyway, just look at how beautiful it is—that glow. that’s the beauty of handspun farm fleece.

susan is still spinning the lorna’s laces “black purl” fiber that she’s been working on for some time, but she wants everyone to know that she’s almost done—for real! soon, she’ll have four bobbins of singles to ply up.

last night she was working through an especially light section of the fiber, which for the most part, is a very deep purply-charcoal.

helena’s having a very busy summer, between babysitting, participating in a shakespeare production, and helping us out with the club, but she still managed to ply up three more skeins of white yarn this week, to add to the pile she’s building toward a sweater quantity.

a lovely soft, DK yarn that she’s hoping kris will knit into a cabled sweater for fall/winter. although who knows, she might just tackle it herself—after a hiatus of several years from knitting, she took the plunge back in this week to knit with her small cousins and has cast on a stuffed cat project. we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it will stick.

but the white fiber was not what she put through her flyer last night

for a little change of pace, she decided to take a temporary break from the white fiber to spin up a bit of the dyed fiber that chris from briar rose gifted to her at wooster (chris, that was SO sweet of you!)

chris always keeps a big bowl of tiny-sized bumps in her booth; for a buck or two, you can try something new without committing too much. helena bought a big bump of BFL (briar rose BFL is exceptionally lovely to spin!) and when chris realized she was helena-from-the-blog, then she gave her some samples.

anyway, this one wasn’t labeled but we think it’s her cormo. she also got some polwarth and a bit of merino, too i think—all of it lovely.

well, this was helena’s first time with a color fiber and i think she fell just a little in love—i’m sure you know what i’m talking about. for all of us, it’s just so fun to watch, reminding us of our first spinning and how everything was new. sigh!

i continue to work away on my finn fleece that i purchased a couple of years ago at wooster with anne marie (hers has been spun up for a year). this fiber is extraordinarily difficult to photograph—the fuzziness of it disperses light all over the place and confuses the camera’s focus, so it doesn’t know where to look—i’ve yet to get a great picture to show you, but trust me, it’s nice fiber.

i’m working on a 3-ply DK yarn and i’m a little less than halfway through my fiber supply, which was under two pounds.

last night i finished filling my second large bobbin with a fairly thin singles. i honestly have no idea how much yarn this represents, but hopefully, a lot. because i don’t know that i have enough fiber to fill six of these, which might make enough 3-ply for a sweater.

no use speculating though, when i have no clue whatsoever.

my own goal for the tour de fleece is modest: to spin more frequently than usual (once a week), possibly a little each day. since our spinning class won’t be meeting again til august, i may even take my schacht up to our TV room to spin while actually WATCHING the bike races.

this would be a big change of pace for my spinning. normally i only knit while i watch TV of any kind and traditionally, my tour knitting of choice is a big lace edging project, finishing a little each night until it’s done. but this year, i don’t have a knitting TdF project—i didn’t manage to coordinate an edging event this year, so i may just do my spinning instead.

until the 12th that is, when i leave the country for the remainder of the tour (but who knows, maybe i’ll get some spinning time at knit nation).

ok, now i will share a little secret with you . . . just as with my knitting, i have a a spinning swatching project that i’m dying to start, but i’ve been withholding until i get further along on my finn fiber.

this is a cloud sampling of the grand champion coopworth fleece that i split with jocelyn at last year’s wooster festival. you can see that the fiber is simply gorgeous.i’m dying to spin up this sample chunk, but i’m using it as a carrot to get ahead on my finn (cuz that strategy worked so well in my knitting this week).

sigh. i was in my fiber closet last night with helena and about twelve items literally jumped off the shelf, wanting to be next. the avalanche made her laugh, but it made me groan . . . oy, i’m so behind.

ok, i gotta wrap this up now—david just came in with twenty pounds of blueberries from a local farm which he’s bagging up for our freezer. if i’m quick, i just might get a bowlful to shove in my mouth, mmm

“help me, i think i’m fallin’ . . .”

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

in love again . . . when i get that crazy feelin’, i know i’m in trouble again”
— joni mitchell

ok, i’ve held out as long as i can on this one, but dude—can you blame me??

it’s been in the house since the end of may—chris handed it off to me at wooster to use for the new sprössing sibling i’m planning to design this summer. i put it away immediately and have been studiously avoiding its presence in the stash (i didn’t even show it to you).

but you know how there is a moment in every project when you give yourself permission to start thinking about the next one?? well truthfully, i hadn’t reached that point yet with my rene cardigan, but at the end of last week, i thought i could use a a little incentive, you know?

i swear, i just took it out to look at it.

you seriously expected me to say i resisted?
i was actually a little ashamed i couldn’t, so i didn’t tell you til today.

i was just going to wind it up and leave it at that.
(i know. that’s like saying “i’m just gonna take a little hit and that’s it“)

(oh, and by the way?? just for the record, the incentive thing DID work—i’ve been knitting a little every day on that cardigan and i am well past the point now where i usually let myself begin dreaming on the next new project.)

so, uh, er, . . . i sorta let myself do a couple swatches.

i KNOW—slippery slope—i know.

but i did stop.
i’m only doing those when i absolutely can’t stand not to. and i’m taking my time, trying all the angles—several stitch patterns i think i might like, various needle sizes, etc, etc.

but i’ll be honest, mainly i just wanted to get my hands on that color—sea pearl in a most sophisticated lavender gray, dyed especially for me by my dear friend chris at briar rose fibers. she knows me very, very well, haha.

to be a fresh take on sprössling—same great body shaping and easy construction, with a change-up in the styling of details and fabric (a variation on a theme, so to speak).

i know i like this sweater (it’s truly my go-to cardigan) and i’d love one or two more in a different fabric with a different neck. and maybe add a short sleeve to the pattern as well. anyway, that’s the plan.

for now, it’s my carrot. here and there over the next couple weeks, i’ll be swatching, browsing my stitch dictionaries, and thinking on it. my goal is to cast on and tote it along to knit on all over the UK. mmmm

fresh

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

once again, we’re having a bit of a rainy week, but in a good way—it mostly rains at night or in the early morning, leaving the daytime hours fairly dry and mostly cloudy, with unpredictable but spectacular bursts of sun.

(ok, i totally take that back—the sky just opened with a downpour of what can only be described as biblical proportions. then it paused. then it started again, promising something along the lines of the big bang—only wet).

which means that everything is growing like crazy—you wouldn’t believe how fast. just since the other day for instance, when i thinned the greens, the broccoli raabe has doubled in size and begun to flower.

gotta get that gathered up and out of the dirt before it bolts—put it on the list for later today . . .

and my yellow lilies are just dying to bloom—they can hardly contain themselves. any minute now there will be a chorus of bright yellow flowers opening along the garage wall.

elsewhere, the asiatic lilies have already begun their annual parade—first the orange, then the pink, and now the red . . .

the hostas will be next; they are setting up nice, big buds all over. these are always a big attraction for the bees and because they last so long, provide a lot of entertainment in the back yard.

gorgeous.

we have all sorts of hostas, with flowers from creamy white to palest lavender to dark purple. i never used to think much of the flowers til i got to see them in the quantity we have in our yard.

the hostas are positively bursting out of their beds this year; they have multiplied and grown so large that they are fighting for space. i need to make time when i get home from my july/august trip to do some dividing and transplanting.

we have space—now that david has gotten all the fencing in on the other side of our lot, the major landscaping over there is complete and we can start filling in with plantings.

last fall we had the old bramble thicket along the backstreet pulled out and the area replanted with a background arrangement of more manageable trees and shrubs. the fencing would have gone in too, had the right parts arrived. and once they did, it was too late; the snow had started to fall.

so david got that put in this past week and it really looks great. it puts a nice finish on the corner part of our lot without looking like a jail.

next he’ll finish the last of the upper porch railings and the outside renovation will be pretty much done. we can add some colorful plantings and greenery at our own pace.

it’s an especially nice background for porch living during the summer . . . though i haven’t been doing enough of that up til now.

i’m getting ready for the tour de fleece, which i joined for the first time this year, after an invitation arrived from jen, chris, and clara to join team superfleece.

you should join us—it promises to be a lot of fun and we have some awesome giveaway stuff. you can even join as a cheerleader, what’ve you got to lose?

i’m not even going to be home for most of it (or anywhere near my wheel), but i’m gonna do my best with the time i have. i’ve been working on this batch of finn fiber that i’m spinning into a 3-ply sweater yarn. i would like to finish it up during the tour (haha), but truthfully, i’ll be happy if i just spin more than once a week, which is all i’ve been able to manage for the last year (when i’m home).

in fact, last night we had spinning class and i got quite a bit more of this bobbin filled, but then we realized that after next week, we will not be seeing each other for at least a month, arggh.

we did make a lot of headway on making promises to ourselves and each other though, about how we’d spin in the absence of class to prod us, heh.

on other fronts, though i’ve been keeping up a pretty good pace; the second front of this rene cardigan for instance, in nearing armhole depth and if all goes well this evening, i may have a finished front by the time i go to sleep tonight.

i’ll be sorta sad to see this project end; i’ve really enjoyed knitting up this woolen rabbit grace—its soft bounce makes every stitch a pleasure and i barely have to look at what i’m doing, the stitches glide so smoothly over the needles.

the pattern is in ronni’s capable hands for proofreading and barb’s test knit is done—all i really need is to finish this sample and get some nice pictures. of course, i still have to knit the biggest piece—the back—but i may be able to do it before i leave . . .

the deliciousness of sweet georgia cashSIlk is piling up as i add a repeat here and a repeat there to my scarf in colorway riptide.

and my yarn ball has diminished quite a lot, so i must be making progress, right? it’s always hard to tell with a scarf; i daren’t measure it until i’m sure i’m more than halfway and even then, i prefer to be further (you know what i’m talking about!).

but i am getting there, that’s for sure . . .

of course, that’s not all the knitting i have going on—a wealth of secret projects at the moment prevents me from showing you everything, but there are some really wonderful knits hanging about at all stages of OTN-ness.

we are thick in the throes of planning and executing projects for our fall in full color club and OH what pretty things there are going on in that regard. save for one, the sample skeins are all assembled now, so we can take stock of the entire range and the effect it has as a story (we’re excited!). projects are at all levels of constructions, from “still knocking around in my head” to finalizing the written pattern.

i’m both really nervous for everyone to like it as much as i do and so excited i want to tell everyone too (but i won’t). i’m actually pretty good at keeping secrets, even my own, haha.

we still have some spots open at the yarn membership level and of course, there are unlimited spots in our pattern-only level. come join us!

and flowers for everyone who has already joined us, yay.

now, i have a couple of announcements to make about upcoming events

i’ve mentioned several times that i’m heading out on another big teaching trip soon; i’ll be leaving here on july 12 and returning on august 10. between those dates, my travels will be very wide-ranging, so i’ll be frantically preparing for the next two weeks.

i’m heading first for knit nation in london, where i’m looking forward to a reunion with my UK peeps from the knitspot groups as well as cookie and alice. i’m teaching a full weekend of classes and we’re also sponsoring the charity bingo party on saturday night, for which i’m totally pumped.

after knit nation i’m hanging out with alice for a little R&R, some serious knitting time, and maybe some travel (THAT should be a barrel o’ monkeys), until it’s time to take off for sock summit in portland, OR. heh, that’s gonna be one long flight!

i’m getting in to portland a couple of days early to shake off the jet lag, take a class at pico accuardi dye worksso excited.

i’m also looking forward to seeing gail (gail, are we having dinner one night?) and giving her a big hug in person, as well as wendee, janel, and jocelyn, among many others who will be summiting that week.

i’ll ride out of town with janel and we’ll head into the sunset to her lovely, quiet home in oregon. we are hoping like crazy that david can meet us there for a few days, but that will be just a few days before the first shipment of our club goes out, so we’re not sure about that yet.

and after that, i’m going straight to san francisco, where i’ll hang out with cookie some more. we are teaching a weekend of classes together in berkeley at a verb for keeping warm—signups are open right now, so check it out.

whew, that was a long list; thinking it up and looking at it again is kinda scaring me—especially that july 12 date, ACK!
since it’s now pouring torrents of rain and i can’t walk or ride it off, i think some knitting is needed to calm my brain.