Archive for August, 2011

back to our roots . . .

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

i know i haven’t talked much about the garden lately . . . not because i don’t love it every bit as much as i did in june, but because it’s got me stumped at the moment.

you see, it’s a bit stalled.
the mid-summer heat is always hard on the garden and this year, it seems to have taken a particularly large toll; it’s just not rallying with the advent of cooler weather, as i expected. it would be overly romantic to say that it missed me while i was gone, but it’s hard not to wonder if losing mother for a whole month was just too much stress on it.

not that anything is dying or even sick; just not growing well or producing as heavily as usual. the tomatoes for instance, normally put out more than i can even keep up with during august. not only have we not gotten that tide that makes for good preserving, but the plants don’t seem to have many flowers or little green tomatoes coming along to indicate some hope for the future.

this batch of plum tomatoes will be enough to make some sauce for dinner and maybe one future freezer meal, but nothing to write home about.

and my greens, which were wonderfully lush and full of promise in early july, are nothing short of abysmal looking right now, having been under attack from both too much heat and too many flea-like creatures

bugs are something we haven’t seen before in our tender greens, so i find this discouraging, although it might be that they need to be near another type of plant next time. i’m thinking of asking david to weed whack them down so they can start over. the cooler nights we’re having now just might agree with them enough that we can salvage the lot.

i’m particularly disappointed about the greens because they are my absolute favorite thing we grow and i was SO looking forward to eating loads of them when i got home. so far, we’ve been able to squeeze out one meal, but none since then. fortunately, david put up a few bags in the freezer while i was gone.

and who knows, i may even start new; i have some space where the green bean plants can be torn out . . . i could reseed some chard in there and hope for a fall harvest. they’re capable of producing until a hard frost hits; whether they WILL is another story.

my shallots, which started out well enough (better than that, even), died back earlier than expected while i was away, so david dug them up and discovered them to be somewhat underdeveloped. they’ll be ok to use, but i was hoping for bigger . . . and more. i planted at least two dozen bulbs but we harvested only about six heads.

i might try planting them in the fall this year, when i put in the garlic.

it’s a similar story with the onions; i must have planted five dozen sets in several varieties. and we got some lovely onions, though very few of them and rather small (that’s the total take in that photo). i’m going to have to do some research to see if i can improve their life next year. i did plant them pretty late; maybe that’s it . . .

although the leeks went in exactly at the same time as last year and they are also lagging (though still growing, so i have some hope for them).

speaking of garlic, we did a little better with this crop, which also matured while i was away. david dug up all the onions, garlic, and shallots and laid them out to dry on the porch. just the other day, he clipped the dried tops off and peeled away the dirty outer shells so they could be used and stored.

they look great and they taste good, too. again, a little smaller than i’d hoped for but at least we got out all that we put into them.

and on the other hand, i shouldn’t complain at all—some things are doing really well. it’s been an outstanding year all over our area for green beans—beckie, kris, and i are all still picking beans from plants that continue to flower long past their usual demise.

and our root vegetables are growing to beat the band. i pulled a couple of rutabaga the other day to try those out, mashed for a side dish with celery, onion, garlic and parsley, and WOW, were they good (sorry, i forgot to take pictures). i also have really large turnips that i still don’t know how i’ll use.

the second sowing of carrots which i was not able to monitor due to travel, ended up growing in great and i see there are some very large carrots as a result. celeriac is doing well, too, though the celery and parsley is not up to its usual standard. is it possible that only the above-ground plants are affected by the malaise?

but then there are the peppers, which continue to be the star of the garden for probably the eighth year running—we cannot NOT grow them, haha. this year i have beautiful, big bell peppers and nice, thick-fleshed yummy peppers (a sort of dwarf sweet frying pepper, very good), along with hot pepper plants that are simply loaded with fruit. way more than i know what to do with.

for now, i’m throwing my hands up and not probing too much—whatever it is, it is; i actually don’t have the time resources right now to fix this year’s garden, especially if it’s for naught. i am curious now about companion planting and how to put plants together so that they have greater resistance to damage from insects and disease. so i’ll start doing some research in the hope that there might be something there we can use in the future.

one thing that’s making me do a happy dance this week—you know how i thought my potato plants had died from disease?

NOT!!

encouraged by several readers who wrote to tell me it was normal for them to die back when they are done, david and i went out on friday to investigate and whaddaya know

beautiful, big round potatoes awaited us under the earth. we just had to scratch around a bit for them and they turned up. we planted red cloud, yukon gold, king harry, and russian banana.

we pulled several large ones and a few small ones—just enough for dinner. we’ll go back for more as needed, until the frost comes, when we’ll dig up what’s left to store down in the root cellar.

i couldn’t be more thrilled and excited that A) they are indeed, fine and B) that we can now eat fresh dug potatoes. thank you for encouraging me to look underneath; it was totally worth it. that night i made mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and fresh parsley for dinner and it was deLISH.

while david ran in and washed the potatoes, i picked a last handful of green beans (i do think the plants are done now), a few tomatoes, and pulled a turnip that day; plenty to round out a nice supper. mmm.

i haven’t been out thee since friday, but i think this afternoon i may go pull the bean plants and reseed that spot with chard. then clip back the existing chard plants to see if they’ll revive themselves.

in knitting news, not that much is new. i meant to work evenly on my two sweater backs this weekend but then got addicted to working on the blümchen one and rationalized it by telling myself i was simply getting it caught up with the rené piece.

they are now just about even and since i really owe it to the rené sweater to move forward at least as much, i’m going to make a big effort to leave blümchen in its project bag “just for today”.

i figure that even if i fail grandly at keeping my hands off of blümchen, i’m still finishing one or the other of these back pieces tonight and really—how bad can that be?

beckie and i went shopping yesterday and if you didn’t notice the smoke coming off of our credit cards from where you are, you must have been doing something REALLY fun.

we started out looking for a top for me to wear to james’s wedding next weekend (i KNOW; nice time to start looking right? but trust me, i had a good excuse for not shopping earlier). it’s to go with a beautiful long missoni-esque skirt i’m excited to finally be wearing after owning it for too many years now; i bought it when i lived in NYC and haven’t had a chance get this dressed up since, but it will be perfect for this event.

anyway, we got out there and everything was not just on sale, but there were really BIG sales on all the sale prices. so everything was at least 75% off. we found a top right away that was perfect, along with several things for beckie—it was almost too easy.

and the trouble started when we kept going; in fact, we stayed out all day. honestly, i didn’t buy that many things, but i did buy a couple of larger items, including a raincoat.

and if giant sales weren’t a harbinger of fall, then this next sighting certainly is

the first turning leaves on our sugar maple. sigh.

hourglass throw

Friday, August 26th, 2011

a few weeks ago, when we were just about to begin sock summit, i wrote a post about the recent and simultaneous release of several publications that include my work.

one of those is the incredibly beautiful wool people collection, compiled by jared flood of brooklyn tweed.

i feel completely honored to have been included in the first collection of the brooklyn tweed guest designer series; what a great opportunity to work with someone i admire, exploring the beautiful result of his most recent venture, yarn design.

when asked to create this project, the deadline was just around the corner and i was heading out for nearly a month of travel, so we put our heads together to think of a piece that carried plenty of impact, but would be simple to produce in the time we had.

jared mentioned that he was a bit short on both home items and lace pieces for the collection, so a blanket seemed a good solution to fill both needs and would put the yarn’s lofty lightness to great good use as well.

i know jared’s own design sensibility leans toward simple, classic lines and great texture, so i looked for a stitch motif with good depth and interesting stitchwork that would translate well in shelter, a woolen spun tweed yarn.

i added some trims with sweater styling—ribbing for the hems and cables along the side edges—for a distinctive, classic finish. it has a menswear look, but we all know where a great guy’s sweater ends up, don’t we?

hehe, just sayin’ . . .

and for the knitter, this pattern is a lot of fun to work, incorporating both cables and openwork into a very intuitive, rhythmic motif that is absorbing, but not overly challenging—very important to keep large projects moving.

of course, it doesn’t have to be a large project . . . this piece is designed for three sizes, ranging from baby/toddler to bed coverlet—there’s a size for everyone.

once i settled on what the design would be, i made some swatches to be sure it all worked. at this point, i was right in the middle of a teaching tour that spanned several cities and could not actually take on the knitting of the throw. so for the first time ever, i handed the knitting of the first sample over to someone else—which meant that i would probably not even see the piece in person before publication, given the time we had to execute it.
YIKES.

thank goodness for our extremely capable and trusted friend karolyn, who has worked with me on many samples and test knits. she barely hesitated to say yes to this project (i am SO lucky!). and in fact, it would be some time until i laid eyes on the actual piece—i finally saw it myself for the first time about ten days ago, when i returned from my summer teaching travels.

and as i suspected, the knitting in it is nothing short of gorgeous.

shown here is the medium size throw in brooklyn tweed shelter, a light and lofty targhee/columbia blend, in colorway hayloft.

one of the nicest things about the collaboration with brooklyn tweed is that we may sell our version the pattern in our own shop as well. and now that it’s in our home where we can take photos, we can bring it to you.

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

many thanks to david for his beautiful photos.

knitting update

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

one of the pleasures of being home for a while is getting lots done—i am so much more productive in my own environment. although i always knit a lot when i’m on the road, i do eventually begin to feel starved of my other pleasure, pattern writing, which requires a certain amount of quiet alone time.

i love all the geeky attention to detail that goes into that work; i find it very soothing. and it makes me feel secure, too—the skill to organize all those details and directions into a manageable series of instructional steps feels like a very useful survival tool . . .

so yes, i’ve been running to the computer each morning to get me some of that. but also knitting—i finished my fallberry scarf

knit up in the original slackford studio pathway sport colorway, roast carrots. it’s as delicious as it sounds, especially now that the afternoon light is taking on a different angle.

autumn is on its way.
i knit the original mitts from a skein in a different dye lot, so i’m curious now if i can get a pair of mitts from my leftovers. i had two skeins of this dyelot from which i knit the hat and the scarf.

mitts are on the needles now. technically, there is only enough yarn left to MAYBE knit the small size, but i’m ok with testing the limits. i did cut down the cuff by half a pattern repeat, just to be sure . . .

i’m also chugging away up the back of my rené cardigan—there is really just an evening or so of knitting left to do on it, but life got in the way earlier this week and set me back a bit. i’m still thinking i can finish by the weekend and get the button band on by monday . . . wish me luck

i do love to watch the way the decreases diminish and eventually eliminate a cable panel. i dunno why that entertains me so, but there you have it.

this is woolen rabbit grace, a 4-ply merino worsted in colorway scottish heather. we also have the pullover version knit up a smoky charcoal/brown mix of briar rose fourth of july. i should take a photo; i keep mentioning it but i have no picture (and no good excuse for that).

i can’t WAIT to photograph these sweaters; we’d love to get helena and kris to model them and maybe work some horse riding into the shoot. the pattern is in the last stages of proofing now and we are hoping for a mid-september release.

i’m also barreling along on my blümchen cardigan and writing up the pattern for it this week.

i blocked my front pieces on monday so i could get the most accurate gauge information and measurements from them and was pleased that they easily blocked out to the exact size i wanted.

with this stitch pattern, it’s a little easier to keep more of the motif intact throughout the decreasing and increasing. in fact, at the waist where the piece is narrowest, it’s possible to work a complete motif where two repeats used to be.

just for a while of course, until the increasing begins again.
i’ve gotten about halfway up the back of this one too

isn’t the sea pearl yarn gorgeous? this gray/lavender blend is SO my color. that chris, she sure is a genius; i can’t wait to wear this sweater. i’d love to finish this piece so i can finalize the neckband numbers by early next week. i dunno if that will happen, but if i’m a diligent knitter over the weekend, i might just pull it off.

and with that, i think i’ll go knit.
we have a couple pattern releases as well and the first will be posted friday.

mister knitspot’s favorite things socks – deux

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Firstly, thank you for all of your wonderful comments. I’ve read each one; they are very insightful and inspire me to continue with this retrospective. In the last missive I spoke of my great appreciation of receiving the gift of socks. I’m imbued with such fondness for these glorious gifts, that a few years ago I took to mending some of my more beleaguered socks

Sadly my attempts to save my precious socks did not hold up very well. Salvaging old manufactured socks, creating patches from these to mend my precious gifts. These repairs yielded only a few more wearings and nor were they appealing to the eye or feet.

Oh, how I wish they could last forever, alas many good things come to an end, affording the opportunity to don new socks.

Back to the present discussion, my next favorite sock is the Bricker, aptly named, for the pattern does indeed resemble bricks.

The design has a sort of quilting effect, resulting in a degree of extra comfort.

The yarn is a Miss Babs offering, Yummy sock yarn

again the name is so appropriate for the yarn is indeed yummy, consisting of merino and the tight twist makes for a nice sturdy, long wearing sock.

While the design in this coloration—terracopper—is decidedly masculine, I’ve seen it knitted up in various colours, taking on a more distinctly feminine appearance.

Needless to say, both women and men will appreciate this sock.

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

Next we have the Cinderblock sock. closely related in texture, this one features a beautiful woven motif and is named for another type of masonry. currently, they are out of commission; can hardly wait to darn this sock in a few weeks.

As a wearer of these fabulous socks, one can not help feeling a bit special; perhaps they even affect one’s sense of well-being.

Ah, I feel the summoning of a poem about to come forth, but this may prove too much, will forego for now.

I am told this pattern practically knits itself, begging to knit one more repeat before putting it down.

Cinder Block was knitted up in Tanis Fiber Arts purple label cashmere yarn, a merino/cashmere/nylon sock blend. Cashmere often evokes luxurious imagery of sumptuous delights, this yarn manages to deliver such an experience.

the subtle design marries well with this variegated colourway, which is called shadow.

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