the difference a day makes

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls


hehe, well, it happens every year during the first week of april but still it surprises me.


it’s the same each year—just after the daffodils bloom we wake up one day to see everything draped in a layer of snow, sometimes lightly and sometimes—like today—quite heavily.


in fact we had quite the winter storm last night—whorls of heavy snow buffeted about by strong winds that went on for hours. fortunately this morning the sky was mostly clear and the sun was shining, though it has stayed cold.


my little spinach and chard sprouts might just make it—they seemed ok when i checked. yesterday some of them had a second set of leaves already, so i’m hoping they are the hardy type. just in case though, i sprinkled a few more seeds on top of the snow as insurance.

with the snow and cold outside, it’s been a good weekend to stay inside and knit. i got quite caught up on my new shawl.


by friday night i had reknit all the yarn i ripped out the morning before and had successfully navigated about half of my new charts with little or no corrections (air punch!). it’s a good sign that i had to change to a longer needle yesterday morning in order to move on—the shawl is getting bigger.


last night i got through the rest of those charts and am now ready for fresh material.


now that i have a nice chorus line of leaves dancing across the shawl, it’s time to add some blossoms. i worked on the next part late this afternoon so i am all set to get back to knitting when we settle in for some TV watching later on (first though, we are going on a movie date, yay).


for sweater progress, i had finished the lace portion of my sleeve on friday night as well and had just started the stockinette part. on saturday morning, i knit away on that while overseeing our wheaten wrap class at the shop and by the time it was over, i had a few new inches to show for myself.

after class, i came back to the house and set myself up in a comfy chair on the top floor to knit the afternoon and evening away.


by mid afternoon i had the sleeve done and pinned it out for steam blocking; i thought it was important to set the shape and size of that lace with steam before wet blocking anything.


now you can get a much better idea of what that lace will look like—i love it. it will be repeated around the sweater hem and on the back above the waist. what do you think barb?

from finishing and blocking this piece, i have a much better idea of how to handle the gauge differential between the lace portion and the stockinette portion, which is considerable—a difference of about twenty-five percent.


i made some very slight adjustments to my pattern and after i had knit my shawl as far as i could last night, i cast on the second sleeve and knit the hem ribbing. this morning i got up and set to work on that, hoping i might get halfway by noon. but it didn’t turn out that way . . .


instead i was to the underarm bind off by then and well, i couldn’t stop there; i had to keep going. it was OTN by about 2 pm and i couldn’t be happier with that speed. i didn’t block the second sleeve yet because i really needed to get back to my lace charts so i have something to work on tonight, haha.


aren’t they a funny pair? you’d hardly know they were related.


i know, i know—i’m always running on and on about blocking and how awesome it is, but well, it IS!! just look at these two stockinette photos.


sure that top one looks “fine”, but seriously, which one would you rather wear? which one would make your bod look sleeker?

with my work lined up for later tonight, i think i’ll hit the shower and get gussied up for our date—so excited. i’ll be back in a couple of days with hopefully more progress; see you then!

out of the old rises the new

Posted on 7 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls


our current weather theme is holding—days that are sunny and warm alternating with days that dip down to near freezing. the plants have been reluctantly opening their buds one by one, only to have their flowers torn to rags by the wind, which is mostly ferocious on any day.


the poor daffodils are few in number this year and i can’t help but wonder if they are getting destroyed before they’re even fully open. or maybe they are just wise enough to wait til things calm down, who knows?


the spinach and chard seeds i tossed out into the garden on monday are sprouting already—i’m excited! now if i can get david to make a spot for peas, i’ll plant those next. i should get the onions and potatoes in too—and maybe parsnips . . .

thank you for your enthusiastic response to my new hempshaugh skirt. you wanted to see it “on”, so here you go.


i even got a chance to play with making outfits


i love it with the salt & pepper top which is also knit in hempshaugh laceweight. i think i’ll be wearing this combination a LOT—it’s simple, fun, and oh-so-comfy. i haven’t had a chance to get them together yet, but i bet the skirt will look great paired with janet guthrie, too.


no sooner had i posted that i was finished, than cherie text me photos of HER finished sample, also in our hemp fingering yarn, this time in the solid millet shade.


haha, she was playing dress up too—with a merle tank that she knit last year in our hemp fingering yarn. does it make anyone else think of brigitte bardot? i recently read that bardot is the new black. of course, i read it on a t-shirt so it might not be true (but i wish i had that t-shirt).


i washed up that salt & pepper top yesterday after reknitting the neck finish, which did not turn out as loose as i wanted it—it should be loose enough to tip forward just a bit from the neck at the bottom of its U shape.

the hemp fabric is a little unruly when it is very wet. so i always start out by squeezing as much moisture as i can from the fabric and then treating it to some vigorous reshaping—quick tugs to the fabric in all directions and a few good shakes. then i lay it down and shape as best i can to the desired measurements.

as it dries, i pick it up several times to fluff and reshape and voilà—eventually it shrinks back to a uniform fabric that hangs beautifully.


even though at the last writing i thought i was over the hump, my biggest challenge this week has been my shawl project.


by mid-week i had charted myself into a corner but was still doggedly carrying on, convinced that i was on the right track. finally yesterday i came to my senses when i assessed what i had completed and did not love it. at all. sigh.

so i proceeded to scrap a substantial amount of the work i had—most of my working hours over the last two weeks, in fact. (i was actually more than halfway through that chart, grr). and even though i was enjoying the work, it wasn’t pretty—oh NO!

the good news is that i was able to salvage the first two sections i wrote and after ripping back yesterday morning, i rewrote a new section fairly quickly. sometimes, a project is just like that—kicking and squirming and hateful to me nearly all the way through and then finally, submissive at the end.


i gave myself little consolation treats every few hours over the last two days by working on a wild card design for the spring collection—one that i wasn’t sure i’d be able to squeeze in, but now looks like a reality. i showed you some swatches the other day in chebris lace, which is one yarn that it could be knit in


but then i swatched with better breakfast fingering yarn and i loved that so much that i decided to knit my sample with it instead—i just like the weight of this fabric a little better for my uses. if i went out a little more often or had a job that required dressier clothing, i would totally use the chebris; it is supremely light and elegant knit in this fabric.


side by side, both yarn work up to the same gauge (though on needles one size apart), so i’m comfortable recommending either one.


the sweater will be mostly plain stockinette with the back in the lace fabric above the waist and lace at the hem and lower sleeve. the back hem will curve downward via short row shaping though not as long as the sketch implies; probably just below the low hip in back.


after all of my shawl charts were done last night, i treated myself to starting a sleeve for the sweater while we watched TV. it is of course quite misshapen, but i think it’s going to look spectacular in the poppy seed shade of the BBF yarn.

this morning i got up and got to work on reknitting the shawl; the new charts are working out great so far. i’ve already reknit most of it and am much happier with what i have now. it won’t be long before it’ll be done i think. yay.


the weather is turning nasty out there and the temperature is dropping once again (after starting out as a really nice day!). i plan to spend a lot of time knitting this weekend so i can get these last two patterns off to tech editing. if we do get a break in the rain, i’d like to get some seeds in the ground . . ..we’ll see.

maybe before any of that, a nap. hey it’s friday after all . . .

what about you?


moving right along . . .

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls


is there any more cheerful sight on a spring day than these bright pink cherry blossoms against a blue, blue sky? i photographed these on my last morning in brooklyn, while running in the park.

along with these pretties . . .


at home, we were behind NYC by about a week and though there were buds on everything, the weather has caused them to hit the pause button. all week long we saw forty-degree shifts from one day to the next, from mid-seventies one day to mid-thirties the next; the poor flowers couldn’t decide which way to call it, haha. safer to stay shut.


today though, they are tentatively opening up to face the sun. yay. to celebrate, we’ve got a spring fling free shipping offer for you in our online shop; just a few hours left to take advantage of this deal.


thank you so much for your very nice compliments on my new pullover design, illas cíes, which will be included in the spring ensemble collection we are rolling out at the end of april.


all washed and blocked now and it feels like a dream—soft, light, and with a lovely drape over the body’s curves in ginny sport and it took only two and half skeins for size small. on me, it’s a little looser and easy-fit than it is on my dress form, which is more well-endowed than i, haha. but it would also be super-cute as a tighter fitting pullover, i think.


the sleeve is a feature of its own and provides interest from any angle. the design is named for an archipelago off the coast of galicia, spain, the islands of which make up a protected natural area with wildly curvy coastline exposures.


the cardigan/dress/vest version of this design (which barb is knitting now) will be named costa figueira, for an especially curvy portion that is heavily populated by fig trees. you can see in this photo that the terrain even looks like a platter of plump figs!


here, i pinned the sleeve aside so that you can see how the sweater hem slopes from front to back, adding to the feel of a comfy “boyfriend” fit; i’ll be throwing this on over t-shirts with long shorts and chinos, my summer uniform. the longer back is completely optional, of course, if you prefer a dressier look. you could also wear this much shorter, so that it just skims the top of your jeans in front—make it your own.

as soon as my knitting time is freed up, i’m going to be making one of these in our hempshaugh fingering yarn, which according to my swatches, should knit to the same gauge as the ginny sport (though i might need to go down a needle size, TBD). i just have to decide between the buckwheat and kasha shades. i am SO on the fence.


no sooner was that sweater sewn up and soaking in a bath then i was on to my next sample—my zig zag skirt, which i’m naming for the amalfi coast (hmm, may we DO need to take a vacation). i’m knitting this one in all shades of our hempshaugh fingering yarn, which is light, cool, and airy—just the thing for those really hot sticky july days. i like to wear that kind of skirt instead of shorts when i have to go out.


first, the swatches. i am modeling this design on an older skirt i made about eight years ago which i wear a lot in summer. the original was knit in a cotton/silk blend, very similar in character to our hempshaugh (AKA, the hemp), though ours is softer and lighter.


the hemp can be knit on a variety of needle sizes, depending on what sort of fabric you are looking to achieve. for lace, you can go all the way up to 5.0 mm or even 5.5 mm. on the bigger needle sizes (top, size 5.0 mm/US8), the 2-ply yarn is going to show its character by getting a bit wobbly; not a problem if you are stretching lace, but might not be ideal for garments, where you a fabric that holds a true center line and keeps its shape on its own (bottom, size 4.0 mm/US6).


when we zoom in a bit, you can see even better how the tighter fabric (far right) is much more consistent. and there is little sacrifice in terms of lightness; it’s still airy and fluid enough to fall into nice folds. i don’t care for skirts or trousers that feel weighty or like they are dragging on my hips, so that’s an important feature for me.


i actually cast on at the waist just before leaving brooklyn on the off chance that i might get stuck in a storm somewhere on the way home and need some extra knitting.


ok, i’ll admit that the flight went off without a hitch, but i did have a four hour layover in atlanta and let me tell you, i am glad i had my knitting. any longer and that skirt would have definitely seen some airtime.

as it turned out, it is just the kind of knitting that i can leave within reach of wherever i am in the house, to pick up and work on as time allows. company meeting? pick up and knit a few rounds. cooking dinner? pick up and knit while the pasta pot boils. haircut? knit a few rounds while i wait.


with all that stockinette in the upper skirt, it is brainless knitting to say the least—just an increase row every now and then to remember. this photo was taken on tuesday, a day or two after i got serious about it.


before i knew it, i was on the openwork—only slightly more complex but feels far faster because it’s also more interesting. i skipped a day or two to seam my illas cíes and work on my shawl pattern, but by friday morning there was progress from the night before. and from here i was very monogamous—at least for the weekend.


i stayed up late friday to knit and then first thing saturday morning, i was back on it i’m working mine in stripes as in the original, but cherie is neck and neck with me on a solid version for photography.

stopped here because i teach a class on saturday morning, but when i got over to the shop and sat with erica for a while, we both realized we forgot that there was no class yesterday. DUH. back i scurried to my skirt knitting—never waste found knitting time.


i admit that i was obsessed yesterday with finishing it; i didn’t get up off of that sofa til it was done. i’m only a little ashamed that i stayed inside knitting for hours on such a fine day, instead of joining david for an evening bike ride; hopefully the exercise and weather gods will understand and not rain down wrath on me for wasting it.


it was off the needles before he even got back and long before dark. i decided to wait til today to block it, since i still had to knit the i-cord drawstring.

the difference between the unwashed gauge and the washed gauge of this fabric means that the final results seem very uncertain until i can see them with my own eyes. much as i loved the way it looked, i thought i was in trouble with the size—it seemed awfully narrow through the upper skirt to me and indeed, it measured several inches too small at the hip.

but i believe in my system of heavy swatching and have had good results so far with it, so last night i drowned myself in my next project (and maybe a little chocolate) and tried not to think about it til i had soaked it.


it’s drying now. and it’s not only the correct size but there is plenty of wiggle room, too; i can’t wait to try it on. now this fabric (hempshaugh fingering yarn) just LOVES to be picked up, shaken, tugged in both directions, and then reshaped to make the final fabric look its best (which also hastens the drying time). i’ve been giving mine a toss every hour or so, which seems good.

if you lay it down very carefully while wet and leave it undisturbed it will look about as good as a wrung out dishrag. so don’t be shy—have at it. the lace edge doesn’t need pinning; it will scallop very nicely on its own or with a few tugs (and you don’t want to fuss with that anyway, right?). alternatively, i bet you could throw this in the dryer for about ten minutes to get things started or at the very end to bring back the yarn’s loft—with so little wool content, a few minutes probably won’t hurt it. i meant to try it will this skirt but i guess now i’ll wait til after we photograph it.


interspersed with the skirt knitting, i’ve been working on a shawl project with this incredible shade of turquoise nona, from spirit trial fiberworks. this is jen’s corfu colorway—it’s the sea in my hands, haha.


this complex shawl project has been growing slowly since before i left for NYC. the knitting itself is not difficult—it’s the pattern and charting that’s kicking my butt all over the place. i have to chart a bit, then knit a bit, often knitting right at the computer so i can correct as i go.


by the time i got home i had solved the first hurdle and moved on to the next, much bigger one—which is that the shaping is not any of the usual types that i rely on, but more embedded in the motifs themselves, so tricker to work out (and thus, more ripping and redoing).


by thursday morning some larger forms were beginning to emerge from the mesh background—don’t ask me how many times i had to restart this particular segue, but suffice it to say the i used my lifeline several times.

my aim is to create a composition on a mesh background that appears to have layer upon layer of large flower and leaf shapes exploding out from previous sections.


by thursday night i had gotten through the first layer of bigger leaves and felt like i understood much better how the shaping should be worked into the motifs. i’ve actually made a lot of progress just getting over that hump! and don’t get me wrong; i enjoy this, haha. i wouldn’t set such challenges for myself if i didn’t.

the knitting is seriously so much faster than the charting; i’m halfway through the next big section and looking forward to finishing that after i write this. it will be wonderful to knit through what i’ve put on paper to see if it works.

i’m thinking that i might have to knit the BNW sample myself just to be sure i’ve got it right; i don’t know if i want a test knitter to have to knit it until after i’m sure (i like being able to make corrections as soon as i see an issue, not matter what time of night it its, hee-hee).

so that’s my project in progress at the moment—what’s next?


wee-eelll, i’ve had this design in my head for a while that i had hoped to squeeze into the spring collection. it was on the boards as definite, but then when i came back form NYC i wasn’t sure it would get done. and now that i finished a sweater, a skirt, and my shawl is nearly under control, i’m kind of feeling like i might be able to manage it.


i won’t say too much more about it now except that i love this chevron motif from my trevi shawl design—i always like a nice, abstract pattern without narrative like this ancient zigzag motif. it’s perfect for what i have in mind, having a lot of open area and some shadowing between repeats.


my swatches tell me that the stockinette gauge and the openwork gauge are quite different from each other, however, and my project has a mix of both so i have to think about how i’m going to handle that and if i can make it work throughout the piece. i can let that perk a bit at the back of my mind while i work on my shawl pattern some more.

next time i’ll update you on how that all shook out and hopefully, i’ll have a better photo of the shawl as well, so you can see what the heck i’ve been babbling about.

now i need to go off and order my garden seeds; david has spent the afternoon outside getting the beds ready, so it’s time!

R2: p1, [k1, p4] repeat to last s1, p1

Posted on 13 CommentsPosted in food and garden, lace/shawls, projects



Charts or Written Instructions, have yet to make a definitive decision. Upon beginning the Blanket Statement Club I was rather hesitate to make use of charts, a seemingly unfathomable, if not daunting proposition. This opposed to written instructions, of which began simple enough, i.e.: R2: p1, [k1, p4] repeat to last s1, p1. Yes simple indeed, not a lot of space for ambiguity, concise and rather straight forward, just the way I like it, offering an easily remembered refrain. Of course written instructions can imbue a certain clumsiness with more intricate patterns, negating any semblance or hope of remembering a complicated series of stitches. This is where charts truly shine, particularly with a more complex pattern. The chart  can be partitioned/dividend/marked up in any manner of ways that will allow for easier reading at a glance. In the photo above, rows are divided in groupings of 4 stitches, a quick look allows me to know what to knit (Anne’s idea actually). But then there is this business of working on the wrong side, even numbered row from left to right and doing the opposite for the right side. It has taken some time to get my mind right and follow this logic and to keep it in the foreground as not to forget to do what when. Presently gravitating toward charts for the moment, can really appreciate their use, especially for larger and more complicated patterns. Have not done anything to challenge my current beginners aptitude, perhaps a sign to try something a bit more complex.


Just brought a new pair of cycling shoes. Finally an opportunity to replace a pair that I have been wearing for the last 15 years or so, the buckles are/have began to fail. Cost of replacements buckles are a bit obscene, although would have liked to replace the buckles and continue wearing. Wonder if such longevity is do to not riding enough miles, probably not, but more likely because you are not actually walking in them. In general bicycle clothing and shoes are quite an extraordinary value, all things considered, still wearing bib shorts and jerseys that are 15 years plus. Liking the black and white combination, appealing to my fashion sensibilities opposed to tech specs (albeit very good, carbon soles, make for a rather rigid shoe). Paul Smith (menswear designer) offered a similar dress shoe combination some years back, same color but slightly different styles, I like this concept. Reminds me of Anne’s Double Happiness pattern, two wonderful motifs on each side of the shawl.


Nearly time to turn my attention to the garden, last fall we had 20 or 30 yards of compost delivered. Unfortunately there was no way of having the compost dumbed directly into the garden area, necessitating me to move it myself, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. Now I get to move it again, yay (not so much), half will go in beds around the house and rest will remain in vegetable garden. Planning on digging up all previous mounds in vegetable garden, mixing in compost and creating new mounds. Affording an opportunity to either sow plants in same positions as last year or rotate, a tremendous amount of effort, but nice to have options.




Photos really do not capture the grandeur of compost mass, they were higher, but have settled. Landscape fabric did do a fair bit to control weeds, will likely use again, also would love to install some drip irrigation this year.


Renovation has slowed as the cold weather continues to prevent me from moving desk upstairs, reluctant to run furnace during the day. May be a while before I can get back to demolition of remaining third of room. Cleaning of old plaster continues, note the contrast between cleaned plaster.  Also have started to remove old baseboard, considerable termite damage, will not be able to salvage wood after all . Fortunately damage does not extend to floor and appears to have happened some time ago, as there are no present signs of termite activity.

If  anyone is interested in traditional plaster finish/top coat, let me know and I will be happy to share my techniques here.