a dickens of a yarn

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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our red skeins are starting to arrive, yay! so far, we have received the 1-ounce sets and some 4-ounce sample skeins to begin projects with.

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soon we’ll be able to pack up your gradient sets and get those out in the mail, yippee! and wow, you guys, THANK YOU for your preorders—we have sold almost everything we ordered from the dyer. right now we still have a few 2-ounce sets to sell and once everything arrives here, we’ll know whether we can add a few more in the largest size (smallest size is definitely sold out for good).

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we have reserved some full-sized skeins to list individually, in case anyone wants to purchase a single shade or a sweater quantity.

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speaking of which—omg, how much are you drooling over that darkest one? SO gorgeous and so unexpected; i think he might be my new yarn boyfriend.

anyway, here are the colors—david spent some time today taking careful photos to capture the color accurately (it’s hard with yarn to get it just right!). the shades are actually much closer from one to another in real life; when you place them next to each other, you can see that the transitions between them will be smooth.

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i just love how the character of the base yarn comes through and works with the red; when you look close, you can see a range of fiber colors within the shades. i showed them around at knit night last night to much sighing and lip smacking. amanda hit the nail right on the head when she said, “i think this is the first time i’m actually falling in love with a gradient”. do you hear that rita??

so, before i actually saw these colors i had thought i would name the shades after santa’s reindeer, you know? but then i saw how rich and tweedy and sophisticated they are and now i’m thinking i’ll pull the names from the dickens christmas carol story. ok, so what do you think of these (left to right):
fezziwig, christmas present, cratchit, and (naturally) scrooge.

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meanwhile my wrap, knit in the undyed shades of the same confection sport yarn base, is progressing very nicely. this yarn and pattern combination makes for a pleasant, relaxing project to reach for at the end of the day—or any time i feel the need for a break during this extremely busy time.

i was on the fence about how to arrange my shades (you could do almost anything, including a random pattern), but i finally decided to work two sets shading from light to dark. but i think i’m changing my mind and instead may go back to shade from light to dark at the center and back again. and then i’ll do a different pattern when i do my red sample—either a cowl and hat with narrow stripes (maybe even random ones) or a scarf in one set of four shades. so many possibilities . . .

now that i have red sample skeins to play with, i’ll be casting on soon with those. the pattern is all set to go—just awaiting final dimensions and yarn requirements (i’ll know those as soon as i’m done with my sample). i wanted to release it by now, but i was afraid that would be just a big tease, with the yarn sets not quite ready yet. it shouldn’t be long though before we can all enjoy those together. we are getting boxes from rita nearly every day. erica, barb, and david will be joining us for the knitalong as well; i’m not sure what they’ve decided to do with their yarns . . .

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hey, speaking of great things to knit at this time of year, have you seen mary o’shea’s new design, winter people mittens, knit in two shades of our kent DK yarn?

they are super-duper; i just love them

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(they remind me of our wedding/engagement ring patterns).

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mary, whose tullymongan designs usually venture toward stranded colorwork, is always coming up with the playful, modern color work patterns i wish i was designing. and often lately using our bare naked wools yarns, which makes us ever so happy.

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these are not only amusingly mid-century in their pattern, but so functional for really cold weather, with the addition of the optional lining in soft, alpaca/merino better breakfast fingering.

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not only that, but she designed them to have a string that will keep them on your person when you need to free your fingers at the tollbooth, bus stop, ATM, or for dog walking. no more losing one at the bank.

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in other knitting news, my interlaken skirt is off the needles. i snapped a few photos when it was just finished, to show you how awful it looks with the patterned areas sucking in and causing the plainer areas to pucker.

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no worries though—some steam blocking straightened all of that out enough that i could see it did not need to be reknit, just “encouraged” to lie flat and behave itself (yes, i may have mentioned the clapper, but not in a seriously menacing way).

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there was one small glitch though—once blocked, it was bigger than i had estimated, but luckily i had not submitted the pattern for tech editing yet and could still make adjustments.

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i made each panel a little narrower from the hip down to slim down the silhouette a bit, which will also shorten the length to just where i want it.

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barb showed up at knit night last evening in her just-finished cam cable pullover (also included in our january collection group), and once i had a chance to snap a quick photo, she dove for the skirt and pulled it on.

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she just loves this piece (and yes, she did drop her pants right in the shop to get a better look, haha).

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the stitch count and length are a perfect fit for her, but i’d prefer it if we got to that number with more panels that are narrower. that way there will still be a nice number of them in the smaller size that will fit me better.

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we agreed that she would knit the new, smaller version (this time in stone soup DK, river rock) and then we could swap samples. she is super excited to get her legs into this garment for keeps, haha.

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today it went into a nice soapy bath to soak and soften, along with my oculus coat, which i hadn’t wet blocked yet.

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the texture looks even richer and more defined, now that the fiber is clean and blooming and the stitches are falling into their rightful places.

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the awesome cable along the sides of the coat is finally able to spread out and lighten up a bit—we just adore its bold look. the mohair in the chebris worsted that i knit with (in dragée) is blooming like mad; it’s going to be delicious to wear, mmm.

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both are drying now; the next step will be to style them with additional garments and accessories to get ready for the photo shoots coming up soon. patterns for these and more will be available in our ensemble collection, releasing in mid-january. myself and a few designer friends have been working hard on some great mix and match pieces—all in shades of bare naked wools.

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now i can get back to working out the top portion of the shawl that i started over thanksgiving; it’s been waiting patiently for me all week. this evening i worked out a tentative chart for the crescent shape in a mesh pattern—i’m hoping it will work, but if not i have a plan B to go to.

ok, i think that’s everything i have for today. i’ll be back in a few days with updates (i’ll see if our bookkeeper doug can give us the scholarship numbers so far) and some newsy items about books, patterns, and gift ideas that friends have been sending my way—stay tuned.

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not so unrealistic after all

anne wrote this in the wee hours:

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did you have a good thanksgiving weekend? ours was just great—with much appreciated downtime from our usual pace at home.

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we got to spend a few days in a fantastic part of vermont with family, at my cousin’s home on lake champlain.

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our first night there was thanksgiving eve and after supper i finished up what i could of my skirt project, which i’ve been knitting in our kent DK, color driftwood.

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now you can see a lot better what is going on at the hem—the same motif as the top of the skirt but larger and more dramatic, due to the increased stitch count of each panel. i filled in the negative space at the lower edge with the twisted rib to keep that from curling.

it reminds me a little bit of those huge ski jump runs they set up for olympic competitions, so i’ve decided to name it interlaken; for some reason the ski jumping in those particular games sticks in my mind.

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but, with just two rounds to go (one of them the BO), i ran out of yarn, as i expected. time to put this project away until we got home. i was in bed by 10:30 pm that night and had my first truly full night of sleep in ages.

with more than a few fabulous cooks onsite to share the work of holiday preparations, i was able to get out on a sunny TG morning for quite a run along the western lake shore, then down and around hyde point, robinson point, and pearl bay—about twice as far as i’d planned. when doing a new route, i’m not a good judge of how long i’ve been running.

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while heading outward and south, the wind was so strong that it blew my legs sideways as i went so that i kept kicking myself between strides (stop that laughing). i was glad i went south first—later, on the road back north i had a nice tailwind to make up for running so much further out than i’d planned. no worries; i needed to work up an appetite for the afternoon meal . . .

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back at the house, the teenagers were up and dinner prep had swung into full throttle. some of us helped in the kitchen while some of us made the tables ready—with eighteen people total for dinner we had two.

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many hands make light work and this dinner was no exception; with so many good cooks around, the scope of dishes prepared for both meat eaters and vegetarians was incredible.

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with everything from maple-glazed parsnips to a warm salad of shaved brussels sprouts to caramelized cauliflower, plus vegetarian shepherd’s pie and the usual trimmings of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, etc, etc.

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and every bit of it was just scrumptious. don’t even get me started on the desserts . . . i was so taken in by those that i forgot entirely about snapping photos, haha.

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after dinner and cleanup, we all settled in for an evening of conversation, reading, puzzles, and knitting. my niece and nephew completed the puzzle they’d been working on all afternoon and posed for a proud photo. they are getting so big—every time i see them they seem to have grown several inches.

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david and i each cast on for new projects—he’s been working on his blanket squares quite monogamously since january and brought some of those along to continue. i wonder how many blocks he has finished now? i know he’s got piles of them . . .

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however he also needs a new hat, so he packed up a skein of stone soup DK in river rock to switch off to (he’s become a real knitter this year, now with multiple projects in play!). he loves his squish me cap, but somehow managed to shrink it and tho he still wears it faithfully, it doesn’t slouch as it used to (see above).

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within a few hours he was well along; you know how these hats are—nothing short of addictive. he’ll be wearing this new one very soon.

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meanwhile on my end of the sofa, i continued on the new shawl i’d cast on that morning while i watched the sun come up and waited for the temperature outside to rise a bit.

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i am knitting with our finest lace yarn, cabécou brillant, which is a lustrous 2-ply mohair/silk/coopworth blend.

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it’s very fine for an artisan lace yarn, with a thousand yards per four-ounce skein, but i’m knitting it on size 6US (4.0 mm) needles for a very airy fabric; the yarn will bloom to fill in the fabric with a lovely halo. i’m knitting with the champagne shade, which we have spun with the brown and red mohair—the more rare color that we get only in small quantities.

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the color is a like parchment, which is perfect for the design i’m working on. my blocked swatch here is in the sel gris shade; the motif is adapted from an old lace book and its solid areas remind me of the dry, papery leaves that cling to dead plants at this time of year, before they tear away during winter exposure. in this yarn, they will flutter just like the real thing, with the barest movement of air.

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much as i am entranced by their translucency, i am even more taken with the negative space in this pattern—those delicate skeletal structures joining the leaves are exact replicas of the membranes that line the casings of seed pods left behind by our asiatic lilies.

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the representation is so uncannily organic that it brings the yarn into a whole other dimension for me. i just love it when a composition of yarn and shapes comes to life like this, sigh.

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hard to believe it now, but that swatch once looked exactly like this homely, crumpled fabric, too—the magic of blocking will open this up and smooth out its surface so that it sparkles and dances with the same light.

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can you tell i’m excited about this one? i’m naming it physalis for now; while physalis pods don’t have the cool-looking membrane between the segments, they do have the same papery texture and transparency i find attractive and the name is wonderful. i can’t find a specific name for the lily pods, or i might consider that (any botanists or horticulturists out there who might know?).

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though much more gray and even windier on friday morning, i went for another fantastic long run—it’s amazing what a difference it makes when i get a proper night’s sleep.

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i never thought i could do two long runs back to back, but i felt at least as good the second day. and though i started out intending to do a short recovery run, i ended up doing an even longer one, this time north and out to bow and arrow point and back (chalk one up also for not knowing the terrain very well; it looked WAY shorter in my maps app).

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but with scenery like this, it’s easy to keep going and going, just to find out what’s around the next bend.

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the point is a cape that ends in a super-pointy spit of land upon which a YMCA camp stands; unfortunately, the very point is closed to the public. but the cape is still a nice run.

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the road back took me past an old graveyard and a lot of farmland.

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water and mountains formed a backdrop in nearly every direction. there’s something about a farm property that has settled into quiet for the winter; while i’m sure the house and barn had plenty of activity to fill their spaces, the fields were soothingly at rest.

after a hot shower and a good stretch, i headed to the kitchen to start making turkey sandwiches, first for my mom and and our host’s mom, then one for me. and after that, more knitting. i’m telling you, this was one of the best mini vacations ever.

i honestly can’t remember how the rest of the day passed except that it was relaxing and i’m pretty sure i had a nap at some point, haha. we all convened for a good dinner of risotto made by my cousin along with the butternut squash soup i had brought, made entirely of things form our garden. once again, everything was delicious and the company was the best part.

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up early the next morning, i decided to cast on for another project—something more mindless and easy on the hands that i could manage easily in the car. we were heading home later that morning. can you guess what it might be?

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can you guess now??

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it’s my prototype for slow dog noodle, the red scarf project! i’m knitting this first one in undyed shades of confection sport while awaiting the dyed samples to arrive from rita at yarn hollow (they arrived today, yay! we’ll show all in a post later this week; you won’t be disappointed). and yes, we will be offering sets in the undyed shades too, although you could buy some now if you wanted to.

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i’m using white chocolate, cookies n cream, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. i’m knitting the wrap size to get an idea of what the yardage requirement will be. i’m working size 9US (5.5 mm); i think this is about as loose as i would go with this yarn and pattern. i’m still getting excellent stitch definition and a nice even fabric; the bigger needles give it a super-light and airy hand. the combination of the very springy corriedale fiber and this very stable stitch pattern makes for a fabric which will keep its shape nicely despite the loose gauge.

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as it turned out, i did most of the driving saturday, so i didn’t get much car knitting in, but i worked on it that night at my mom’s house while we watched a couple of movies on TMC and then also on sunday afternoon on the way back to ohio (i drove the first half; david the second).

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even though i’m knitting the length of the wrap in each row (it’s a side to side construction), the stripes just zip by—after a few more hours put in on it last night i was into the third shade already. in this version, i’m doing a half repeat in each shade and the repeating the sequence again for the wrap width. my next sample knit will be with the red yarns and i’ll take advantage of the closer gradient colors to work from dark to light at the center and then back to dark again (there can be several combinations, including a random one!).

i had thought i would release the pattern before we left for our break, but i’m glad i waited; while it wouldn’t bother me to release it with my sample unfinished as i did last year, i really needed to get a better idea of the yardage estimate, since it starts with a very long cast on—we need to know more or less how much yarn each stripe will require (and now i do).

now i have a set each of one ounce and four ounce skeins, so i can start on a red sample any time. later this week, i’ll be able to show you that and get the pattern posted for purchase.

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after breakfast on sunday morning at my mom’s, i remembered that i’d promised her i’d cast on the large number of sts for her next project—an hourglass throw knit in this gorgeous briar rose abundance, gifted to her by darling chris when my mom had her knee surgery several years ago.

chris thought she would enjoy knitting a big project during her recovery, but as it turned out, my mom wasn’t feeling up to such a big project. since then she’s had a few items in her queue that she wanted to complete, all the while talking about how she was getting closer to starting this throw in “that beautiful yarn form your friend”.

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finally she has cleared her plate of afghans for the grandchildren and now it’s time to knit for herself; this gorgeous colorway will look stunning in her living room. so the last thing i did before i left was to cast on and place all of her markers, then work the first row to set up the pattern for her. she can take it easily form there.

i told her it should be done by christmas, right? she just snorted.

alright then, time for me to go for the moment; i have knitting to do myself. i’ll be back in a day or so to tell you about IMMERSION mini club—our winter/spring voyage into the wild blue yonder.

signups open today for everyone, yay!

new territory

anne wrote this in the early morning:

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

we are away for holiday—we left canton on tuesday for albany and my mom’s house (lots of driving and more to come!).

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just a quick overnight though; the three of us  traveled to vermont yesterday to spend the holiday with my cousin’s family, who have a house on grand isle in the middle of lake champlain.

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we got to take a ferry to island at the end of a long (but very beautiful) drive up the northway. we got to the house just as it was getting dark; i can’t WAIT to get out for a run and explore; i’ve never been here before.

the last few days before we left home were crazy busy getting ready—between work and holiday prep, there was more than enough to fill a few 24-hour days, haha. you know me, i always overcommit and it sorta backs up on me whenever it’s time to leave town.

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on saturday erica and i took our little boutique on the road to a local knitting retreat, where about thirty people were gathered to knit and visit for a whole weekend (sounds great, right??). i don’t even think this group has a name; they just like to knit together.

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we were so happy to be included in the saturday events—everyone was just so nice to us and treated us so well (thank you again, knitters!). no classes or anything, just lots of fun food, fun people, and well, fun.

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we set up the popup shop, i talked for a little bit, and then everyone shopped and we knitted with them for a few hours more. it was so fab!

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i worked on my skirt (more on that in a minute) while i chatted with knitters on one side of the room. it’s nearly done but these last few rounds seem to be going slower than all the others.

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erica sat on the other side of the room working on her mountain peaks wrap while chatting with the other knitters. this is her first lace project and she’s making great progress, don’t you think?

it was a lovely day; thank you again for inviting us to participate!

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bright and early the next morning i had an early meetup scheduled with a pumpkin and a whole lot of gluten free flours. almost every morning these days,  i cannot believe my ears when the alarm goes off—is it me, or are hours for sleep actually growing shorter and shorter?

yeah, it might just be me, huh?

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anyway, still bleary eyed from sleep, i started peeling my 3.5 pound pumpkin while the coffee perked. just standing up and smelling coffee made me feel better, hee-hee.

i like the flavor that i get from roasting pumpkin, but i don’t like the mess it sometimes makes and i definitely did not have time on sunday to clean the oven afterward. so i peeled and cut it up in chunks and roasted them, keeping an eye out that they didn’t brown too much. well, that worked a treat—i got some nice color and caramelization, but they remained fairly dry. i steamed them for a few minutes afterward for good measure and to prevent the outer surfaces from being leathery. the only thing was . . . it didn’t make quite enough, arggh. i need another half cup or so, dang it.

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fortunately i had a nice row of butternut squashes from our garden on a basement shelf. i cut up the smallest of those and steamed the chunks for a few minutes to augment the pumpkin and also to use in the next recipe i made.

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for this second one, i cooked up all of our smaller sweet potatoes to use in a recipe for gluten free sweet potato rolls; i was excited to try these as well as another bread recipe. this would be my first voyage into GF bread making. i’ll admit, i put this off til the last minute because was nervous. i used to bake all my own bread and i know it takes time to develop a hand for the process, as well as an arsenal of good recipes.

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but i had committed to bringing bread, so here we go! GF bread starts out more like a very stretchy batter—i think there are some waffle and quick bread foods that are made like this.

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so i set up two types of dough from two authors who use differing methods, in case one would work better than the other. the looser dough (top photo) did rise faster, but the drier dough was a little easier to work with.

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while they rose i made my pie and a pan of GF pumpkin squares from the leftover filling (i always make too much filling)

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but i love pumpkin squares as much as i love pumpkin pie so it’s all good. i just used my old recipe for these and subbed in GF flour; that has been working pretty well for simpler recipes.

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while the pies were in the oven, i shaped my bread loaves and rolls from the dough that had now risen fully (yay). this was the trickiest part—the dough is extremely tacky and wet, requiring a scrape and fold method rather than the familiar hands on kneading i am used to.

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but eventually i got the hang of it and soon the sweet potato rolls and a loaf were rising.

then i repeated the process with the whole grain dough from which i made two small boules.

the sweet potato loaf was rising fast so i got that into the oven as soon as my pie came out. suddenly i had a bit of a traffic jam of items that needed to get in the oven, ack! the breads worked out fine but unfortunately, the rolls ended up over proofing and did not fare as well (my bad; i should have moved them to a cool spot when i first noticed they were rising too quickly).

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baking done for the day, it was time to turn back to my knitting. my skirt was nearly done before the weekend started but when i put it on the form for its second fitting, i realized it was getting much too long and there would not be room to complete the hem and keep it the length i wanted.

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the shape is pretty though—i like it. so again i ripped back a good deal to start the hem at an earlier point.

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and here’s what it looked like yesterday morning—almost done!

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i knit in the car all the way to vermont and a little bit last evening, so it’s a little further along the you see here. i literally have just two or three rows to go now, but i may run short of yarn (ARRgghh!!). i hope not, but if i do it will be a quick finish once i get home.

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i have plenty of other knitting to work on this weekend—my red scarf prototype and a new shawl in our cabécou lace yarn. i brought plenty of yarn and needles to get started on those—in fact a totally unrealistic amount, haha.

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have a wonderful holiday wherever you are—i hope you get to knit as much as you want at least for one day. happy thanksgiving!

red all over

anne wrote this mid-afternoon:

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yesterday an important envelope of goodies arrived just in time to examine its contents at our weekly company meeting—red dye dips from our friend rita at yarn hollow, for our red scarf project.

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SO many beautiful reds! for each red, rita gave us a series of variations. it’s hard to see in the photos because the variations are quite subtle; probably in a swatch they would show up more.

we asked for a red that leaned a little toward blue this time, as festivus 1.0 was more orange in tone. some of the choices are more blue than others—similar to the crime scene colorway i used a few years ago from skeinny dipping.

the jester red (second from the left in the previous photo) is the one we’re most smitten with; it kind of falls in between those two and stands out from the other options with a bright glow, neither orangey nor purply, but a deep berry red.

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JR2 and JR5 are our favorites among all the jesters.

the color experiments were not dyed on our actual base, just something generic that rita had on hand.

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next, she picked the three colors she liked best and dyed up some sets on our confection sport base (100% corriedale), using the natural fiber shades to tone the single color into five gradients.

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omigosh the yarn came out so soft! i was really worried about this as sometimes, a single breed yarn will not survive the dye process without getting roughed up a bit. but it performed like a champ—well, a soft-hearted champ . . .

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we were surprised at how the color changed on the corriedale fiber; it is slightly more blue and much richer with a gorgeous sheen; this fiber clearly absorbs dye well and very evenly. the yarn fairly glows with red light.

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even the dark chocolate shade came out a beautiful, deep burnished red. two of the middle shades—nougat and cookies and cream—did not show much differential after dying, so we will eliminate one and go with sets of four (the red scarf design can also be knit in an array of neutral shades from any of our yarn lines).

erica has created a listing to preorder these red yarn kits, offered in a range of sizes that include from one to four ounces of each shade (pattern will be sold separately). the set of one-ounce skeins will make a nice cowl or hat, while the bigger sets will be enough for a scarf and hat or a wrap. skeins of confection sport range from 93.5 yards (one ounce) to 375 yards (four ounce).

we will donate 10 percent of the kit price to the scholarship fund. your preorders will help us decide how much yarn to have dyed; we don’t want to run short!

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and while we will be knitting ours into variations of this year’s red scarf fundraiser pattern, you can use them for any project you’d like or give them to a friend—they make a wonderful swap gift!

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alright now, in other news, i had a bit of a setback on my skirt when i tried it on myself and my dress form over the weekend.

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it looked nice and it fit, too, but drat—much too slim for the skirt i had in mind. with this fit, it was likely to end up bagging out if sat in for any length of time . . .

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it wasn’t tight, mind you, but also didn’t have that nice A-line shape i was after; oh poo.

there just weren’t enough increases (i had been doing one per panel) and they were too far apart (cue in the sound of ripping out stitches). i took it all the way back to the end of the hip pattern.

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i worked hard to catch up and by last night i was back to the same point. i think you can even see on the needles that the panels flare a little more now.

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onto the form again on monday morning and i am much happier with it. in fact, i may just put a couple more rows between each increase when i write up the pattern, as it is just a little fuller than i intended. on the other hand, i do like the way it naturally pleats up with the motif, so i will make that decision after blocking. the hem looks a little stiff with the string through it, but that will drape better once the fabric is soaked and washed.

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it’s still nicely fitted in the waist and high hip with a minimum of bulk, but below that point, it flares away from the body so that when we sit in it, it will not stretch the fabric.

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this morning i worked on it some more over coffee and got it to the point where the hem pattern begins. isn’t it sharp? i love how the kent DK works up—soft and squishy, at the same time it has such excellent stitch definition and a lovely sheen.

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even though i really should have been at my desk working on some patterns, i couldn’t resist getting a few rows into the hem design. i’ll work on it some more at open knit night this evening and hopefully by tomorrow, i’ll be into the final stretch.

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i desperately want to test drive it by wearing it for thanksgiving (especially since it’s supposed to get much colder by this time next week).

once the skirt is off the needles, i need to move right on to a couple of other projects. one of which is my red scarf sample, so i can get the pattern ready for a november 25th release (my sample knit probably won’t be done by then, but if figure we can all knit along together as we did last year).

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and second, a tantalizing new shawl design to be included in our january BNWs collection. more on that in the next post . . .

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speaking of thanksgiving, i’ve promised to make a gluten free pumpkin pie and some bread, so i will be taking a little time to do that over the weekend. i’m getting excited about the holiday; david and i will be traveling to albany to visit my mom and the three of us will spend the holiday with family at their summer house on lake champlain in vermont.

ok, that’s all for now—i’ve got to skedaddle.