unexpected treasures

Posted on 31 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, projects

(i’ll never not be fascinated by the coleus)

a few days ago i got a nice email from my friend abby, who chatted a bit about the garden and then added cryptically I desperately need your snail mail address. It’s urgent!. ok then . . . not wanting to stress her one iota if i could help it, i shot the address right back to her.

a few hours later, i got a notice from the USPS that abby franquemont was mailing me something. hmm, completely intriguing, but since i love surprises, i didn’t press for more info.

and then today there was this in my mailbox

holy cow.
i know you can’t feel this but can you see how soft it is? cuz it is. and fine—very, very fine (there are over 400 yards in that 1 ounce skein). and that color—this kind of color is my very favorite natural brown . . kind of a moorit/buff. i think we are calling it butterscotch.

and if all that wasn’t enough, she spun it on a drop spindle. with her very own precious hands.
the magnitude of it overwhelms.

abby is a most incredible fiber artist . . . she teaches and make batts, and spins yarns and writes and all that good stuff; some day i want to take classes from her (i had so hoped to go to SOAR this year but it’s not to be . . .).

this skein is gonna be a little nothing for sure. very soon. if i can ever find a stitch that does it justice (however will i bring myself to swatch it? to cut it??).
thank you abby that was incredibly incredible of you!

it’s sitting here on my desk where i can pet it whenever i want. and when i need my hand back, i have this to take its place

another surprise that arrived in today’s mail—is that not the most bodacious hamsa?
as you well know, my wonderful friend kim and i often exchange fun packages (we really do have to restart our chocolate exchange kim).

well, recently while in NYC with her son, she was in an east village shop and came across this spectacular piece. it is so over the top as to be mesmerizing—it pleases me no end and kim knew it was just the thing for me. and that was before she saw my scarf.
it’s a hand (i collect them), it’s a hamsa, it gorgeous, and (oooh, those of you that have similar fetishes will love this part)

it’s a BOX!
omg i almost swooned when i saw it was a box, too (it started with my dad’s matchboxes when i was small and the allure has never waned). so much excitement in one day—i can hardly take it. thank you kim . . . you know me so well.

after all that my blood sugar was low . . . so i made a sandwich with the first big tomatoes of the year

mmm. ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby.

i’m also working out the lacewing motif for the shawl

and i’m getting close. i don’t want it to be overly literal . . . just a little more detail than the ones in my initial swatches. the one on the far left here is very close to what i’m searching for.

i dunno about you, but i like things to be neat and tidy. however, i am not always neat and tidy, especially when i’m focused on work. in fact, it’s really easy for me to develop a sense that tidiness exists because there is one clean spot right in front of me while the immediate surroundings of my desk become extremely cluttered.

but oof; while taking pictures at my desk today i couldn’t help but see it for what it is—an absolute sty. the camera never lies.

there is stuff scattered here still from when i came home from TNNA in early june. and don’t even mention my work room—an even worse situation.
something tells me a little housekeeping is in order. i’m not feeling the bug in full force yet, but the worm is turning in my mind, and i think soon i may have to take a couple of days off to straighten up my “creative tableaux”. it will be good for me right?

parts is parts

Posted on 29 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, projects

it’s been one of those days when i had to settle for accomplishing things in pieces. you know the kind—eventually, at some point, it all pulls together but for most of the day you are making small events happen with no final product.

but hey, i’ll take parts—they do eventually become something, right?

i knew we had quiche on the menu today, to use some of the chard i picked over the weekend, along with the farm eggs we have in the fridge. so while the coffee perked i made the crust and put it in the chiller.

then i went outside to see what needed picking from the garden

these will be for another meal; we have tomatoes that will be ready to pick tomorrow to with them. after a cup of coffee i blanched some more chard and put that in the freezer

then headed to the living room floor to see how my swatches were doing—all dry so i unpinned, measured, and took notes from them. these are slated for projects that will develop over the next couple of weeks so, again, just parts and preliminary work for something i’m not ready to get going on yet (well, maybe just one . . .)

i have a beautiful bamboo/merino/silk blend from lilith oldmaidenaunt.com in this gorgeous deep rose that she calls cinnamon, and i think it works up charmingly in this climbing rosebud pattern

then i have that briar rose grace i talked about the other day, another bamboo blend i have fallen hard for this summer.

i don’t know the name of this colorway, but it’s an herbal green with dashes of rose and plum. i knit it up in the stitch from the third panel of my shawl swatch, which several of you convinced me would make a lovely scarf . . . and it will. in fact (heh), i may have started this one already . . . i’m in need of a traveling project (more on that later)

i also swatched this wonderfully juicy yarn that i’ve had for a while from judy

it’s her artisan merino silk in colorway copper, and i just love it in this merry stitch pattern. i think i might have to call this one jester.

once i got those organized, i got more parts put together for the quiche by sautéing the chard, steaming the potato slices, preparing the egg filling, and grating the cheese. but i couldn’t cook it yet; everything went back into the fridge so we could go on to the doctor’s appointment we had.

on the way there and back i worked on the last of my caterpillar sock

getting all the way to the start of the toe, when i ran out of yarn. i was working with a smaller-than-normal skein (about 80 yds short, maybe?) when i started these, and i knew it was a gamble. any of you that have this yarn should have plenty for your socks. if my feet were a size smaller it would have been enough. so i’ll either find some on ravelry or use another yarn for the toe. another thing to put aside and finish later (but it will be so great when i do; only the toe to go).

so that gave me permission to start the scarf i was talking about; i can’t go anywhere without a take-along project can i?

after we got home i finally put the whole dinner together and it’s in the oven now. actually, it smells like it’s done, and i’m hungry, so i’m off to eat soon (can’t wait).

and after that? maybe a bike ride if it doesn’t rain, and certainly a date with this

at some point in the evening. it’s looking blobby now which is a sign of progress; from here on it will be like a big ball of dough rising—a little bigger each day. last night i got through another repeat of the motif, and checked the charts so now i’m ready to write the first half of the pattern.

while we caught up with the tour last night i didn’t spin as i should have (it’s always so late when we finally sit to watch TV), but worked on my new sock

see how pretty the yarn is? it makes lovely shadowy shapes across the fabric . . . really nice, thanks stephanie!

ok, now the quiches has cooled a bit and the aroma spreading through the house is about killing me, so off i go.

i love me a good weekend

Posted on 27 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects

this was just one of those schu-we-e-et weekends that had everything—i got lots done, we had good meals and good company to go with, we worked hard and took “naps”, and rode bikes . . . man, i hate when it ends but it makes getting back to the work week seem a little easier.

ok, i got a great start on my new shawl this weekend—i’m very happy so far. friday night i charted up the shoulder section and the next section and spent time on saturday finalizing the tiny edging along the neck and sides (it was bugging me, so i toyed with about 10 different variations of things i made up).

on sunday i worked on the yoke, making small corrections to the charts as i went. the yoke is the most important and challenging part of the shawl design; it has to fit nicely and not be too big, or the whole shawl will be droopy and frumpy.

here’s a shot of the shoulder line, sitting squarely on the shoulder of my dress form. after it’s blocked it will stretch a bit, and the neck may relax some, but the shoulder should still sit squarely along that line, so that the back panel hangs straight and the fullness at the hem falls into beautiful folds.

here’s a glimpse of the back shoulder area, where the patterned side panel meets the back panel worked in a different, more vertical, pattern. madeline (blogless) made the astute observation the other day that the fern lace, which is the body stitch of the side panels, looked upside-down,

and she’s right; since i’m working top-down that motif is upside-down when viewed as a shawl. but it’s interesting . . . for me another, more floral motif emerges from this orientation, which i like very much within the concept of this piece.

if you look closely

you’ll see that the top end of the back panel also has some shaping toward the neck, to ensure that it lays nicely over any curvature in that area. shaping, shaping, shaping—that’s what makes for a nice fit. and since there is really only one opportunity for body contact in such a garment—the yoke—the shoulder area gets lots of attention in the form of shaping and calculating just the right number of stitches.

since this is a one-size garment intended to fit many different people, there has to be a little compromise in the exactness of the fit, but if you were creating one just for yourself, you could make it as close-fitting as you wanted (and a savvy knitter could adjust the pattern shaping of the back panel fairly easily for a custom fit).

let’s look at the frontal view

as the shawl grows this view will fill in and become much prettier, with larger expanses of patterned lace angling across the body, or falling along the arms.

satisfied with a decent beginning on the shawl, i took breaks late at night to knit swatches and start a new project (since my last SIP is nearing completion and should get finished in class today).

remember the swatch i showed the other day from stephanie’s yarn that i said i was making a scarf out of? heh. that yarn did not want to be that scarf i decided—it wants to be a sock.

i think the way that the gentle color changes wash across the fabric are much better suited to this other stitch pattern i had picked for my next sock. more on that later this week as i make progress on it.

i did not abandon that scarf idea though . . i picked a much more suitable yarn that really enhances the stitch pattern lots better. in fact i swatched a bunch of stitches over the weekend and this morning for future scarf projects, and have these three soaking now

see the briar rose grace on the far right? THAT’s the yarn that will be that scarf . . . it’s so tudor; i just love them together. and chris wrote me today that she does have grace in stock . . . please email her if you want some and can’t find it on her site.

i’ll get these swatches blocked and review them with you tomorrow.

and then there was spinning—sunday isn’t sunday any more without our spinning class. yesterday we talked about long draw and gave that a whirl. it’s not a technique that comes instantly to each spinner’s fingers (not many of them are), but as we work each week, i notice that techniques i’ve talked about before are starting to be used comfortably by participants, so i’m sure that, in time, this one will too.

i finished up my first 3-ounce packet of the merino alpaca i’ve been laboring over sporadically since the beginning of july

and i have another one to spin onto a separate bobbin. i’m being very patient and giving myself permission to take my time; it’s either that or no spinning at all, and we can’t have that.

once i finished that first bobbin though, i wanted to demonstrate some long draw spinning with another fiber (i’m spinning the silky top worsted, so that wouldn’t do). so i got out the batts i carded two weeks ago

and started a bobbin with the lincoln/corriedale/nylon mix. very interesting . . . the lincoln fiber is a little longer than i’d remembered and the blend has a lot of lanolin in it so it wasn’t the perfect choice for long draw. i ended up demonstrating with some of linda’s and anne marie’s more medium-length fiber instead.

then when the work period was underway, i continued with my own fiber in a sort of hybrid technique that allowed for spinning a little more smoothly while still enjoying some longer drafting (i doubt it’s any kind of official technique, but i suspect i’m not the only one who uses it, at least sometimes).

this will be sock yarn for david’s favorite kind of socks, so i’d like something fairly smooth (the better to knit on small needles my dear) and firmly spun, for better wear. i’m hoping that more of the golden moorit fiber i carded in will show up in the final yarn (all that blending work just has to be worth it . . .).

and now it’s monday. i have class this afternoon and a date to finish a sock, i need to block some swatches, and i want to get back to work on the shawl. if we’re lucky, we’ll also get out for a ride (it looks like it might storm, though). see you next time.

some carnage we got here

Posted on 21 CommentsPosted in food and garden

as with every saturday lately, the morning was spent out in the garden working, rearranging, watering and dealing with the bugs (more on that later).

i thinned the swiss chard again, taking out about half, now that it is a good 9–12 inches high. the rest can get even bigger i hope. success is sweet; i took in enough to put a bag in the freezer; the tiny leaves in the strainer above will get chopped into a quiche in a day or two. we’ll probably eat that bok choy tomorrow with some rice, squash, and fish.

i also thinned out the salad greens; i have a pot of lettuce that i over-sowed, plus two garden rows of mixed asian salad greens that germinated beyond belief and were on top of each other.

in case you thought i was kidding about the tiny lettuce salad, i’m not—i’ve got about 6 or 8 cups of tiny greens here. mark and beckie are coming for dinner tonight and we’re all eating it.

with these

and a cucumber i picked yesterday.

as it happens, most everything we’re eating tonight came from the garden. i have a dish of eggplant parmagiano from the freezer that was baked last winter with the last of the garden eggplant (we picked eggplant til almost thanksgiving last year) along with sauce from garden tomatoes (the cheese was purchased). and i have a pan of the stuffed peppers we all love (the last of last year’s).

time to clear the freezer . . . the new stuff is starting to come in regularly and we need room for it. in fact, while the coffee perked this morning i put up 2 quarts of zucchini chunks. soon we’ll be doing tomatoes.

about the bugs . . . thanks for all your sympathies but today i think i have avenged myself (hide your eyes if you are sensitive about dying insects)

after i finished harvesting and working this morning, i sprayed everything with a good dose of rotenone and they are dropping like stones. all those black speckles there are the wee ones—thousands of them.

i’m not exactly thrilled to be the cause of so much carnage, but i’m hoping it is balanced by saving the life of the greenery and produce.