wake UP, it’s spring

Posted on 28 CommentsPosted in designing, food and garden, lace/shawls, projects, yarn and dyeing

happy spring everyone and what a difference some nice weather makes, eh? the sun has been shining down on us the last few days, making everything feel a little cheerier.

i got out there early today while it was still pretty chilly and the crocuses were shut up tight

after a bit, when the sun comes over the house to the front, they warm up and open their petals, even more yellow inside than out.

there’s always a surprise or two

i’m not sure what this is, but we have just one of them each year . . . some kind of freesia or snowdrop, maybe?

another surprise was how many tulips have poked up in just the last couple of days—the back yard is carpeted with them in patches and more are appearing every day.

and holy cow—new strawberries plants a-plenty. fingers crossed we have some nice berries this year. it’s our third year and i’m hoping this is the one when the berries are truly sweet. they’ve always been plentiful, if a little underwhelming in flavor.

i thought the big hyacinths were coming up earlier in the week, but now i have proof—and something has already been nibbling at them, haha. hopefully it tasted bad and they won’t try each one.

and the daffodils—i can’t believe they were mere shoots just a week ago.

now they are sporting big fat buds. i hope i don’t miss them blooming (i’m leaving for the pacific northwest in nine days; i’m going to miss a lot).

all the way in the back garden, where it’s cold and shady til later in the spring, a small rumblings of the ground waking up are starting to be heard. the hostas are poking tips out of the ground to test the waters and the lady’s mantle is emerging nearby as well

one not-so-nice surprise is that i think i lost my beloved hellebores (lenten rose), though i don’t know how—it just doesn’t seem to be coming back. curious, since it did so well last year after weathering its first winter. i’ll have to look for more of those plants and try again.

another reason for the return of my good mood is that i’ve been able to get out to ride my bike on a regular basis this week, instead of relying on the exercise bike indoors. i couldn’t be happier to leave the machine behind; i’m antsy to be out in the fresh air.

the other day it was in the mid 60s and very sunny, so i took the route that goes by the swan’s pond to see if they were out. yes, they were

i can’t actually tell which one is the male and which is the female (or which is last year’s offspring, for that matter), but i can’t help thinking this one is the male

he swam right over when i pulled up on my bike and proceeded to parade back and forth, left to right, the whole time i stood there, haha, while the other one hung back.

it does my heart (and my brain) good to see so much new activity all of a sudden; it puts me in the mood to get organized. i’m actually looking forward to cleaning out my closet and getting some yarn put away this week as a treat for finishing some pattern work up.

my sock camp class plan is done now; i just have to finish up some samples to bring along. i’m knitting those in leftover yarns from winter projects, such as this lovely slackford studio nimbus cloud, mmm. it brings back very fond memories of knitting the aria delicato scarf.

i’m starting to gather my travel knitting into little piles—why not, right?

some extra lucent yarn in colorway lady slipper arrived from the woolen rabbit the other day and i wound it up, pulled some needles, and printed out a chart to knit a neckwarmer and scarf during my travels in april, to match the eliza mitts.

i’m working on a good-sized secret project which i mentioned was giving me fits last week. i could not get the same gauge in the project that i got in my swatches; very unusual for me.

well, i decided to trust my scientific method and just keep knitting to see if my gauge tightened up. miraculously, it has (even though i say it’s my scientific method, it always surprises me that it works, haha). anyway i’m very happy it did. the area near the start which is looser than it should be will have a knit-on trim, so i’m thinking that will tighten things up there as well. phew—crisis averted, i think . . .

i’m on the very last rows of the crooked walking shawl—literally, i think i have just one and a half rows to go, but i got interrupted yesterday mid-row and have not been back since.

that is to be remedied as soon as i finish up here—i’m dying to block this baby and see how it turns out (i bet the yarn is going to be awesome once it’s washed). the pattern is written and with the test knitters and proofer now; it will be ready for release pretty soon.

as you can see, i’ve used just about every bit of the second skein too; i’ll have just a few yards left when all is said and done.

yep, i’m looking forward to settling in and maybe chatting with cookie while i finish. in fact, that thought is getting might distracting—i think the time is now. waddaya say, are you about ready for some knitting too?

woodcutter’s toque

Posted on 20 CommentsPosted in patterns

david never used to wear a hat at all, blessed as he was with a huge mane of luxurious locks—so many, in fact, that finding hats to fit was a real challenge. last year though, it became apparent that his natural blanket of top coverage had become seriously compromised, so i suggested a hat might be in order.

he showed me a style he liked and picked out a cozy, briar rose yarn from my stash in dark plums and greens (more on that later). i knit it up during our late-winter trip to upstate new york and he has worn it almost constantly since, in cool to cold weather.

make that ALL weather—it seems this year as if he donned it at the beginning of october and hasn’t removed it, except to put on another one just like it—i knit up a few more this winter in different yarns for variety and now he has a handspun version, too

it’s a quirky shaped hat, one that i truly wasn’t sure he would like, but i’m thrilled that he’s so attached to it.

and i think it helps that the hat draws a lot of compliments and attention. during our travels this winter, he’s been stopped numerous times to talk about the hat. cookie and i have taken to calling it his “gnome of the woods” hat, haha.

it’s just so gnomely . . .

shown above: size large, in mountain meadow wool kettle-dyed artisan laramie, in colorway coconut. with it, he’s wearing his hypoteneuse wrap.

shown below: size large hat in briar rose country road, colorway black forest, which is dyed on the same laramie base as the mountain meadow yarn. this one he likes to pair with his oh! canada wrap.

mmmm, it is SO squishy and soft—a real treat to knit with, especially for cables; it’s very easy on the hands due to its elasticity and bounce . . . and the stitch definition. well, the pictures tell the story.

i liked it so much that i knit one for myself to use on snow shoveling days (of which we’ve had many this year, ahem). mine is knit in a slightly lighter weight yarn and a fresh, bright green color

shown here on the left in size medium, knit in mountain meadow wool jackson, a DK/light worsted version of laramie that isn’t listed on their site yet (bummer!). on the right is a size large that i knit in my own handspun worsted. so there’s lots of versatility in the pattern, which offers a choice of two yarn weights and three sizes; there’s sure to be something in the stash to knit with and someone in the family who’d appreciate it.

while it may be late in the year for this offering (which i’m squeezing in just before the first day of spring), you know, it’s still winter in some places. if you’re watching basketball this weekend or getting a head start on next year’s holiday gifts before it gets too warm, this might be a fun weekend project.

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

i am very grateful for the yarn support provided by karen and valerie from mountain meadow wool, who have a most interesting mill setup in wyoming, where they work directly with ranchers to bring the best american wool to you and me. visit their online store to browse a variety of yarn offerings you can purchase direct, or to see their list of retailers to find a shop near you.

thanks also a million times to chris at briar rose fibers for providing a nearly-constant stream of wonderful knitting yarns to us—they are among david’s and my favorites for cozy, enduring knits that we wear over and over again. this delicious country road chunky is but one offering that chris dyes on an artisan base—browse her online shop for many more yarns spun from unusual blends or hard-to-find single breed bases.

and finally, many thanks to my dear friend jocelyn for test knitting this hat—she has been on a hat-knitting spree this winter and i’m afraid i took advantage of it (all in good fun, hopefully). thank you so much jocelyn; i really appreciate all that you do!

and finally, thank you david for wearing the hat with such style and devotion; you look aDORable in it!

vexed

Posted on 24 CommentsPosted in designing, lace/shawls, projects, yarn and dyeing

somehow i walked right by these very big crocus buds the other day, which then proceeded to open in the afternoon; when anne c. arrived for class, she let me know they were there. today it’s a little too chilly for them, i think, but hopefully things will brighten up tomorrow.

lord knows i could use it—it’s been dreary again for the last couple of days and i’ve got a pile of unfinished work and projects with issues. not everything is in the toilet, but there is a respectable list of to-do items hanging over my head this week.

maybe it’s the disaster in japan (we watched the horrifying live feeds in the middle of the night on the day it happened; they are burned into my brain tissue), but i am inordinately and unreasonable bummed about the pie that didn’t set. obviously, i’m the only one that doesn’t love it—everyone in class enjoyed it and david has since been scooping out dishfuls of leftovers.

it’s NOT about the pie itself of course—i can make another this weekend. it’s about how helpless we are to contain the effects of disasters, which seem to get more catastrophic all the time. we aren’t preventing them—all we can really do is clean up afterward as best we can and then rebuild. and the cost to all of us is enormous . . .

at least there are ways to help in the cleanup effort; like many people, david and i contribute on a regular basis to doctors without borders so they can carry on consistent work that enables them to provide first-response help. in times of particular stress, we give additional funds for emergency work. other organizations include the red cross, unicef, and save the children. it’s easy to give online; be assured that every single donation counts.

or perhaps you’d like to join in a knitter-specific effort—groups are forming on ravelry to organize communication, food, clothing, comfort, and monetary aid.

my friend janel just released a pretty shawl pattern named eiko this week from which she is forwarding all proceeds through April 30, 2011 to disaster relief. you can purchase it at her site or on ravelry and she will make sure that the money goes to a great cause.

i’ve got several pattern projects in various stages of completion. that part is ok, though i wish the time to focus on them didn’t slip out of my hands so quickly. there is one secret project that is vexing me, almost beyond my patience level. the situation involves gauge issues, which i don’t usually struggle with. i did lots of BIG swatches (both flat and circular) on various needles as usual and thought i had all the fabric information i could possibly use to design from. i got my first pattern draft together, started knitting the piece, and wow—the fabric was not anywhere close to being the right gauge. i mean not even in the same crime family, y’know?? like four sts off for every four inches. so i ripped back and started again on a smaller needle and i’m still getting the same thing—WTF???

i know it’s going to be really pretty once i get some control over it, but today i’m stymied. should i change my idea, my stitch patterns, or just go with the gauge i’m getting and change all my pattern numbers. or maybe stick with it as is and hope it tightens up? for now, i’m going to mull while i work on something else . . .

oh, that reminds me; i need to finalize my project and handouts for sock camp class; i’m behind on that too. nothing major, but i got a little more elaborate than i initially planned. i have to stop doing that—there almost always isn’t enough time for extras anyway.

i do have at least two projects that are going very well, which i look forward to working on whenever i can—the gray scarf and the maroon shawlette. one even has a finished pattern and the other pattern is progressing nicely.

the shawlette itself is nearing completion, i think . . .

the fabric is SO beautiful—i just love its cozy nature in great northern yarns mink/milk/merino blend. it’s also still thin and sheer enough to provide a lovely light effect; it’s the best of all things, really . . . and this pattern will be equally suitable for the yak/mink/merino/soy blend as well, if you find one of those colors more appealing.

right now it’s about right for the petite size; i almost stopped last night because i think it’s so darn cute at this length. but i’m dying to see how far two skeins of yarn will go, so i’m continuing on, hoping for a medium size with what i have here (with this shawl, you can easily lengthen the hem to suit your taste or yarn supply).

this shawlette takes a little more yarn than the usual because it’s shaped to completely circle the shoulders. the upper portion uses up quite a lot more yarn than a simple triangle. and the hem is much wider in proportion to the length as well. so, even the smallest size requires about 500 yards. the yarn is very reasonably priced though, for such luxurious fiber content and high-quality spinning.

the scarf is moving along too; it’s larger than i usually make so it’s taking a bit more time, but i’m ok with that, since it’s been a real friend. again, i’m going to use most of two skeins for mine, but i’m including a smaller sized-scarf in the pattern for those that prefer a one-skein project.

i’m really looking forward to having this scarf to wear on my spring trips; it’s large enough to provide a nice extra layer in the evenings, but light enough to pack easily or wear as a scarf, too. yay.

ok, you know what? i’m feeling better after all that writing, so i’m going to move on to getting some other work done this afternoon until it’s time for spinning class (oh yeah, spinning class is tonight—yay).

i want to leave you with one last thing to improve your own afternoon—the chance to look in on a project my very talented friend luci has undertaken since moving back to berlin, that is wonderfully fresh and lively—her in a berlin minute series of one-minute films. here’s week #45—prepare to be cheerfully earwormed by the “rain hogs” music, too:

(don’t miss the bonus clip!) or view all 50 of luci’s youTube films. you won’t be disappointed—it’s better than crack, i swear.

see, there’s always something to brighten one’s outlook . . .

let the sun shine

Posted on 25 CommentsPosted in projects

and in a complete reversal of events since the other day . . . SUN.
i love spring—it’s so schizophrenic, isn’t it?

our snow melted completely by saturday afternoon when temperatures hit the 50s, then it turned cold and windy again by evening. yesterday was a bit frosty and beckie said it was spitting snowflakes on her way over to visit. today, the sun is out in full glory and the air is less chilly (though not exactly warm yet).

and the day lilies are up.
have i mentioned how much i’m enjoying the sun today?

i spent the whole morning in the kitchen making a treat, because we have a birthday to celebrate in class this afternoon

i managed a nearly-perfect pie crust (at least, i can’t detect anything wrong with it). i did forget to poke holes in it, but that (surprisingly) did not result in disaster.

then i zested and juiced some lemons and gathered sugar, eggs, and cornstarch—can you guess what i’m making?

it’s a lemon meringue pie by special repeat request.
i use this recipe, but fair warning; it does have a couple of typos in the text so read the comments carefully. it’s also lacking in direction for how thick the filling needs to be before coming off the fire, so it’s always a crapshoot for me whether it will set (i’m hoping that if all of you keep your fingers crossed, it will be fine).

so why, pray tell, do i use it?? simply put, it tastes heavenly.
not too sweet, with a light, lemony tart flavor, it is spring on a plate and lord knows, we could use some of that around here . . .

points off for my meringue not being glossy—i let the beaten egg whites sit for a few minutes while i cooked the filling a little more (just to be sure) and they beaded up a bit. arghh—when will i ever learn?

if all goes well, it will be a wonderful in-class dessert, just the right thing for a late afternoon treat. on the other hand, my adventures in baking do not qualify for anyone’s list of higher achievements . . . worst case scenario: we might be eating it out of a bowl, but it’ll still taste good, heh.

and if anyone has pointers on how to tell whether a filling will set, please do enlighten me . . .

now, i’m not a cruel person and i don’t want you to feel left out, so i thought some eye candy might be in order today. and as it happens, some of that just happened to arrive on my doorstep with the mail.

godiva, anyone?

a batch of woolen rabbit oasis (which is back in stock, yay!) in chocolatey brown with plum highlights, mmmm. talk about a diet buster . . .

along with that came a couple more skeins of kim’s lucent fingering yarn in colorway lady slipper.

upon the encouragement of our ravelry group, i’m going to design and knit some matching accessories for the eliza mitts, to be released as a pattern later on. i’m thinking that a button-up neckwarmer with those pleats around the bottom would be terribly cute and a scarf in the same idea as well, with pleats on each end.

and they will make great projects to take on my travels at the end of the month.

tucked in with those is another new yarn base that kim is considering—merino/cashmere/silk with a nice perky twist, this is a lovely fingering yarn for lightweight sweaters or accessories. it’s not in her shop yet, but we’ll be sure to let you know when it is. the color—smoke covered water—however, you can see on other bases, such as lucent. isn’t it wonderful?

thank you kim for sharing it with us—we love seeing all the new stuff you’re working on.

i realized today, too that i’ve been hanging on to photos from another yarn delivery i received after i got home form albany. not that i didn’t want to share, but it’s good to space things out, so as not to overwhelm our senses.

this batch comes from karin at the periwinkle sheep; she brought cookie and i a big bag of yarn each when we visited trumpet hill at the end of our big trip.

and she has such beautiful yarn that i didn’t want it to get lost in a big yarn parade.
karin mostly dyes on fingering yarn bases, but also has a DK merino yarn and a merino/silk lace yarn as well.

here are (left to right) her watercolors II merino 2-ply, the sock dream MCN, and meriboo merino/bamboo blend.

and here we have sock dream again, this time with watercolors merino/nylon sock.

here are two more merino yarns, oh so fine! 9-ply merino and the merino DK. these are both soft and lovely for a denser, loftier fabric; nice for accessories other than socks.

and finally, my favorite thing of all, the dreamy merino/silk 4-ply. funny the color name should be called craving, because that is exactly how i feel about this yarn—it’s a base i used quite a while back for the spiraluscious neckwarmer and mitts, but have not run into since (i’m sure it’s out there; i just haven’t seen it).

it is such a smooth, shiny yarn, yet so easy to handle and with just the right hand for nicely-draped pieces. i absolutely loved knitting with it and i look forward to using it again. karin’s colorways are so attractive and well-done; they will work very well for a variety of lace pieces and socks. thank you for your generosity karin; i know we all enjoyed seeing all these beauties!

ok, time for me to go see how the pie is shaping up—wish me luck!