Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Under the Fence, catch the sheep, back you go and off you leap!

Can you figure out what all that means?

Here is, finally, the promised update on the vest-project. The back is done! One of the front panels is done! And the second front panel, the one with the button-holes, is underway. Unfortunately, being more of a piecemeal kind of knitter, I'm just about out of yarn. A few more rows on this last panel and then ––zip! There's a bobbin full of singles waiting for a mate, so I'll start spinning it up today, hopefully ply, block, ready to knit by the weekend. I know that, generally, the more virtuous aim is to gather all the necessary materials for a project beforehand, but I have to say that this way, spinning a bit here, dyeing there, making buttons, and so on, offers a pleasant diversity of tasks. I tend to get distracted by new ideas easily, so this bit-by-bit building of something has been working well for me. Luckily, I also have a huge fleece. If I were doing a project like this one with a more limited supply of wool, it may serve me to be slightly more fastidious in my planning.

This back panel isn't blocked, so think away the rumples and unevenness!

Green = onion skins, blue = indigo

Front panel No. 1! 

I've been harping on about spring in, oh, the last two or three posts, I think, so I'll spare you for now. I'll just say that, no, spring has not sprung yet, but we are expecting the temperatures to climb at least a little bit this week. Fingers crossed.

I have a plastic bag of scraps sitting on top of my closet, waiting to be put to use. All of these have been dyed with plants ––even the pink, that's lichen dye! The brown is black walnut, the blue is indigo, yellows are goldenrod or onion skin, and purple is alkanet.

Here are some little treats hanging about on my desk.

Most of these balls of yarn were wound on a handy thing called a nøstepinne. A nøstepinne is  nifty little Norwegian knitting tool that you can use to wind a ball of yarn with a centre-pull. It's basically a stick (the "pinne" part) that winds a nest, or a ball, (the "nøst" part). It takes longer than a ball-winder, but it's fun to use, and you can take it anywhere because it's so small. I'd like to carve one, someday. 


And, for a last hurrah, check this out (click in the video labeled "Alison Friday knitting on Swedish TV"). It's a Swedish talk show with LIVE KNITTING! What could be better. All right ––don't watch the whole thing, it'll bore you half to death, but do note the candles burning off on one side, and the general awesomeness of this. (My secret motive: I am trying to learn Swedish, since I'll be in Sweden this summer, so what could be better than learning endless Swedish knitting terminology, right?)

Have a fantastic week! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I've spied some snowdrops

I had to change the header picture of the blog. Yesterday I went out into the brilliant late winter (dare I say early spring?) sunshine and it felt so much more like summer was coming fast. The sky, as you can see, was brilliant. Our new solar panels were cranking! Take a look at this one, it's huge: 

I did knit busily over the break last week, but only finished the back of the vest. So it's on to parts 2 and 3 shortly, and I'm spinning up some more yarn for them practically as we speak. Pictures coming soon! 
In my blog browsing, I came across a real gem yesterday. If you love dyeing with plants, you've probably heard of Jenny Dean, or read her book, Wild Colour, or read something that was inspired by her excellent work. Im any case, apparently she's very up to the times and even has a blog with lots of good advice and stories about dyeing and collecting dye plants around her home in Sussex. 

Here are a few more pictures for you. More on the knitty-gritty coming shortly! 

Snow drops... at mum's. Alas, not here ––though there are a few
poking their little heads out along the wall of the house,
where it's nice and warm. 

Brilliant sunshine and snow on evergreens. 

The field in the sun. 


Have a sunny weekend!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Needles and how it's knitting.

We've still got plenty of snow here, and even after a night of rain, the snow started up again, going strong. We all thought we smelled spring last night, but this morning presented us, yet again, with mountains, trees, and fields blanketed in white. It's almost mid-March now, it ought to be spring, oughtn't it? 

Snow drifts prevail. 

Well, before cabin fever really sinks its teeth into me, I'm off to visit my mother for a week. And hoping to come back to signs of spring. Do you hear that, weather gods? 

She'd like spring, too. Fresh grass, anyone? 

I recently read about needle sizes somewhere. I've always wondered why, say, a size 8 needle is a size 8 needle. Is it totally arbitrary? Or did it make sense to someone at some point? 
Turns out, it actually makes perfect sense. At least, it used to before we got so fancy with our yarns sizes. Here's the deal: until about fifty years ago, there were standards weights for yarn. This meant that any 4-ply yarn was the exact same weight as any other 4-ply, and any 8-ply was the same weight as any other 8-ply, and so on and so forth. Needle sizes were simply gauged to knit up the ply number they corresponded to. So a number 8 needle was for knitting 8-ply yarn. Smart, huh? What's more, 1 skein of yarn used to measure exactly 109 meters. Not so anymore. 

Ahh, simpler times, right?  

Speaking of knitting (haha!), I started to knit the Hiker's Waistcoat, and knit myself into such a frenzy that I almost finished the entire back panel in one day. Here are some glamour shots!

The stripes are onion skin (green/yellow) and indigo (blue) dye. 

Sunset knitting. 

Get all your bobbins in a row. 

Have a beautiful weekend! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

If we didn't live here, we'd have a snow day.

But we do live here, so we don't have a snow day. Instead, we make our way through drifts of snow 5 feet tall, punching through left and right, the path through the woods that we normally walk in less than ten minutes taking 30 now, and leaving us breathless and red-cheeked. We arrive wherever we are going with a sense of accomplishment rare for an ordinary day. Usually we go somewhere to get there. Today, the journey really is the thing.
Like anything we do, or try to do, shouldn't the struggle to do it be worth something? I'd almost decided to dislike this day, with the heavens dumping on us like they'd figured to give us winter's last hurrah in just 24 hours. But I changed my mind ––knee-deep in a drift, I had to laugh. Always trying to get somewhere. Why not pause for a moment and look around, upward, downward, side to side? I might see something I'd otherwise have missed.

Pugnacious post office pug. 

No car, no mail. Hot chocolate, anyone? 

Apple tree. 

Our little dirt road. 

Knee-deep in it and loving it. 

Just as your were getting tired of looking at the white stuff...

Yarn! Icelandic top left, then two yellow-green balls of onion-skin dyed,
and some natural fleece snow-white.
(Can you tell? I've got snow on my mind.)

Have a beautiful Monday! 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Saturday with Fiber (and dye)

This morning, in spite of still being sort of sick and grouchy because of it, I had Hannah, Joe, and Stui over for sourdough pancakes and a wee fiber fest. I've been feeding my sourdough ever other day for weeks and weeks, and haven't baked a thing. It was beginning to be slightly wasteful. So last night I started a batch of pancake batter with the starter, and we fried them up this morning with some maple syrup from last spring (none of the new stuff has made it to our table YET!), blueberries and crabapple jam from the summer, and some other delicious tidbits. Here's the pancake recipe I used (from sourdoughbreads.com):

The night before, mix well (to incorporate some air) 1 cup of your sourdough starter with 1½ cups of all purpose flour and 1 cup of warm water (85°-90°). Leave at warm room temperature (70°-85°) overnight, covered well with plastic wrap.

The next morning, return 1 cup of the starter mixture to the fridge.

Then mix the remaining 1½ cups of starter with

1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tablespoon of sugar (or more if you like)
1 Tablespoon of melted butter
¾ Teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon (generous) of baking soda 

2 Tablespoons of milk

Try to have your ingredients at room temperature. This will help to make more tender pancakes.

Bake on a 400° griddle. Enjoy!

You really shouldn't pour copper sulfate mordant
 right next to your banana pancakes.
And you probably should wear more than one glove.

Meanwhile, we heated up to very big pots of water on the stove, one with onion skins in it, and the other with some copper sulfate mordant, as outlined in Jenny Dean's super cool book Wild Color. Here are the results of our dyeing day, and just a few more pictures for your entertainment. I also spun up a bobbin's worth of some soft unevenly grey roving that I had left from a few years ago (not sure where it came from), and it turned out very nicely. So nicely, in fact, that I am plotting a way to incorporate it into the vest. Unfortunately, it may steal the limelight from my lovely white yarn, which, lovely as it is, does have some bumps (or "noils") here and there. 

A pot of copper sulfate mordant with some of Hannah's yarn and some of mine,
as well as some roving thrown in for good measure. 

Onions skins simmering away. The whole house smelled like French onion soup.

Kayla salvaged some fleece ends and edges from shearing on Friday.
She picked and cleaned them diligently, and then dyed them in our onion dye pot.

Onion dye liqueur! 

Steam, steam. 

A skein of slightly twisty yarn looking gorgeous in its new golden coat. 

An ASL lesson happening side by side with some yarn winding and mini-sheep felting
(not in the picture, but you'll see them here, soon). 

Stui brought me flowers 'cause its grey and yucky out and we're missing spring quite badly. 

Let me say: this picture does the colour no credit. None whatsoever!
Imagine glimmering sun-gold! 

Joe's hat knitting station...

...presided over by the irreplaceable Elizabeth Zimmerman. 

Joe and Hannah, happily a-knitting.

Hope your weekend's filled with sunshine, even when the sun outside is hiding behind a cloud.

Oh and by the way, here's what was left of the fleece after my last bout of scouring.
That skein is in there for size. Just sayin'

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I think I've found it!

My friend Hannah has been knitting this pattern, the "Hiker's Waistcoat", and I think it's wonderful! I think I might knit this with my handspun yarn. It's a clean slate for working in stripes, possible intarsia or colourwork, as well as embellishing with fancy buttons. The pattern is a free one from Ravelry. You can find it here. (You'll probably need to sign in to Ravely first, though.) 

I read a piece by Kate Davies about a booming knit-business in 19th century Edinburgh. Read it all here. Here's what Edinburgh Magazine had to say about knitting:

We deny any woman engaged in these knitting processes which must require constant counting of stitches and un-distracted attention, to enjoy her own quiet thoughts. The honeycomb stitch, the ladder stitch, the diamond knitting, the porcupine boa, and the double eyelet knitting are surely enough to drive any woman mad. 

I'd say that I can think quite well while stitching along, and what's more sometimes it's nice to just tune out. Today we'd call that meditation. As for madness, well, I don't mind a bit of that here and there either!  I'd really like to know what a porcupine boa is...
Have a happy Wednesday! Weekend is almost here! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1st. Has spring sprung?

Well, saying that spring has sprung might be a bit of a jump (um, spring?). I'd like it to happen sooner rather than later, though. The bees are itching to venture out of the hive (and doing so even before they should, leaving the snow speckled with those unfortunate bees that don't make it back to the hive),  the ewes are ready to lamb, and I'm ready to shed mittens and scarves and exchange winter boots for mud season boots. Well alright, we're still under a few feet of snow, and though the sun is shining brilliantly today, it's supposed to snow again tomorrow and then AGAIN this weekend. Weather gods: I'm ready for mud season! I'd like some squishy mud between my toes. 

Okay, there's no denying it: we still have snow. 

I've been spinning away semi-industriously (that is, whenever I have a moment), and am up to five skeins now, so just about a pound, I hope. My intention is to spin two skeins a week, but my schedule seems to vary madly and uncontrollably. Today, for example, I've got some pork liver and shoulder thawing out from our butchering last week for a little paté-making operation. When will I make the paté? Time flies... Perhaps I'll catch a moment between 11 pm and midnight? I've already diced it and stirred it all up with bay leaves, dry thyme from the garden, and some salt and black pepper. The next step is grinding the meat and cooking up some scallions to go in the paté, making a panada, and simmering the paté dish in a waterbath till it's done. And then of course ––eating. 

I went for a walk down to the farm today, trying to catch some vitamin D, and took some pictures of our fiber-y friends who reside down there. The sheep are new arrivals from Bonnieview Farm, and they are much more curious and personable than our last flock. These came right up to me when I was photographing them, sniffing my hands and the camera, and peering at me with those wise old sheep eyes. They are bred to be dairy sheep, but someone always saves a few fleeces, and with a bit of elbow grease, those grease-fleeces clean up well. 

Here are some other lovely new arrivals. 25 baby goats now call our farm home. Aren't they beautiful? 

And three older goats... one of the is a cashmere goat (the grey one), the other an angora (curly hair). Kidding time is coming up soon! 

An angora fleece. 

Meanwhile, I continue to drool over Rowan patterns. So I'll leave you with a few pictures from some of their past collections.

book-Dunvegan and Cambell Scarf.jpgbook-Marple_a.jpg.jpg


Hope you'r enjoying the sunshine! Happy Town Meeting day!