Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Marching on....

Dear Mom,
It took two weekends, but the master bedroom, bath and closet can be checked off the spring cleaning list. At times, some of that closet cleaning and under the furniture cleaning felt like an archaeological dig. We found a tv remote that had been lost so long ago I'd forgotten we ever had it. I was ruthless and except for my wedding dress and a few sentimental things, I got rid of anything that hadn't been worn or that fit poorly or that looked unflattering - or at least the most unflattering stuff; one could argue that the men's oxford shirts I wear aren't exactly flattering. In other words, there is very little left hanging on my side of the closet. There are plenty of sweaters though!!
The bathroom got a fresh coat of paint, and even a simple thing like a new shower caddy made a big improvement.
I made a new shade for the window. I really lucked out on this one and found a fabric remnant that had the colors I was looking for and just the right amount of yardage. For less that $30 we have a new window treatment.

We'll continue our trek through the upstairs. I have to say that the results feel GOOD. Less really is More. Less dirt, less stuff, less clutter, less confusion. More control, satisfaction, space. This could become an addiction.

I thought I'd show you the progress I've made on your sweater. Back in January you told me you would like a cream mohair sweater similar in style to Primrose. Finding the right yarn took a little time and then POOF! I got an email alert from WEBS and lo and behold, there was the Ironstone Mohair I'd been looking for on sale. Stuff like that almost never happens.
Anyway, I swatched last week, did some MATH, and on Saturday evening I popped in Season One of Glee and started knitting.
Last night I got past the yoke shaping and things will move really quickly now. This may be finished sometime next week!!

I wish I could take a photo that would let you feel how soft this is. Knitting with mohair is not the easiest thing to do, but it isn't a chore either. Especially when the results feel so scrumptious. I caught myself considering ordering more colors of this yarn and making blankets. Actually, I was thinking of this blanket. As if I need more yarn. OR another project.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

This is That Sweater

Dear Mom,

The pattern is written, edited and up for sale! It can be found on Ravelry and on Warm Thoughts.
Now, back to my regularly scheduled housework.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March socks

Dear Mom,
They were started late, but March's socks are finished. Yes, Yes, they do look a little different, don't they?!
They are a perfect example of why one needs to check DYE LOTS on the yarn label. I remember purchasing this yarn on vacation- on our way to Myrtle Beach, years ago, in a lovely yarn shop in Hendersonville, NC. My Hero coordinates our pit stops with yarn shop visits if at all possible, and I remember this was one of those. And that despite all reassurances that I could "take all the time" I needed, I KNEW there two children and a husband anxious to get back on the road and get to the beach. Obviously I skipped the "check the dye lot" part of my yarn purchase.
I'll keep this odd pair for myself. My feet and I won't mind the slight difference in color, and the socks will still be just as warm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simmering Potpourri

Dear Mom,
Potpourri is one of those words that doesn't look right no matter how I try to spell it. One R? Po-por-eee. Two RR's?  Pot-Poor-rEEE. You cannot pronounce it the way it is spelled or spell it the way it is pronounced. Spell check came in handy on this one.

When I was at the Spin Workshop a couple of weekends ago, a fellow classmate asked if she might borrow my niddy noddy overnight and return it in class the next morning. Of course she could!
When Melissa returned the niddy noddy she gave me some of her home made simmering potpourri as a thank you. I thought, WOW! What a nice and totally unexpected completely unnecessary thing to do!..... I think I want to be her friend.
The potpourri is wonderful. I asked Melissa for the "recipe". She gave me several. The ingredients are all things you probably have in your kitchen and spice cabinet. I have her permission to share the recipes with you.

The combination Melissa gave to me was this:
orange peel (literally- the peel off of an orange.)
broken up cinnamon sticks
a few whole cloves

Put it all in a saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer away. Just be sure to check and refill the water- it evaporates quickly. Use it for as long as you like, until it looks yucky. And then make some more.

Melissa also suggests the following options-

Grapefruit peel with bay leaves

Lime peels with broken cardamom seeds

Lemongrass that has been smashed well and cut up for a citronella scent.

Cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.

When I saw Melissa at Open Spin the weekend before the workshop, I knew she was somehow familiar to me, but I couldn't place her. When she started talking about her rugs (she is a Hooker!), the light bulb flickered on and I remembered. WAaaay back when I took the rug weaving class Melissa walked in with a few of her hooked rugs. They were impressive, inspiring, unforgettable. Works of art. I hope to see more of her rugs someday.

And this has nothing to do with simmering potpourri, but look at what I found at the Tractor Supply when I went to buy more Orvus wool wash:
Cute CUTE little baby chicks.

And even CUTER baby ducks.

Think of the neighbors, Kim.

And the dogs.
And the POOP.

Pictures will have to do. But ohhhh.


Friday, March 18, 2011

That Sweater

Dear Mom,
You know that sweater?

The one you can wear as a jacket in the spring? Or toss on over a turtleneck on chilly winter days?
The sweater that covers your bottom and wraps around you just enough that you can wear it as a robe on days you feel like hanging out in your jammies?

And it looks nice belted around you, but nice open, too.

The one with a collar that fold over but will just as easily stand up to warm the back of your neck when you feel a draft?

And it has pockets for a hankie and a cell phone....

...... or dog treats and an ipod.

And the sleeves fit easy enough to slip your arms in and out, but not so loose that they hang into that pot of soup you're stirring on the stove?
You know that sweater?

Well, THIS is THAT Sweater.
Pattern coming soon!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Random stuff

Dear Mom,
Today the sun is shining and before I leave to go to the dog park (with my knitting- thanks, Carol!) I have a photo of the guest room, taken in good light, to give you a better idea of the colors.
We are so enchanted with this room that both My Hero and I confessed to walking in, looking around and then closing the door behind us when we leave so the room will stay this nice!

Speaking of the dog park, I need to give an updated Patsy report. In this case it has been no news is good news. March 9th marked the 4 month-iversary of our meeting with the behavior specialist. It was the day that Patsy could be free of her house rope forever- or more realistically, for most of the time except when we decide she needs a little reminder or we need to be certain of control. We have also graduated from weekly phone calls to the behaviorist, to weekly email reports, to semi- weekly emails to our current status of "Call if you need me, and I'd love to hear about Patsy occasionally" reports. In other words, we've sort of graduated! The last thing we added to our arsenal of tricks, and the thing that seemed to tip the scale in our favor was a Motion Collar. This thing is fantastic and I wish I'd had one a year ago. I think we would have thwarted most, if not all, of Patsy's behavior issues if we'd known about it and how to use it. Not to say that the way things progressed hasn't been good. The motion collar delivers an irritating buzz- not a shock. I would compare it to that feeling you have when you hit your funny bone. We control the buzz with a handheld remote, and we can control the level of intensity that Patsy receives. Barking on walks and in the car has been significantly reduced, as has her bad habit of jumping the fence. Eventually, with consistent use of the motion collar, these behaviors should be eliminated, just like dogs with invisible fences often stay put even when not wearing their collars. Patsy is not a perfect dog, but she is a much mellower, well-behaved girl than she was 5 months ago. Things will only get better with time (and age).

I couldn't sit on my new spinning knowledge for long, and Tuesday evening I spent some time literally picking through my bag full of dirty fleece, separating the locks, getting rid of unmentionable bits and pieces of straw and burrs. It took some time to fill a mesh laundry bag with about 6 oz of wool, which I then washed. It dried overnight and last night I flick carded a small portion and spun it.
This photo shows a lock of dirty fleece, a cleaned lock in the middle, and a lock that has been carded beneath them both.

Here is a closer look at the three of them together-

And here is what I spun last night-

I should have weighed the washed wool to see how much the 6 oz of dirty fleece yielded, and I didn't weigh how much I actually carded and spun. I should also keep track of my time, just out of curiosity. My best guess is that it took 4 hours to make the yarn on the bobbin. And I loved every moment of it.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Guest Room

Dear Mom,
What was once a cute little girls bedroom with flowers, bees, dragonflies and butterflies painted on the wall (and even a curly red-headed fairy) has been transformed into a serene guest room.
Almost everything is moved in. I still have some yarn storage issues and fear that a giant yarn purge is in my future.
I did a little book purging to make room on the shelves for my knitting library. I found myself over thinking the placement of the books on the shelves....should Elizabeth Zimmermann, Meg Swansen, and Barbara Walker share shelf space with Sally Melville and Nicky Epstein?.... in the end it was book height and shelf space that dictated placement and not the author's sentimental status. Good information is good information and all mostof  the books on my shelves have earned their places there.
Another dilemma is the magazines. I do have space for them right now, and they are organized and contained in those plastic holders you can get, but I am wondering if they are occupying space for no purpose. There are some magazines -like my old Vogue Knitting- that I will probably hang onto forever, but I am giving serious consideration to weeding out some of my Knitters and Interweave Knits magazines. Do I go through them issue by issue and only keep the ones that have patterns or articles that interest me? I don't want to do something I'll regret. But honestly, with only a few exceptions, I couldn't tell you what was in any of those magazines. And at this point I am running out of space to put the next great book that might come along. And what if I decide to subscribe to Spin Off magazine? And the yarn.....I have to be tough and realistic about all of this.

It is a rainy day, but I'll share a couple of pictures to give you an idea of how the room looks.
This room is so clean and orderly right now that I am looking for excuses to walk in!
I'll take better pictures on the next bright sunny day, but this is the best I can do for now.


Monday, March 14, 2011

A Spinning Workshop

Dear Mom,
When the trip we had planned for the weekend had to be postponed, I did some quick thinking and with a lot of luck, I was able to secure a place for myself in a Spinning Workshop held both Saturday and Sunday at Tabby Tree Weaver.
Before I could attend the workshop I needed to empty some bobbins, and finished plying this:
This is one of the rovings I hand-dyed at the dye workshop I took almost a year ago, plied with some merino roving I had in the spinning stash.

The workshop was held in the Arcadia Town Hall so there was plenty of room.

Our instructor was Patsy Z. She is an extremely patient spinning expert, and a Very Nice lady. I am fascinated by people who take their hobbies to an art form and become authorities on the subject. Patsy Z is able to break down her wealth of knowledge, in a casual, friendly way, into pieces small enough for beginners to understand. I learned a whole bunch more about my wheel. I have a better understanding of how to make Daphne Joy work for me and how to adjust and tweak her to get the yarn I want.
Before the class I was pretty much a one trick pony. I had my default drafting style and pretty much made one kind of yarn. I was happy enough with that. It was/is pretty yarn I could knit with, but I couldn't tell you how it was spun and I wouldn't have been able to make it any differently.

This morning I am hoping to just remember a fraction of what I learned. When I left class yesterday, I was making yarn that was finer than any I had ever been able to spin. I now know that I've been spinning my yarn worsted. I learned how to woolen spin, and knowing the type of knitting I like to do and yarn I prefer to knit with, I know that this new (to me) style, which results in a softer, loftier yarn with less stitch definition, is something that I probably won't do too much of, but is good to know if ever I do want to spin a soft fluffy yarn. I learned that how I had been holding the roving in my back hand was creating some of the bumps I had in my yarn. I learned how to spin "over the fold" ( at least I think that is what it is called) and I really liked that technique. It stops the bad habit I had with my right hand of gripping the roving too hard in an attempt at control. This is the stuff lumps are made of! I realized that even though I find spinning to be relaxing, I am mentally in a rush to see the yarn. I need to slow down and savor the process. It is worth it.

We spent a portion of class on Sunday morning learning how to prepare a dirty fleece for spinning. Having dealt with a couple of bags of very dirty fleece, I had a little bit of experience, but learned so much more that I want to tackle this third bag I have entirely on my own rather than send it out for processing. I won't feel so guilty discarding some of the shorter pieces of wool, called second cuts ( those result in little nups or even pills in the yarn), and the really dirty pieces will get discarded, too. Before, I was trying to salvage almost everything and trying to clean some really nasty bits.

We then moved on to different ways to card and comb the wool once it has been washed. This may have been the point that I realized that if I didn't apply any kind of deadline on myself, I could wash, comb and spin the fleece I have at a leisurely pace, enjoy the process and have some yarn that, excepting the important sheep care and shearing processes, I would have made without any sort of outside intervention.
During the workshop we were given several different rovings and some unprepared but clean fleece to compare and spin. Having that variety of samples over the course of two days made it possible for me to understand the differences in the fleeces and the way they were prepared. It helped me to know what I want to look for when buying a roving and when/if I ever purchase a fleece.

GoodGracious. Until I started writing all this it didn't occur to me how much territory we covered!

I have little samples of some of those different wools on my bobbins.

That blue yarn was specially dyed for Tabby Tree by Rita Pettys of  Yarnhollow. It is called "Home Team Blue" in honor of the Colts, and is a Tabby Tree exclusive. Rita taught the dye workshop I attended last spring. The blue is also plied using the "Miss America" technique. Used for small amounts of yarn on the bobbin, it involves wrapping the spun yarn around one hand in such a way that allows you to ply it back onto itself.The Miss America name is derived from the gentle wave of the hand that has the yarn wrapped around it.

Last night I gave Daphne Joy a rest, and finally cast on for March's socks. I didn't get too far before all that learning caught up to me. I waved the white flag and went to bed. While I was attending the classes, My Hero painted the guest room, and I've touched up the stain on the woodwork and cleaned the carpet. I'll hang the shades and start moving the furniture that I am able to lift by myself back in today and we should have another room checked off the spring cleaning list!

I must exercise every bit of restraint I have and tend to my chores. What I really want to do is play with wool and fleeces and put into practice the things I learned!


Friday, March 11, 2011

My seedlings and sweater

Dear Mom,
It looks like I'll have plenty of tomato plants to share.
I'm gonna have to thin these out.That makes me a little nervous. I'm afraid I'll kill them all when I do that.

The knitting on my needles is no longer a scrunched up blue blob and is now a sweater. It is just what I hoped it would be. In fact I like it so much that I am wearing it with all the loose ends hanging. I still need to knit a belt for it, but then it will be done and may not leave my body until it is too hot outside to wear it.

Before I put it on my body, I did manage a very brief photo session, just to show you a bit of the sweater. When all the finishing is done I'll give you a detailed look at the whole marvelous thing. If I can take it off long enough to take the photos.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Big Reveal

Dear Mom,
She is moved in! Still waiting awhile before anything decorates the walls, but the bright green certainly isn't boring.
As revealed previously, the tabbed curtains are hanging from individual hooks.

And they are held back with drawer  pulls.

The comforter, bedskirt, pillow sham and accent pillows were all purchased as a unit from Bed Bath & Beyond. Gotta love it, especially when a 13 year old is involved. And I have to say that my Young Lady has a good eye for color and knows what she wants. I learned to trust her instincts long ago, but still occasionally offer a little motherly advice.

This project reaffirmed that advice one often hears about decorating: If you like it and it speaks to you it will all work together. In this case a rug and chair that were purchased last summer for the nest she occasionally built for herself in the tree fort fit right into the new decorating scheme, giving her a spot to read a book.
Her art supplies are organized and put away. The lava lamp is lit.
And She Loves it!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Little Show and Tell

Dear Mom,
So much going on, so much to share...
First let me say that Melissa, who is the proprietess of the Best Yarn Shop in My Whole World - I would say The Whole World, but I haven't seen all the yarn shops...yet- shared this recipe for shortbread on her blog last week.
It is the Best Shortbread. Ever. Easy. Quick.I even made mine with the healthy Smart Balance Buttery Sticks and the shortbread is still delicious.

I am finishing a third pair of Duffers, which will be gifted. This reminds me that the second pair I made were also gifted and now that the giftee has received her pair I can show those too.
pair #2
pair #3...I'm tempted to keep these!

That sweater I've been working on? Still knitting.

We should have the Young Lady all moved in to her new bedroom this evening. At least we should have the furniture in place. It will probably take a few days of living in it before we hang anything on the walls. And depending on when that happens and when I get good light will dictate when I can take pictures of After.
For now, I can give you a little peak. We My Hero hung the curtains last night.

We liked the idea of individual hooks rather than a rod for the tab curtains. I think it was the right decision.
Can't wait to show you the rest!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bella Pants

Dear Mom,
Once upon a time ago, I was a seventh grader.  A trying-to-be-rebellious-but-not-quite-able-to-do-it-under-the-watchful-eye-of-Daddy teenager.  You decided it might be "good" for me to take some sewing lessons.  Every Saturday morning for I-don't-know-how-many-weeks, we woke up early and you drove me into Westfield to Mrs. Farnham and Farnham Fabrics.  She was old.  And her breath smelled like coffee.  And her fabric was "ugly".  ***teenage harumph***  I remember sewing a kelly green pair of pants, which I wore well into high school (with my navy blue and kelly green whale sweater!) and I remember sewing a golden pair of velour shorts.  I also remember totally loving Mrs. Farnham (and her sweet old husband who used to hang around the shop, puttering about and whistling under his breath!) and the smell of her coffee breath but there was NO WAY I was ever going to let you know that.  Mrs. Farnham was gentle and kind and probably used to many trying-to-be-rebellious-but-not-quite-able-to-do-it-under-the-watchful-eye-of-Daddy teenagers!  She did indeed teach me how to sew and she let me pick out ugly patterns and fabrics without a word, judgmental or otherwise!  She taught me that I should never be afraid to cut out a pattern or sew in zippers and to always! always! always! press open my seams!  It has been thirty-more years since I've seen Mrs. Farnham but every time I smell someone's coffee breath, I always think of her.
I don't sew very often but every time I sew something, I LOVE it!  Every time I sew something, I wonder, "Why don't I sew more often?!"  I really do love to sew!  I'm not super great at reading patterns but I have knit enough to know how things are put together and that I can cheat my way through the pattern!  So I found a darling pants pattern that I wanted to try for Pipsqueak.   The pattern is called "the Bella pants" by Pink Fig Patterns.  The pants are absolutely adorable but the pattern . . . well . . . . let's just say I did a LOT of cheating!!

I did a single ruffle with no pockets.

For the expert seamstress, this project will take maybe an hour; for someone like me, with sewing experience but struggles with reading patterns, a weekend.  I LOVED sewing these pants and have another pair all ready to go!  I also took great care in pressing open all of my seams!  Mrs. Farnham would be so proud!

This post brought to you by the color Green

He who plants a seed,

Beneath the sod;

And waits to see -

Believes in God.

- Author Unknown

Dear Mom,
Last Tuesday I got a head start on my vegetable garden. I've never tried starting seeds indoors before, and I'm certain that by some standards mine is a laughably small set up, but space is at a premium and I needed that "to plant a seed is a hopeful deed" feeling. I planted some spinach, romaine lettuce and two varieties of tomatoes. The tomato seeds are another new trick for this old dog. I saved some seeds from the heirloom tomato plants I had in my garden last year- the beefsteak type "Mortgage Lifter" and my personal favorites, "Red Pear". I ate those delicious red pear tomatoes like candy. I hope my efforts at harvesting those seeds and growing the same delicious tomatoes from them are successful.
The tray I purchased to start the seeds is divided into individual little peat pots and has a plastic dome lid to create its own little greenhouse. I filled the pots with a seed starter soil mix, set the tray on a heating pad to warm the soil and placed it on a tv tray in front of a window. Every morning I mist the soil with water and look for signs of life.
Yesterday I found this-
Its a spinach sprout!
Today there were more spinach sprouts, a couple romaine sprouts and LOTS of Red Pear tomato sprouts. I'll probably have plants to share. Wouldn't that be wonderful?!

Progress continues on the room swap upstairs. Painting the walls meant that more Stuff got moved into our room. Which was all fine and I was keeping the "we've got beds to sleep in and clean clothes" attitude going to block out any distress that might creep up on me when I looked at all the clutter. You know, the means to an end and all that. Except yesterday I wanted NEEDED to shower and reaching my clean undergarments required some strategic moves.

I'll be glad when things get back to "normal" around here.

The walls are painted (yes, it is that green- we've been asking the Young Lady if she will be able to sleep) and the woodwork has been touched up. The carpet is being cleaned in stages as I clean a section, wait for it to dry and then move furniture out of the way to do the next portion. My goal is to have the carpet finished tomorrow and we can start moving things back IN.
And believe it or not, but even with all of that going on I've been able to make some really good progress on my sweater. I'd show you a picture, but right now it is so scrunched up on the needles that a picture would not make any sense or be at all appealing. Just so you know, the side and sleeve seams have been sewn together, the pocket linings finished and the cardigan/neck border is in progress. I am at that point in the project where I can see the finish line and I am filled with both excitement to see the end result and fear that it will really just remain a blob of knitting that no human being could ever possibly wear.


Thursday, March 3, 2011


Dear Mom,

Indiana Bee School IX was a success!  The bee school took place in a Presbyterian church large enough to hold over 800 “students” and a couple of hallways full of local and national vendors.  The VERY BEST part about it was meeting up with new friends and acquaintances from my local beekeeping club. Feeling confident again, I purchased a new pair of beekeeper gloves, a frame holder for the hive, and a couple of cute pewter bee pins (one for me and one for my sweet little 8-year old neighbor). 

 The morning classes I chose to attend were just about right for my level of understanding, and, following a satisfying chicken noodle lunch, I ordered two 3-pound packages of Carniolan (Apis mellifera carnica) bees from a well-respected Indiana Apiary.   
Apis mellifera carnica - courtesy of Wikipedia
The afternoon classes, however, challenged my intellect and I began to doubt myself.  Afterwards, as I was mingling with other students and talking with the vendors, I told my friend Melissa that I was feeling overwhelmed and I should leave before I cancelled my order!
Carniolan Bee on Sedum - courtesy of Wikipedia
Now, let me tell you about these bees!  Carniolan honey bees (“Carnies”) developed in the northern part of south-eastern Europe in the area of the Carniolan Alps, including parts of Australia and Slovenia.  The mountainous terrain and unpredictable environment prepared the bees to survive cold winters and to react quickly to changing weather and seasons.  Sounds a little bit like Indiana, doesn’t it?!  The Carnies are a darker color bee, and the Carniolan queen is black and a bit smaller than an Italian queen.    Carniolans, like Italians, are very gentle bees.
Carnies on comb - courtesy of Wikipedia
Of course, my queens will need proper Slovenian names. I can't wait to introduce you to Ursala and Marta, along with their 20,000 workers!  Ursala means “She-bear” and Marta’s name means “Lady” or “Mistress of the house”.  That sounds about right.
Now...I’d better get busy ordering another hive… and cleaning out the old one for the new tenants. The Bee Carnival is coming to town soon!
Love, Bonnie Jo