Saturday, September 2, 2017

In the Air

Dear Mom,
Can you feel it? I do!

Tis the Season. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. The nip in the air that validates and justifies my wool knitting obsession. I am no fan of Old Man Winter, but Autumn is my favorite. Even gray damp autumn days are soothing to my soul. Soup. Wool Socks.

While I resisted wearing a heavy wool cardigan yesterday, I did wrap myself in a wool shawl today so I could sit outside on the porch and read. Comfort. Bliss. Heaven.

It isn't cold enough for my latest finished knit, but my Bressay Dress will be ready when it is.

yes, I stood on a chair to take this shot

Elle is artfully modelling on the shawl I brought home from my Scotland trip last year. I made this dress specifically for this shawl.
The dress is supposed to have pockets, which are cute, and I practically worship pockets, but in this case I fear the extra bulk where I already have extra bulk. So my Bressay Dress may remain pocketless.

I was recently reminded of a book series I enjoyed. For some reason, I thought the series had ended and last week I discovered I was mistaken. The author is Anne Perry and it was her William Monk series I'd "finished".  I am not sure when I ended the series, so I'll go back to the beginning and work through them.  The same author has another series -she is certainly a prolific writer, God Bless Her!- featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. Until yesterday, I had not read any of that series and when I went online to borrow the first Monk book I decided to give the Pitt books a try. Well. I am here to say that I  could NOT put The Cater Street Hangman down. I haven't felt that way about a book since the last Outlander book was published. I got online to borrow the second book as soon as I finished. I am content knowing there are many many books in both the Monk and Pitt series and I'll have plenty of good reading to look forward to!


p.s. The Cater Street Hangman  is a murder mystery, but not a gruesome or too-scary-to-sleep one. Set in Victorian London.  I'll say no more.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mrs Story

Dear Mom,
When I moved into my Sweet Haven last year, creating a place to create, I was using a small folding table as a station for watercolors and other crafting.

 I've been keeping a lookout for an appropriately unique workstation with personality. I'd looked at vintage kitchen tables, like this one, at antique stores.

internet image

 I'd considered buying a second hand wood table and only using 1/2 the table, securing the legless edge to the wall.  But nothing struck me as the Right Thing.

Until Monday, when the Young Lady spied this metal teacher's desk at the Goodwill.

For $25. TWEN-TY FIVE Dollars.


I briefly wondered if my Young Lady was just sick of me looking for a work station, but she confessed that IF I didn't give this desk a new home, she would have purchased and stored it until she could.

As I am frequently inspired to do, I've named my desk. She is Mrs. Story, in honor of my favorite elementary school teacher. I have more memories of 5th grade than all my elementary and Junior High school years, combined. Mrs. Story played The Carpenter's LP's when we were having quiet work time. She gave a Brach's butterscotch candy to those of us who ate all our lunches.  To this day, Brach's butterscotch is a special treat and a touchstone to happy times. When, during a discussion about "health" (I am pretty sure it was after THE FILM, and we were given the chance to ask questions) one of the boys asked if "skin stretched". I will NEVER forget her amused "Oh believe me, skin stretches!" answer. I am not sure I got then why she thought that was funny, but I sure do now.

My Mrs. Story has been scrubbed clean and is moved in and happy in her new home. Sweet Haven was in desperate need of a good cleaning and reorganization, and it was a nice interruption in the current ReturnToCollege Preparations that are going on here. If ever there was a time I needed a Place of my Own and some comfort knitting, this is it.


Monday, August 14, 2017

The Fruits of My Labor

Dear Mom,

Sibella Cardigan

Lavender soap in a wool soap sock.
This will be a hostess gift. 

I spent a hot, sweaty afternoon canning tomatoes.
This is the first 6 pints. 

I spent that same sweaty afternoon making Ina Garten's
Roasted Tomato Basil soup, with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden.
We'll have a taste of summer's bounty this winter!
These yellow pear tomatoes are my favorites!


I am collecting a freezing these yummy blackberries for a future dessert.
This is Market Jacket. I used Bartlett yarn - Coral Heather, and finished knitting this in about 2 weeks.

Washed, blocked and waiting for buttons.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Solar Dyeing

Dear Mom,
My experiments with solar dyeing have been most successful and satisfying! Armed with hope and NO expectations, I decided that the fiber in the box and the dye materials sitting on the shelf were more of a waste and failure than any failed dye experiment would be. Mine were not exacting scientific experiements- they were more of the WhatTheHeckLet'sSeeWhatHappens variety.
I pre-mordanted my fiber with alum, and except for the last experiment, with Logwood, I did not weigh and measure the alum/fiber ratio.

I dyed in approximate 2 ounce batches because that is what I could easily fit into my 1 gallon sun tea and pickle jars. I placed the fiber into mesh laundry bags before I started and they stayed in the bags until the fiber was dry at the end.

First, I used a sachet of osage orange saw dust. I let the saw dust steep to color the water and then added the wet fiber. I left the sachet in the jar and put the jar in a sunny spot on the back patio. When the fiber was nice and bright, I gave it a good rinse, spun out the excess water and hung the bag of fiber up to dry. I repeated this 4 more times until the resulting fiber was pretty pale. I ended up with about 10 ounces dyed a nice gradient of yellows from sunshiny bright to buttery.

Okay! So that worked! Next up- Madder Root. I dumped the package of chopped up madder root into my rinsed out jar, filled the jar with water and let it sit in the sunshine. The water very quickly turned a beet juice color. In went the wet fiber. And out came this:
This color is ME. 
I was able to get 2 more batches out of that same jar. Again, each successive batch was slightly lighter than the last, but each is beautiful. I couldn't wait to start spinning.

You can see the variation in the dye batches in this next photo. 

When I've used heat and crockpots to dye fiber in the past, I found the fiber to be slightly felt-ish. Not so with this solar powered method! This spun up without any hassles. The only thing I would do differently if I were to do this again, would be to put the madder roots into a small mesh bag rather than let them float around in the jar with the fiber. 

On to Logwood. I used up the last of my merino/mohair roving on this. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect. Research showed me I could expect lavender to gray. Research also told me that I would want to use a higher alum to fiber ratio, so this time I weighed my fiber and measured 20% alum as pre-mordant. 

The Logwood chips I had were the size of cinnamon sticks. Having learned from the loose Madder root, I placed the logwood chips into a small mesh bag in the jar. The other minor departure from the first 2 experiments was to pour boiling water into the jars. I let the logwood steep for a day before adding the fiber, and divided the juice into 2 jars, topped them off with hose water and added the fiber. The water was a fuchsia pink/purple.

The last batch was the palest of pink. Lovely. I can hardly wait to spin it!

I have some weld on the shelf, and it is the last of my natural dyestuff. I have a healthy stash of white merino/angora roving that I could use, but that roving might be too precious to experiment with.  And just this afternoon I learned that blackberries give a very nice purple dye. IF I tire of eating blackberries from my garden.

I would say my experiments were successful. I think I'll get rid of the various dye pots and crockpots on my dye shelf and continue solar dyeing my fiber in the future. Until then, I have lots of exciting spinning projects!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

These have not been lazy days

Dear Mom,

This Song is mocking me. These have been anything but lazy. A few days of hot and hazy and a little bit crazy.  I keep hoping to settle into a soothing routine, but it hasn't happened yet. The last few days have been perfect - like northern Michigan weather- and I am spending as much of it as I can on the porch.

I've been making up for last summer's convalescence by weeding, planting, mowing and tending the yard, herb garden, tomato plants and perennial garden. I've squeezed as many annuals and perennials into my flower garden as it will hold. I've got zinnias growing with my tomatoes, and a variety of seeds sown amongst the sage, basil, oregano and chives in my herb garden. The bunnies have probably eaten 90% of the seedlings as they emerge, but I remain hopeful of full vases of freshly cut flowers on my table.

We've finally had a persistent and mysterious leak located and repaired, and things were definitely disrupted while that was going on. Just getting stuff temporarily moved out of one room made me think I never want to have to really move. Needless to say, Goodwill got a hefty load and the room is put back together.  While that was going on, I wiped my week clean of appointments to be here. I needed to see with my own eyes that things stayed dry as our contractor doused the area with the hose and I didn't want to miss it.

Things were is such disarray that I didn't feel like I could add to it with a sewing project, but I did weave some dish towels.

I happened to have the book, A Garden to Dye For, from the library, and something I read inspired me to try a "sun tea" dye experiment. I have a variety of purchased plant dye stuff from fiber festivals- osage orange, madder, logwood and weld. The garage was occupied by the contractor's equipment, so using my crockpots was not an option. I also had a 'What Are You Waiting For?' feeling about the full shelf of dye stuff and decided it was more wasteful to have it all sitting there doing nothing than it would be to use it in a failed experiment. I filled a gallon jar with water, plopped the cloth bag of osage orange sawdust into it, and let it steep. In the meantime, I put about 2 oz of roving (70%merino/30%mohair) into a mesh laundry bag and let it soak in a second gallon jar with alum to pre-mordant the fiber. (Mordants help the fiber accept and keep the dye. Also, different mordants can alter the final color of the dye.) Once my osage orange tea was a nice bright color, I added the fiber and let it sit in the sunshine. 
I let the fiber steep for a day or two, took it out and carefully rinsed it with water as close to the temperature of the dye bath as I could manage. The fiber stayed in the mesh bag through the entire process to protect it from too much handling. I did not remove the osage orange tea bag, nor did I dump the dye out of the jar. Part of my experiment was to see how much fiber I could dye with this one batch. 
This is the first batch, rinsed and dried. Beautiful! I ended up dyeing 5 (2 oz) batches in total, and they very gently fade in a gradient of bright to buttery yellow. This process might be slow, but it was easy, used no electricity, and was fun to watch. Best thing: the fiber is not sticking to itself. When I've dyed roving in the crockpot, it seems like it wants to felt. I think the shock of the heat and simmering does that to the loose fiber. I've not had that happen to yarn dyed in the crockpot.  Plus, spinning dyed roving makes a prettier yarn than dyeing already spun yarn, in my opinion. 

I am currently using the same process using Madder.  I'll share the results soon!

Enjoy the sunshine!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer Frieze

Dear Mom,
I put the finishing touches on a summer time variation of my Friezestyle knitting pattern. Knit with 100%  cotton, this one has short garter stitch sleeves. I added some decreases on top of the shoulders for a bit of shaping. And to give the top a little A-line flair, I've added garter stitch wedges to each side.
I am hoping to find some fabric and sew a pair of loose capris to wear with this top.

Universal Yarns Cotton Supreme DK

The weather today (and yesterday) is ideal. Sunny, breezy, crisp. Summer sweater weather!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Another Smock

Dear Mom,
Another Ann Carolyn Smock went from fabric to garment last Sunday.
Elle frolics in the garden, getting her "feet" wet in the dewy grass

close up of pocket

Styling Option: Layer over a Peter Pan collared shirt!
 I've nearly finished the cardigan I plan on wearing with this smock. I just need to finish a pocket  (that white stripe you seen on the left front is waste yarn holding the place for the pocket opening), weave in the loose ends (obviously!), sew on the buttons and block the sweater. The yarn is my all-time favorite, Bartlett, in Burgundy Heather.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Back in Action

Dear Mom,
It stopped raining, the sun came out, and although a bit chillier than normal, I was able to mow the grass and get Peggy (my clothesline) back in action.
We'll have sweet dreams tonight. Drying sheets on the line is one of Life's Simple Pleasures.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Missing in Action

Dear Mom,
I guess I should have put "Write Blog" into that schedule I was so proud of in my last post!

There have been several blog posts swirling about in my head since that last post on January 30th, but I just didn't make time or have the motivation to actually write and post them.

Mostly what happened is I fell down the rabbit hole of sweater design and knit, wrote, test knit, and published a new sweater pattern: Friezestyle. This consumed most of February and March.

I made this one using up some of my handspan yarn.
The idea for Friezestyle was born after knitting class one afternoon, when one of my loyal students picked up a shop sample for this scarf and declared "wouldn't this be a pretty sweater!"....

 My guardian angel must have been driving because I think my brain was knitting a sweater all the way home.

In between and around all that knitting, the Young Lady came home for spring break. While she was home, we matted and framed some of her art work for submission to the student art show. We celebrated when 2 of her pieces were accepted. I drove down for the opening of the show and proudly witnessed her accept an award for one of her pieces. That same piece sold, too!

This week we move her home for the summer. It is hard to believe that this little girl will be a college sophomore!

In the spring storms, we lost a large tree. Luckily, as it split and fell, it did surprisingly little damage to the fence. Having it removed was a scary thing for my wee black beast. 

 I sat on my back porch with my knitting and watched a crew of Very Muscular Men remove that tree and another we felt had overgrown its place in the yard. I'd helped plant the trees and felt I needed to witness them leaving. I was fascinated by the precision removal of the tree. And once that fascination wore off, I found myself admiring some strong shoulders and flat stomachs.... I am sure those Very Muscular Men saw an old lady and her scared dog with nothing better to do.

It's a good thing they couldn't read my bubble.

And a few weeks later,  new trees are planted.

We've been in this house for almost 26 years.  Our large yard was hard, barren and drought-stricken when we moved in. Almost everything in this yard was planted my My Hero and I. We are beginning to see the need to rejuvenate and replace some of our overgrown landscaping. Unlike my gray hair, which comes in however it wants and I choose to accept gracefully, we are faced with the challenge of blending new landscaping into our mature landscaping- and hope to allow that to look natural as it happens.

After the knitting frenzy of that latest design came to fruition, the sewing bug bit me. And it bit hard.

I made one Top 64 out of a pretty cotton,  was mostly pleased with the results but found it tighter than I find to be comfortable across the upper arms.

I made a second Top 64 using a pretty Anna Maria knit fabric. This one feels better, but I have very little experience sewing with knits.  There are things I will try to change and do better if I make a third.
For quite some time I'd been admiring, then second-guessing, and mostly had dreamy ideas percolating over the Ann Carolyn Smock. Do a google image search for Ann Carolyn Smock and you will see why I couldn't shake this pattern out of my head.  I've really wanted to find that perfect sewing pattern for a top. I worried that Ann Carolyn's gathers across the yoke would not be flattering. I kept coming back to it. And finally decided to go for it. I wouldn't know till I tried, would I?
I ordered the pattern. I bought some inexpensive fabric to make the shirt version.  I have to stop right here and say that Ellen Mason's instructions are thoughtful, well written, and clear, with helpful hints and practical advice throughout. Reading through them is like having a friend sharing her best, most encouraging advice. Sewing this shirt was fun. The pattern is brilliant.

So, I successfully sewed the shirt. It fit, was flattering, the sleeves were just right, but the back was tight when I moved my arms. I was discouraged and sad, but not quite ready to give up. My first thought was my go-to self punishing one: "If you weren't so fat. If you would just lose weight..."
I let my brain percolate.
A day or two later, while getting dressed, a pleat on the back of one of my shirts (that fits without binding, that is not a knit) smiled at me. A pleat! All Ann Carolyn needs (for me) is a pleat. One little pleat at the center back. And we live happily ever after.

Here is Ann Carolyn Smock #1.

Notice the cute pocket!
The pockets are very roomy!

The pleat. I added a decorative button to the back for fun.
I've had these buttons since the early 90's.
And here is Ann Carolyn #2:
I have fabric for more. There will be more. Just wait and see! 

Okay, and let me say another wonderful, smart thing about this pattern! Fabric requirements for each piece are included so you can easily decide to mix and match fabrics with out guessing at yardage. BRILLIANT!

Comfy, cute, my new uniform- with sleeves rolled up in the summer and under a hand knit cardigan in the winter. I have yarn and fabric combinations queued up. I may look like I am channeling my inner fifth grader at recess, but wearing these makes me so happy that I don't think I mind if I do. I just need saddle shoes! Meet you at the swing set!