Natural Mayan Weaving in Guatemala

Mayan women take charge of sustainable tourism.

I am so happy to have discovered Ixoq Ajkeem. A cooperative created in 1993, the name means Weaver Woman, their work is making of sustainable traditional handmade garments, weaving using handspun cotton threads dyed from natural dye products, which use raw materials from the landscape; flowers, leaves, bark of a variety of trees, fruits, and medicinal plants.

I am presently studying so many different methods of backstrap weaving as I’ve got myself a simple Guatemalan backstrap loom, but experiencing a bit of a pause as I delve further into the intricacies of the weaving. Anyway, I’ve discovered Ixoq Ajkeem from a lovely and very informative weaving video that I just tripped upon, and which I hope you too are inspired from!

Be sure to edit settings to find captions in your language . . .

Loom

At long last, I’ve got myself something of a loom, but how modest it is, just a lovely bundle of sticks! I had to seriously ask myself; do I want to just dream about one day weaving, or do I want to just weave? I suppose I was held back by fear of being a rank beginner, and for years now I have enviously read weaving blogs and watched weaving videos, and still I wasn’t ready to begin, to wheeze and strain against the learning curve, new frustrations and aches. I’ve been a little wary about trying out something new which would leave no possibility to double task, like watching weaving videos while knitting… nope, none of that, for I imagine weaving to be completely immersive. It will build character at the very least.

I have spent hours upon hours trying to decide what kind of loom would be best for me, and what kind of weaving was I interested in most. As for what kind of loom, after much thought I realized this; although I would love a floor loom, it really just isn’t an option, because I want to be working in the beloved nook I call my creative space, where I hang out each and every day. There is no room for more furniture nor a thing like a floor loom in the Loft, because for all the times it was not in use, it would become an eyesore to my ever-minimizing aesthetic. Nor is a beautiful 4 or 8 shaft table loom an option because one of any size would permanently take up residence on my one table, which then renders the table useless as I use it constantly. If the table loom was a consideration, well then I might have well just gotten an 8 shaft floor loom and put in the space anyway, and do away with the table.

A rigid heddle loom is nearly the same situation as the table loom, but with more limitations of number of shafts, as it uses only one or two rigid heddles, but with enough possibility that I considered a purchase one of those more times that I want to admit. At least I could take a folding rigid heddle loom off the table, and it could fit through the door of one of the cubby closets and hide it away fairly decently when not in use. But there are just a few limitations with it’s weaving ability, and still too much of a space hog.

Finally, there is an option which I am drawn back to time and time again, and that is a simple backstrap loom. It is the best small investment for a small space with loads of experimentation possibilities, and if I become overwhelmed, I can merely slip off the backstrap, roll up into a bundle of sticks swaddled in its warp, and hide it away in the closet taking hardly any space at all, or money spent if in the event I completely forget about it. Indeed, the backstrap wins for low-impact on my environment, and as I have become such a low-impact kind of person, the backstrap is definitely the starting point for me.

Then there is the question I must ask myself as to what kind of weaving do I really want to do? I am aware of the limitations of a backstrap loom, and doubt myself again, as all the examples of backstrap weaving I’ve seen thus far seem to be warp-faced, which means the warp completely wraps around and encloses the weft, with decorative patterns, and one never sees the weft. I think that the weaving I strive toward would be balanced weaving, working equally visible warp and weft with no decorative patterns beyond check and plaid, or just large swaths of tweedy color play with simplest of weave structure. So I’ve decided regardless, that the backstrap, being my logical choice, should not hold me back as to what I can do with it, for it is not a mechanical limitation, but merely an experimental grey area that perhaps not many have explored as much, and although my exposure to the ancient backstrap weaving is limited, at least there are so many ways to be inventive with the simplicity only being a starting point. Decided and done. So here I go, ready to invent my own method with this primitive tool, for surely there are no rules.

And here is my backstrap loom, made in Guatemala, one of two I bought from a non-profit charitable organization on Etsy, one for myself and one for Jeff’s daughter. I am going to sand it a little bit and condition the wood too, and I need to acquire a couple of other basic tools, then I’ll be ready to warp. I am eager to share my experience here as a rank beginner, completely unlearned, self-conscious, and un-confident, but like a wobbly kneed colt, I am putting one stride before me, my first step in what will hopefully become a journey. It was inevitable all along.

Patamanta Sleeves

The most recent addition to Patamanta, a pair of super soft thumbhole “sleeves”, knit in 100% superfine Simply Alpaca. As I had got quite a stash of it last Autumn I can explore my ideas unhindered with actual knitting, and I am enjoying it all, every minute. Particularly these, part of the eventual Patamanta pattern collection. The pattern will also include legwarmers, and shorter mitts, although as yet I haven’t knit up those, and being nearly the same idea as the sleeves, I may not need to. Leg warmers, sleeves, and mitts all have the same charts, just a matter of how many repeats in the round and in length. I still have a few more things to knit up from this small little collection, so I’m just enjoying the calm knitting pace, and letting inspiration come in little waves, and also staying very busy outside this Springtime.

A little felted pouch…

A felted phone pouch I’ve just finished, made from the new augmented Patamanta charts, and in a cheerful bright Peruvian colorway. The new charts are not quite available yet, not until I finish the other things from the little collection I am putting together under the Patamanta name, then I’ll round it all up and update the pattern, I promise! But really, I’m just taking my time, enjoying the knitting, and in no rush. I took the opportunity to add this little pouch to the pattern because I badly need a phone pouch as I have a new phone that I need to start keeping with me when I go for hikes up here in the wild as I never know when I’m going to trip over another fallen tree and injure my foot again, or if I will need to scare away preying wildlife with the funky ringtones, or ? Now that I think about it, before I take it out on the trail, I am considering giving it a bath of onion skins or tea to tone it down a bit and make it more earthy!

Patamanta Minis

I have taken a pause from new design project, to put together a gift for a friend’s grand-child who is turning three soon, and taking this opportunity to augment my recent Patamanta pattern into a small collection. Not sure, probably will just add some thumbhole “sleeves” or long fingerless mitts & legwarmers, as well as more variations of the original chullo, with augmented charts and sizes. I managed to sample these mini sizes just by using the smallest of the sizes and odd bits of sock-weight yarn. Thus far at least I have the present ready on time, but as yet I still must knit some adult sized samples in heavier weight un-dyed alpaca, before it is complete. Who knows what else I will knit from it, because I am unable to stop as these little colorwork pieces are so fun to knit, and completely addictive!

In a winter wonderland!

A winter wonderland like I’ve never seen up here, and we are officially snowbound. Even more snow than I remember seeing when we started building our original house in 2001, and I reckon possibly not as much snow since the 1990’s. Juno’s first real snowy landscape to play in, and she is off with Jeff clearing broken trees off of the road, and I am enjoying the warmth inside, looking out. Last week I nearly broke my foot, trailblazing through a tangle of big fallen trees, and although it is getting better, its still swollen and sore, so I can’t go out walking in it. But it is really nice, having to stay home because of the snow, not something we experience that often in our part of the world, but going to enjoy it, and for now being in this much snow is just magical!

Click image to go to slideshow . . .

Pastoral

Andean alpaca herds so carefully and lovingly shepherded by their colorful humans, the daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers working together in a modern pastoral life high in the Andes mountain range, adorned still partly with traditional clothes, nearly theatrical within the raw elements of the landscape. Tending the herds, sheering traditionally with rudimentary knives or shears, one by one, they release and gather the fleeces gratefully. Unceasingly working the fibers spinning with the simple wooden spindles, dyeing from natural plants over a wood fire, skillfully weaving warp and weft together on their back-strap looms, knitting needles too, through sunrise and sunset, with the simplest of equipment and expertly trained hands over countless generations, essential functioning works of living art are created from the landscape. From the pastures of heaven, the fluffy alpacas of the Andes are calling to me once again.

Patamanta

Recently I’ve not had any deadline knitting to do, and I happen to have a lot of alpaca yarn stashed so I managed to write a pattern for this old chullo I posted about originally almost six years ago in “Old Beloved Brown Thing” …

Although I was taking my time, planning on making a collection from this chullo, today I realized it is an actual anniversary, a decade since I started designing, so I decided to pull this first one together and submit my modest work this late afternoon, to celebrate. Truly it is modest. It is a tribute work, not so much about my designing, merely my version of a vintage original, shown knit up in aran and dk weights. Later I will add to the pattern, but it is to be found on Ravelry over here — and it is only my interpretation of the original. I’m naming it “Patamanta” as it means ” from the top ” in Quechua, the native language where it was very likely made, perfectly named I think.

Adélaïde at the castle.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll know that Adélaïde was the name of the historic botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté , and about whom I posted previously, and her story is that she grew up to be a painter in her own right, just as her father. When I finished the daughter variation of the pattern in the beginning of December, knowing I wanted my niece to model it, I put it in a drawer and it has been waiting to be properly photographed. Well amidst the Christmas flurry of plans, the moment arose with the timing of perfection; the moment when my niece was free, home on her winter break from university, and the moment where the steady forecast of rain cleared for the afternoon, so we got in our cars and shot from opposite ends of the Mayacamas range, toward the castle, the approximate halfway point between, and nailed a perfect photo shoot in a very short time. The sweater is quite small, knit and designed for a young girl of eleven, and barely able to be worn by my niece, who is now a seemingly tall woman of twenty . . . but as the art gods are always on our side it seems, with a little tugging adjustments on the sweater between shots, we managed to wonderfully stage Adélaïde, the Daughter of Redouté Roses for its unveiling. Very pleased am I to see the lovely botanical motifs captured with the stone of the castle, the best place ever to show off the knitted things, and I’m so grateful for the beautiful spontaneous moments shared with my niece!

Adélaïde

Celebrating my finish of Daughter of Redouté Roses, and having a Turkish coffee!

A “mini me” you could say, to the beautiful mother design Redouté Roses . . . or perhaps better described as “a daughter”.  Born out of necessity, or, just because I wanted every mother and daughter duo to be able to wear one together, or, because I really do think the slim-fit version of this big oversized sweater would be amazing too. I think I shall hand this one over to Jeff’s grand-daughter who is eleven, but also, I could knit one in a thicker worsted-weight to fit me, and which I very much plan to do!

Technically speaking, the Daughter is a smaller variation of the original, having only 9 repeats of the rose chart in the yoke, instead of 12 like the original, and the colorwork motifs have been redrawn to make a shorter yoke also, as well as far fewer stitches in the body and sleeves. Also I drew a special rose border chart that is smaller, and rather darling too. Otherwise, the construction exactly as the original, and I’ve included my signature gauge substitution chart with the pattern, so that more sizes can be made from child to adult.

Now, brace yourself for a coincidence, but with a tiny bit of research since finishing the sweater yesterday, I have discovered that the namesake of the design — Pierre-Joseph Redouté — actually did have a daughter! Indeed, so this two-pattern download is a now a complete tribute to Pierre-Joseph Redouté . . . AND. . . his only child, a daughter, whom he very affectionately called Adélaïde.

You simply must see

The Botanical Illustrations of Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Daughter of Redouté Roses (cardigan & pullover) pattern can be found as a second download with Redouté Roses,

Details about prototype project on Ravelry HERE.

(( See all posts in this series ))

Out in Autumn

Many weeks have passed since my last post on the equinox. I guess I just wanted to let October drift through the days without attention to anything in particular. Now comes November, and the most Autumnal month in the year it seems to me, and rain came yesterday, then this morning the chill was upon us. How could I resist going out with Juno and my camera to walk through the woods and say hello to our overgrown trail? Sniffing all the lovely smells, the spicy moist bay leaves and moldy musky smell of rained-on wild hay, crunching through fallen leaves and over thousands of acorns, kissing the awakened moss and climbing over yet more fallen trees, and admiring the grey clouds hanging by themselves in an otherwise blue sky. Its as though the landscape swells and sighs, as I do, into the moist cool healing after a difficult hot summer. Now home, the grey clouds are gathering, promising perhaps another shower, as a good mood, with cozy knitting with coffee inside . . .

(click the tree to go to the slideshow)

Sun Into Libra

Sun has transitioned into Libra, on this day, my absolute favorite day of the year. The light & shadow look so dramatic and dreamy from this angle looking up into the rafters & roofbeam, and thus this place has become my signature Autumn Equinox photo for (almost) five years now, and it is remarkable how each year the photo is different for one reason or another. It is thoroughly healing to see it as at last become so similar to the first. Happy equinox everyone !

Sweater Success !

My beautiful younger niece met me at the castle today.

It was so spontaneous!

I am so lucky and grateful that she could do it, because she is leaving back to university in a few days . . .

. . . but even more so because it was such a cool morning

after an impossible record heat wave we’ve had.

She is at home in the castle walls,

having been here so many times to model the endless sweaters . . .

so gracefully, and so genuinely.

And she gave this new design much needed relevance and proportion

because of the super voluminous shaping.

Both looked so lovely when she wore them, but I gave her the grey one, as it is casual and played down, and she loved it the most! I think its everybody’s favorite actually.

Redouté Roses pattern was posted earlier today over here And so now I can put all the yarn away, clean up the loft for a clean slate, and go for a nice walk in the woods, because with the help of my niece’s spontaneous rush to Calistoga for an impromptu photo shoot at the castle, I am now done & dusted with the project. I do think I want to make another one day, cropped dramatically, that would be so fun! (See all posts in the series)

Redouté Roses: the pattern

“Redouté Roses” namesake is inspired from the botanical rose illustrations of Pierre-Joseph Redouté, about whom was posted previousy, it is a cardigan & pullover duo, colorwork seamless yokes. I was going for the opulent over-sized “screamin’ the Eighties” type sweater I was so impressed upon decades ago in my earliest knitting years, about which I posted in Wild Roses. In fact, one really must read the whole series of rose themed posts over again to understand the design process of my new Redouté Roses sweater.

I absolutely love the lavish acres of mohair & wool in this sweater design, but even though I designed and knit the prototypes with voluminous and long draping bodies, I’m thinking I’d like to make the next one cropped, to wear showing off more hip and waist, like for skirts, or just for the drama of it. It was definitely worth the work to hold 2 yarns together, and to make it in both a cardigan and pullover. The cardigan has a steek, in front of course, and the “after-thought” pullover has a colorwork insert in back of the yoke, which is in place of a steek, which is how I manage to write a single pattern for both, a completely arduous commitment, and as far as I know, is my own process and how I am designing sweaters now — a cardigan and pullover in one pattern. Because frankly, if you took two people who want to have a sweater, one would surely want a pullover, and the other prefer a buttoned cardigan. My nieces being the perfect example and why I developed this way of designing.

As for the colorwork chart, if you look closely at the motifs, there is my usual small border, merely suggestive of a garland of tiny new budding roses, bordering the bottom hem, the sleeves, and the yoke. Then there is what I see as a botanical “cut-view” illustration of the just-opening rose flower alternating with an about-to-burst fat rose bud, and perhaps this is my favorite part of the chart. Last, and least of all needing explanation is the center large border of sumptuous fully open rose blossoms, the kind that last only a day before the petals seem to all fall off at once.

Its the fuzzy mohair I can’t get over, but one can’t really absorb the scope of their opulence until modelled by a niece ! And I do hope that in the near future one or both of my nieces will model these sweaters, but as its been a solid wave of record heat most of September so far, and since this particular sweater duo is excessively hot and fuzzy, I can’t be sure of anything. Why not wait? Honestly, the rush to get this design finished inconveniently during a hellish California heat wave, with still-life photos having to suffice, is simply so that all of the rose loving knitters of the world will have something to cast on as soon as Autumn hits!

“Redouté Roses” is now live and available on Ravelry,

so you can check it out there for all the finer details!

(( See all posts in this rose themed series. ))

buttons, etc.

Sewing buttons and labels on finally . . . the cardigan is completely dry . . . oh joy of joys ! Do you think these are the right ones? I had to cut them off one of my shirts as I desperately needed 1″ shell buttons, they are lovely and seem just right. Also I went out to the garden devastated by last week’s 106F heat wave, but there were some roses, so I cut them and put them in jars and into the fridge. Frayed and dwarfed by our mountain climate, not sure if they will do, but I really don’t want to make a trip into town for a bouquet of roses to photograph. Shall I make do?

The botanical illustrations of Redouté.

Pierre-Joseph Redouté (July 1759 – June 1840) was a Belgian botanist known for capturing the beauty of flowers, of roses in particular, with watercolor and engravings. Known as the “Raphael of flowers” he was perhaps the greatest botanical illustrator of all time.

I posted an illustration of the apricot back in June’s harvest , as a life science illustrator he did a variety of flowers and fruit. And do you recognize this particular Redouté Rose illustration which inspired the colorway of forthcoming latest design?

The latest sweater design in fact,

which has only to dry from blocking and buttons to be sewn on, then photographed.

In a blink I’ll be gleefully posting my finished long-awaited Redouté Roses sweaters!

(( See all posts in this series. ))

dog days . . .

Juno and I are back from our morning walk and ready for the day. Earlier this morning I put away yarn messes, dusted and brought order to the room and covered the dog bed loft bed with freshly laundered bedspreads, then immediately on return from our somewhat dusty burry walk, Juno hops up and expresses a bit of jubilant gratitude for her clean napping place ( aww Juno, she’s so upbeat! ) And as the dog days of summer snail on by we are definitely feeling a reprieve from the usual heat these last couple of days, maxing out in the high 70’s to low 80’s, and no complaints. These last weeks of summer always seem to slow down to a crawl, at least with the knitting, although closing in on the end of the season at last, with only three more weeks left ! Scotty, beam us to Autumn!

♥    ♥    ♥

PS. Edited in later in the day : I was thinking about this Dog Days post and recalled there another similar that I posted many years ago. I searched in my archives and found it! It was the Lazy Hazy Dog Days of Summer from eight years ago, and oh what a journey down memory lane. Strongly familiar, but now so far out of my grasp or influence, a moment in the original house several years before the wildfire, hanging out with our dear dog Emma, and working on one of my earlier knitting designs I was making for younger niece when she was soon to turn twelve. A pause for a tear. Time truly just marches on doesn’t it?

a new spindle

I’ve had my eye on a Turkish spindle lately. Once I discovered that you can create a center-pull ball around the spindle “arms” without having to wind it off — just pull the full ball of yarn with the arms up and off of the shaft, carefully slide the arms out, and you are left with a ball of yarn! All that needs to be done is to merely match two ends and ply the ball back on to the spindle, I realized this was going to be a time saving change to spindling for me. The Turks are brilliant I tell you! I was frothing at the mouth to try one, so I got a hold of one, and these are my very first windings on my brand new spindle, and I have something very special in mind in my spinning future that involves an array of spindle spun little yarn dyed balls, which I won’t probably even attempt for a while, but this spindling is just the perfect thing needed for me to slow down process and get meditative.

See how the yarn gets wound in a crossing fashion around the arms?

Besides, I love the way you can just park them anywhere. When finished with a ball or two, I will post and show the process. This rather large spindle is made from maple, it is extremely beautiful in my opinion, as maple is my favorite hardwood. And then the focus shifts to the background; which appears like Juno is again, chewing on a stick! She is stick obsessed, and may the “stick’ never be my spindle. I don’t think she would though, she’s a very good girl.

I realize I haven’t posted Juno for a while. She’s almost a year and a half, and lately maturing just a little bit out of her puppy behaviors. She’s lingering at the porch waiting for me to finish this photo session so we can go for more spin walking. Its very hot out this morning, as well as a haze from distant fires is present, and so many little flies this time of year that are so annoying, but just going for a spin-stroll walking back and forth in the shaded part of the road next to the house so I can figure out how to use this thing. C’mon Juno, you’re a good girl!

Wild Rose

There is a “wild” rose in my garden that I propagated from a cutting from an old rose bush that must have been wild planted a generation or more ago from a seed blown in the wind or dropped by bird, from what I imagine to be an old gardened estate on the mountain. Along side the road it grew very near where we live, and bloomed every spring. One day Jeff brought me a cut bloom from it, and after it was in a vase for a week or so, I planted it and I managed to eventually get it to propagate. The original bush along the roadside was burned in the wildfire and never came back, but I have its descendant, and here it is now, fifteen years or so later, in my garden, the wild rose . . .

Now for some backstory: The first knitting book I ever bought was in 1988, the time when I was just learning how to knit, and I use to stop in at our local Book Ends book shop down in the town center, and I can remember as if yesterday, the late afternoon in late Autumn that I found this just published book just on the shelf . . .

That first knitting book perished in the wildfire, but I had found a used one to replace it shortly after, for sentimental reasons, likely one of the the first knitting books I repurchased! Anyway, back then these were all patterns very exclusive and for experienced knitters only, yet I dreamed maybe I could learn to knit the complex intarsia roses, perhaps in tribute to my rose adoring mother I had just lost in early Autumn that year. Old-fashioned and wild roses are a bit of a theme in my life now looking back, and by suspicious coincidence, the first pattern in the book is named “Wild Roses” . . .

That is the backstory. Advance thirty something years and here I am, writing knitwear patterns, and yet still looking up to the big league knitwear designers as if I am still barely capable of knitting something from such glossy photo pages. Well actually, perhaps finally I am, although I had not even realized it until now this very moment, but here I am designing something in a similar vein. If it hasn’t made itself obvious in the last series of posts, I’ve been posting a lot about the world’s ever most floral wonder, the rose. I suppose that I have been dreaming about a rose themed knitting idea for about a year, and it was nearly a year ago that I made my first sketches of a fair isle chart of roses. Having picked it up again earlier this spring, I started to do the math, and make the chart fit a size run which is my usual style, too many sizes, and so I ended up making mistakes and changing my mind, and rewriting the pattern four times! FOUR! But just as I was bearing the weight of my creation , so many sizes, too many sizes ever to test knit and keep track of, and realizing that this indeed is a design for the person of romantic female persuasion, and shaved off the typical big sizes, and tiny sizes, for this is not a family sweater to be knit for everyone, but a sweater to be knit for a specific audience, women.

Narrowing down ever more now because I have made the decision over the weekend to make my own rose sweater also a one-size-fits-all, after having pulled out my First Knitting Book, it occurred to me that just like this big league designer of the Eighties, I can make my sweater also an opulent oversized garment. You see, decades ago, the norm for sweater design was so specific, to fit a very narrow range, and most patterns had one, if not two, maybe three sizes. They were mostly pieced garments, sewn together then finishes and flourishes added on after the sewing. This design is such the kind that any adult woman up to a 50 inch bust size can wear, the more it swims the better, and I am seeing that this is a very clever way of designing. This particular Wild Roses Sweater may loudly “scream the Eighties”, having a colossally boxy contour with big motifs knit intarsia (which I still have never tried) , drop sleeves, and maybe not representative or even a true template for my rose-themed sweater, but the luscious mohair and negative space which drapes around a person and makes her feel lovingly hugged by thousands of fuzzy warm stitches, is really beyond describing. And so I decided this weekend, that is what I am going to do, design “my” rose sweater for the opulent fit, using wool and mohair !

So now changing course completely and discarding six of the seven sizes and choosing the one size that fits all, I’m rolling along swatching anew, waiting for more skeins coming my way, of mohair-silk to hold along with the sport-weight wool I began the design knitting, and away I will go, meandering through a garden so meant to be, that I crave to be inside the gate. I’m very glad I pulled this book off my shelf on Friday, and very glad I’m writing all of this out, for sharing the design process is something I really am wanting to do. My latest swatch, with the mohair silk in the mix, a lovely ethereal halo . . .

In closing, I am interested now in learning the techniques influenced by my earliest memories of my mother knitting in the evenings of long ago, coffee table with strewn about magazines dated late 70’s and 80’s, all of the separate knitted pieces which at the time made no sense to me until my mother had sewn them all together. Although the sweater I’m designing coming up is seamless one-piece design, I feel compelled to design a few pieced things in the near future, and above all, narrow the field by writing fewer sizes in a pattern as the big league designers did back then. A simplistic low-stress approach that seriously appeals to my nature now after having satisfied the niche of knitting all-inclusive sizes and styles over the last decade, now it is time to revisit my roots, and now is the time to take that first step into the garden, down a path that is inevitably the way forward.

See all posts in this series.

apricot harvest

Its June and our young apricot tree is having its first plentiful harvest! Actually, the first apricot tree from which I made apricot jam posted summer solstice 2013 was sadly was killed off by a huge mountain gopher a couple of years after that post, so we then made a wire lining in the hole and planted a second tree a few months before the wildfire, spring of 2017. It was a miracle the fruit trees in our garden did not burn in the wildfire, probably because of the moisture from watering within the garden fence. Now five years later the miracle apricot tree finally gave a bumper crop of fruit, and I picked it all early before the birds got to them. As they all ripened deliciously on the kitchen counter I’ve eaten them one after another, so this morning I decided to make a big batch of jam with the last of them, so enticing! My favorite fruit really, the humble apricot preserved in a jar to last through a year of special occasions, hopefully until next year’s harvest. Somehow I doubt they’ll last half that long.

Just now I’m hearing the lids popping as the vacuum seals in the jam jars, making me happy anticipating buttered toast from my home-made bread slathered with my home-made apricot jam, and resolved to enjoying the remaining Spring days with the solstice a week away!

And everyone knows how I love the very old botanical illustrations, especially by my favorite botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté . . .

botanical illustration of Abricot-Peche, P.J. Redouté , 1835

Throwing the stitches . . .

Gauge figured after cutting the steek of a two repeat colorwork & shaped test swatch, and I started on the body, with a little floral border, so sweet. Many days of knitting undyed natural main color body and sleeves, and then the colorwork yoke, which will be finished in a blink I’m confident. I’m way ahead of deadline here, not that there is really even a deadline, just that my youngest niece would love to model it before she goes back to university this late summer. Thinking it may be a cardigan and after-thought pullover in a style I have not to date managed to design, a thing which is very feminine. The cardigan will be slightly cropped for skirts, possibly contrast edging, possibly Dorset buttons, maybe, or maybe not, but I just feel like pulling out all the stops on this one. The pullover version I will create much more played down, and the whole affect will be kind of like two sisters who are very different from each other. But for now its just a glimpse of a floral idea as I swim in bodies of wool in the scorching California heat, as the mercury rises and the days near to the summer solstice!

( See all posts in this series.)

sock intermission

I had only a few stitches to knit to finish up these prototypes belonging to the latest sock pattern. They are the Cafe Latte’ variation of the Double Cappuccino Sock pattern (which is part of a larger collection in itself!) If you take a closer look at them (in the cuff area) you’ll notice my experimentation of two ways to work the ribbing, and I still can’t decide which I love best; 2″ of k3, p1 rib before the leg which is k7, p1 –or — the extra grip of 1″ of single rib, then working 1″ of k3, p1 rib, before the leg rib. So I decided to do one of each and give a visual sample so the knitter can better decide. The other option is to work the whole 2″ of cuff in single rib. Anyway, there is something so lovely about this classic country sock variation, with contrasting cuffs, heel, and toe, and I just never tire of making them.

Berroco Ultra Wool Fine is to date my favorite commercial sock yarn, with a very rustic feel, not of merino, which is so beautiful of a wool, for socks can be rather too soft and not as durable.

Pattern : Double Cappuccino

Yarn: Berroco Ultra Wool Fine

Knitting Details: on Ravelry here.

The colors of old rose illustrations.

I haven’t yet been able to start my colorwork swatch because I haven’t yet been satisfied with the colors from the parcel that came yesterday. The colors from the factory are rarely just right, so again time for a quick over-dye.

I happen to have some natural beige of this yarn, so I overdyed a skein of it with pink, and another skein of it with gold and a pinch of emerald, trying for the color of extra virgin olive oil. Lets see if this will work better, for the palette I’m wanting is rather particular, of the old botanical illustrations. The tarnished brass is the color I’m looking for the lighter leaf tone we’ll see. Right now the skeins are wet, will be much less vivid and a lot lighter when dry.

But, I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with the over-dyed pink, as it was then too similar to the medium pink from the factory yarn, and so I dipped in tea for a bit last night, but rushed it because at the same time I was getting dinner ready. Having dried out on the line by morning, it was back to the kitchen, for it was still was not perfect. So, again early as I was making coffee I was brewing tea for another tea over-dye, to make it still duller & darker than the medium rose factory shade. Over-dying finished, here is the palette I’m going to be working with, four shades of rose, and three shades of leaf..

The main body will be natural white, um, “old paper white” I guess you could call it, as I am striving for a palette something like this late eighteenth century botanical illustration . . .

Now I’m casting on for my colorwork swatch,

and I’ll look forward to posting soon how that is going!

(( See all posts in this series. ))

rose notes . . .

One of my rose bushes has so many blossoms on it this Spring, heavy cupped peach colored blossoms so fragrant. It is an English climbing rose I planted in the garden for Emma’s fourteenth birthday, when we were living in the tiny house while our house was being rebuilt. I am a real fan of highly fragrant roses, loving particularly the varietals with fruity scent, because when I pick a small jar of them and bring into the house, they just fill the room with a fragrant natural beauty. And this afternoon I made myself a rose “soda” and drank it while calculating notes for a future rose-themed sweater design. After picking a few blossoms it occurred to me to try to steep the petals in sugar syrup, making a rose syrup. And it doesn’t take long at all, really just a few hours, for its now the late afternoon, and I’m enjoying the most unusual refreshing drink, with delicious rose floral notes. Here’s how I made rose syrup, which you can just mix with sparkling water and have a winner drink:

  1. Pluck petals off of a couple of roses, and place fresh petals in a pyrex liquid measure.
  2. Boil up a small amount of simple syrup, equal parts water to sugar, enough to cover the petals.
  3. Pour over petals and let steep for a couple of hours, after which you’ll really begin to taste the rose infusion, which always surprises me.
  4. Pour through fine sieve into a jar or bottle, and store in the fridge (into one of the bottles I put some dried rose petals too)

Yarn Tasting: UnSpun Sock Yarn

I’ve been making and knitting with my newest yarn experiments, my own UnSpun Peruvian superwash sock yarn, both the fingering and dk weights, and knit with my new Double Cappuccino Socks pattern as well.

Double Cappuccino Socks, project details on Ravelry HERE.

As I have been doing all along, dividing the plies then replying with a tighter final twist, finally scour washing to set the twist and felt up any possible slack.

A sample of the same grey yarn over-dyed with some yellow onion skins I had saved up, and pressure cooked half hour in my mini instant pot. Then I strained out the skins, wet the skein and along with a glug of white vinegar I simmered for about half an hour in the onion skin “broth” on low pressure. It was very thirsty for dye, and the onion skin dye was pretty dark. Next time I won’t pressure cook the actual dying, but simmer and careful few stirs to even out the dying as well as giving the yarn a further scour to set the new twist. However, I actually am quite pleased with the slightly blotchy onion gold over the cool grey, for in my opinion the duo of grey and deep golden brown pair excellently together.

The yarn is beautifully rustic, has a little spring, but not as much elasticity, which was my expectation from a coarser longer wool fiber to achieve the rustic appeal. However, slightly problematic for these reasons; the yarn seems slick and strong, might do better to be knit with smaller needles “than usual”, to tighten up the fabric, it seems, and the dk may be too thick to wear comfortably for walking. I know for certain these will be an improvement on socks for walking, with very dense tightly knit fabric to take a lot of punishment. I guess I wanted to try to find some kind of a niche with my UnSpun Sock yarn, and I think I almost have, just for myself though, as I am not able to spin fine sock yarns to save my life, and always having a sock on the needles just hits the spot and keeps me on the level.

Bread success!

Have been trying to perfect my rustic country bread loaves, inspired to study more the methods with a long-rise from what I’ve learned to call “biga”. Several times in my life I’ve tried getting a starter going, fed for a few days, even weeks, and always eventually a bitter displeasing off-smelling thing happens, and I don’t trust my expensive organic flour with, when what I only really want is a fresh, delicate and sweet aroma. Those loaves from my sour-starter were never good, and yet I wanted to persist. In all my years of baking I had never tried the biga — an old European name for what is more modernly called a pre-ferment — where one begins the starter the night before using a scant two pinches of yeast, letting slowly rise all during the night, and the next day early one begins to throw the flour (exciting, I love how I can sleep on the idea of the task coming the next day!) So last night right before cooking dinner, I quickly mixed the few small ingredients with the handle of a spoon, covered with a dish, tucked it away and this morning I did the rest; the stretching and proofing, and the baking.

A crackly crust that is not tough, but delicate, and a lovely fluffy and light interior texture that smells fresh and so sweet.

I’m one of those bread lovers who when presented with a lovely loaf of well-browned rustic loaf with crags and crevasses of crust, I like to just tear off a piece, and experience the texture from how the bread gives way. I based this loaf combining my own bread baking experience with a recipe from a used book I acquired post-wildfire era, called “The Italian Baker” 1985 (there is a revised edition 2011) which I obsessively started reading last weekend, but also I found an excellent no-knead dutch-oven you-tube tutorial about baking with biga from this baker which was colossally helpful and very easy to follow.

Baking yeast breads with a pre-ferment biga is going to change my way of baking forever, especially as in recent months I’ve been longing for ritual, and ritual in bread baking is something I feel I’ve been on the path towards for decades, but only now have arrived at my straight and narrow, and this will be hopefully only the first of many more bready posts I predict, for in this loaf I have found real success. And now about twenty hours after making the biga, I’m enjoying my absolute all-time favorite snack — toast with gobs of salted butter, and for a rare treat I just happened to have some strawberry jam I made the other day!

An Irish Woolen Mill

Sometime ago I posted this excellent Hands Series of a Dublin Wool Mill, but it seemed to have been taken off of youtube so couldn’t be viewed. Now almost three years later, I have found it again, a superbly artful wool spinning mill & weavers from the late 1970’s. Watch and find out what happens when colors layered in to wool sandwiches are fed to the “fear-not machine”, the “scribbler machine”, and old style mill spinning with a “mule”,  then various weaving of the cloth and processing into the Irish Tweed that is world renowned. This episode is absolutely loaded with all sorts of tweedy goodness ~~~ enjoy!

April on the mountain

April, and it is springtime on the mountain again . . . the flora & fauna waking up and everything in its place. In our garden are loads of apple blossoms this year, and the first buds of the old fashioned climbing roses, and fuzzy pink new leaves of black oaks, everywhere color and wonder.

Oh, and some finished socks I am sending off to Vancouver for a belated birthday gift.  My Un-Spun sock yarn is fabulously rustic; it feels like woolly wool, smells like wool, looks very much like wool, it is soft and springy and completely machine washable.

♥    ♥    ♥

Pattern: is Double Cappuccino in the variation “Americano” , recently added to sock pattern.

Yarn: Un-Spun Peruvian Superwash DK sock yarn , which I made and posted here.

Un-Spun Sock Yarn

I have been experimenting with creating a unique sock yarn which is swiftly and steadfastly becoming my new favorite. It is made from Peruvian Highland breed of sheep, and what I believe to be Corriedale-Merino cross wool, so the fiber has softness of Merino, but equally has crisp and sturdy properties of Corriedale fleece which was bred from a long-wool breed. Not that I have anything against Merino, it is absolutely fabulous, but it is just so delicate, and for socks I have become disenchanted by its downy structure. I want a sock yarn that is energized and holds shape with wear, sturdy with beautiful rustic appeal, and lastly that is machine washable so that I can make hiking socks for myself by the dozens and even give them as gifts and they will hold up being worn over hill & dale as well as the cycles of wash & dry.  After years of sampling popular sock yarns, I am certain my Un-Spun superwash sock yarn is going to be my go-to yarn, and lately I have been practicing and streamlining my process.

 

Over much experimentation, I’ve pretty much got two weights; a fingering and dk weight.  First, the dk weight, most rustic appeal of all I think, and knits up super fast and even fluffy. . .

As you can see, I’ve got a boot sock on the needles, knit with the dk and I believe it really is the best I could have hoped for.  I seriously am enjoying the robust feel of this crispy, fluffy, soft, and complex yarn.  Why do I go through all this effort?  I suppose the answer is simply because I can make what I can not find.  So presently I am making quite a lot of 100g skeins of the fingering weight, in many colors for when the gift giving comes around, I will have a good stash in my sock yarn drawer. Coming soon — piles of yarns and some finished socks.

Read on for the technical information about UnSpun Sock yarn . . .

Continue reading

Juno is One!

Just in from Juno’s favorite thing to do . . .

. . . and that is chasing sticks!

In the ten months we’ve had her, Juno has become a real super-charged herder, a manic tail-chaser, and just an all around positive loving goofy dog with a great attitude (yet very stubborn and misbehaving a lot of the time.)

A few months ago, when Juno was still quite juvenile, Jeff got her DNA tested, as we were sure she had some other breed mixed in, as she is significantly smaller than Emma was, and we were very curious. But when the results came in we were actually very surprised to read “100% German Shepherd, with medium wolfiness.” And since then she has really blossomed into quite a breed specimen! Seriously though, “medium wolfiness” just cracks me up.

Well, happy first birthday Juno!

You can see all Juno posts over the last ten months here.

In another life . . .

In another life I am a weaver. Perhaps I’ll grow up as a child of the earth, tending the plants and bringing water, then later as a young woman I would bear the tension of the backstrap, squaring weft against warp, sweating through long tedious hours of work so honorable, and insulated from the worries and the wars of the world. Or really, just any kind of weaver, anywhere! (( You can see the very same mosi weaving master filmed a little earlier in her life back in this post which is quite a bit more extensive in the technique of making the warp)). But then, it really would take a lifetime to do this, why would I want to be a rank beginner now? Instead, from time to time I’ll just post great weaving films that I find.

See all weaving videos. . .

days of winter

Lemon loaves, coffee, and longing for something new and exciting, but I stay in the tried and true. I sit and knit and ponder too much, however I do try to break with walks, genuine attempts to better myself. I’m moody a lot these days, but I suspect its the state of the world, not necessarily within myself. Not a drop of rain here since early January (maybe? I can’t remember) and for the whole month of February, its been mostly sunny clear skies, you could say even relatively warm, languishing as the winter days flirt with a sort of springtime mirage, new baby leaves about to burst out of the branches, and the fruit trees are all covered in blossoms, in spite of it being just a bit too early. Where did our winter go, it seemed to have gotten hidden away after the new year. Well, I’m still hopeful, today the temperature dropped considerably, and although the sky is clear blue, there is a chance of rain forecast. I am just bearing down and knitting my way through it all.

Last night just about when I was getting ready to cook dinner, I discovered Jeff nearly forty feet up a fir tree, in his climbing gear, a swashbuckling forest musketeer with a saw in his scabbard, cutting dead limbs away. He’s so hopeful for the trees that are still hanging on, wanting to groom them up and cut away the lifelessness left in the wake of the wildfire. But such a crazy dare-devil I live with, he gets me so freaked out!

But then just to remind me how everything really is quite okay, this afternoon I find Juno napping near a sun beam that was illuminating my spinning wheel . . .

Such a manic tail-chasing puppy, she is just a few weeks from her 1st birthday. I can’t believe it, the time just slips away as if I’ve been in a coma . . . Juno Pup is soon to be One!

♥    ♥    ♥

In closing, I want to share this totally inspiring musician who has a technique I’ve never seen nor heard, what the artist calls “bells harmonic”, isn’t it just enchanting?

Mmm… double cappuccino!

As I sip an absolutely fantastic yummy afternoon cappuccino latte, I write out this little post, telling you all about how I have for a long time, several years perhaps, wanted to go back into my early pattern archives and overhaul them, one at a time. Well I have just brought up to date Double Cappuccino, a collection of four patterns . . .

So far the ensemble is socks with variations, thumbhole mitts, cowl, and the original legwarmers pattern from over eight years ago, one of my first patterns ever, which came to be when my oldest niece turned fourteen and wanted some legwarmers for her birthday, and so I decided to learn how to knit simple lace. Those original legwarmers were my first, and over the new year I have thought of the many ways I can incorporate this simple ribbed lace patterning, and write into an easy pattern collection. Abelene was hinting all about these “new parts to an old thing” just a few days ago, and although I may add some more parts later, I think for now I’ve finished! However, for me the knitting has only begun, for now I have a heap of samples I would love to make in the territory ahead, for its the variations that I’m wild about, so please come join me here for many more delicious afternoon double cappuccinos, accompanied by some knitting!

New parts to an old thing.

Hi, its me Abelene.  Jen is making A Frothy Thing, the alpaca thing which I am wearing here (wait, um, but does it look like there’s an ice-cream cone on my head?) Jen says that she is happy to have me fill in for Day 1 of February, because she is ever so lost in a sea of frothy knitting, and needs to be continually throwing stitches instead of writing in her blog. What could ever be so important that she is not blogging? Oh, but she says what she is working on is not a new thing, but new parts to an old thing. Right, I know that makes perfect sense, and it will all come clear very soon, whenever Jen makes it back and I’m in the closet again, talking to the inanimate objects which long for a script to follow as I do.  As for elsewhere and other things . . . it is already mid-winter . . . windy, sunny, and even I (a dress form) am longing for the pitter patter of rain on the roof (and maybe a new dress too).

Ta ta, Abelene