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

My January Obsession 4

I was wrong. The Simply Wool in worsted weight which showed up yesterday actually has 4 plies. This only means that, to my relief, I could just divide the plies in half and get a fingering weight, instead of starting with 3 plies and making sport/dk like my experiment from this post. My reflections on this whole re-plying process is that it leaves more than I originally figured to skill and sheer tenacity. That is, after breaking the yarn down to its factory spun single ply, there is some choice in how I ply over again.

The original 4ply constructed worsted weight is definitely “worsted spun” feel; relaxed, unenergized, and even the single plies are worsted spun feel, balanced, but not overly fluffy or sticky and come apart easily when pulled apart in the untwisting process. This time I really tried to put more twist back in the divided balls of 2ply than I felt comfortable with, worrying the whole time that it would be too much twist. Yet, when I scour-washed the final skein, and thwacked it and let it hang dry, it was as if magic made it into a beautifully soft bouncy elastic, almost woolen feel fingering weight yarn.

I am very happy with the result of this Un-Spun experiment, the yarn being what appears to be suitable for colorwork or socks too. And thinking to myself now, after having had a chat with a dear friend this morning, about what if anything, would be our self-proposed superpowers, I think mine is quite possibly resourcefulness, because I feel terrifically resourceful after this latest “un-spun”. If one has a worsted weight skein hanging around, left over from a sweater project or whatever, instead of a left-over skein of no use, it could become a pair of socks, or gloves, or part of a Fair Isle garment.

Above is the before skein – worsted weight – 100g and 218 yards.

Below is the after skein – fingering weight – 100g and theoretic 436 yards.

My January Obsesson 3

Practice is what builds skill, and only practice. The proper tools help, and I’ve got all I need of them, but what is key to getting good at something is just spending time just doing the work.

This is about 480 yards and 110 grams of what is a sort of deep flax flower blue, made from two balls of worsted weight Wool Of The Andes “Baltic Heather”. Over recent days I’m getting more consistent evenness in my s-twist with this fine fingering weight, and getting the hang of the super duper fast electric plying machine, while I turned another decade older.

No complaints, just quietude and gratitude to work the days away. These January days have me feeling more relaxed than I have been in a long time, and I’m really enjoying learning a new thing, and now I’m on my way down the mountain to Oakville Post to get this skein on its merry way eastward to Pennsylvania!

My January Obsession 2

My second yarn deconstruction project of January, Wool Of The Andes in worsted weight, in the color “Brass Heather” by Knit Picks, made into my own Un-Spun. This time I wanted to get a tighter ply twist on it, and so it has become really very rustic, with a beautiful halo, and possesses a unique hand-made feel. Perhaps slightly more dense than I thought it would be, but then this golden whipped honey of a skein will be perfect for some natural wool sock knitting I have planned in the Territory Ahead !

January at the Castle

Yesterday I was finally able to meet both of my nieces at the castle, to give my eldest niece her Fisher Vest and to take a few photos in the swiftly darkening light of the very late afternoon.

I haven’t seen my eldest niece for over a year, since the last time we met in the middle of the worst of the California covid surge, to shoot these photos , remember?

She has been so busy with life as it just flies by us at times, and the pandemic has not helped either. But I must report, she is doing excellently in spite of it all.

We only had minutes before the light was too low, so only time for a few shots. Her birthday was end of the year, and I made her some fingerless gloves, snipped the tips off of the prototype which I had hidden away in a drawer, and ripped back. Fingerless gloves? She loved them. She is also wearing Aria Stole, which sweetens up the vest just a bit more, don’t you think?

Youngest niece stood by as photo assist (we had photo shoot for her & new design last September) and I couldn’t help but take one or two of her, for today she returns to university, and it will be months again before I see either of them. I loved the short time we spent together, closing it with an early dinner on the patio of Villa Corona Taqueria in St. Helena, it was a perfect whirlwind visit!

My January Obsession

I’m back at deconstructing yarns again, breaking down then bringing together great value, custom weight, novel feel with hand-made quality, even if it is all somewhat long drawn out. I’ve discovered Simply Wool from Knitpicks to be the best starting point for some upcoming “Un-Spun” projects, especially as being an OEKO-TEX product, it is absolutely minimally processed with no chemicals, nor dyed, the natural result is/will be optimal for me. I do believe the feel of the natural wool is best without the dye process, so it is really a lovely yarn to work with, even if a little dirt comes out in the first wash, that is a good sign.

Both the bulky weight and the worsted weight have 3 plies, so it isn’t as easy as splitting the plies in the untwisting “Z” direction, with this I must divide 2 and 1 plies, then when I re-twist the 2ply in “S” direction I have a the other 1ply left over which I must divide in half and S-twist against itself… and well… it all seems rather ridiculous now that I am trying to explain it, but the result is some fantastic yarn that I love, love, love, and that is all that matters.

The Simply Wool bulky weight is 193y = 100g, and worsted weight is 218y = 100g, which is not a huge difference in yardage between the two, however, the end result after my unplying & replying trick is 2ply DK and 2ply Sport weights, and the time it takes to do it is something I actually enjoy a lot. Time? Answer is my new Ashford E-spinner, which may ultimately serve me as a super fast plying & unplying machine, because in a relatively short amount of time I managed to make a lovely 100g skein of “Un-Spun” DK weight wool, even while standing ! I also gave it a “scour” soak to relax the twist, and left to hang dry, and the next day I had something I could really use from a leftover skein in my stash. I’m waiting for my second wave of experimentation, hoping this yarn will be perfect for what I am working on that I can’t discuss just yet, but soon. I just love a good January obsession, starts the year out right.

Hey Juno, its snowing!

Yesterday it snowed for a few hours, and at one point there were the biggest fluffiest flakes I’ve ever seen, but nothing stuck. It was magical looking out the window of the loft all the same, and I’m pretty sure there will be more snow in the coming weeks.

.

A quiet little Christmas.

We brought in from outside and decorated our little live Redwood for its last indoor Christmas, we’ll plant for sure in the new year. Such a little tree, with friends’ knitted Christmasy things sent to me and a few collected old mercury glass ones made the little tree so festive. And Juno’s snuck into the new chair by the fire, and the day was very quiet just the three of us. Happy Christmas!

Winter Solstice

This morning at first light I took my camera out to photograph a few for the post, but when I tried to upload them, nothing happened, so borrowing photos from the archives . . .

Transition into winter excites me, when inwardly I build anew. This morning my thoughts drift back to a dreamscape I had more than a decade ago, a vivid dream that I was sitting, nested in an ethereal kind of place, on a snowy crag, an unreal pillar of rock jutting up into the stratosphere. I was comfortable and warm, in a place of incessant night yet with illuminating snow below and snowflakes softly blowing around me and  as if I were brought up into an existentialist heavenly place, and I was unafraid of the elements.  This dreamscape is ever present in my spiritualistic sense of myself, and although the dream was long ago the memory of it is etched in my conscience, at times reminding me to hold steadfast as I make my way through transition, unafraid, into new unknowns.

Today being the Winter Solstice the shortest and darkest day in the northern hemisphere, I ponder still that ethereal place in the highest of heights, and the creative territory ahead, landing me again in my wintery thoughts. I feel so calm this morning early as the rain begins again, softly hitting the roof, washing my worries away. So it is with a rain-fulfilled contented sigh that I feel a close of the year, while everything beds down for a nice winter nap. Happy Solstice to Everyone!

Christmas Knitting

Dear Nora and Fin-ster,

I want to tell you a little story about the Christmas hats I made for you. I wrote the pattern for this chullo in Spring of 2017 when your PopPop, Papa & Aunt Zan were in the Andes Mountains of Peru, walking the Camino Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I started when PopPop left, knitted a pile of them, wrote and submitted the pattern, and by the time he got back home a week later, I had finished everything! I named the design Camino Inca Chullo and there are many ways you can make them, but I knitted the improvisational variations for yours, making it up as I knitted along, from bits of yarn I had in a drawer, some that I overdyed with colors I thought you’d like. Nora, your Papa thought I ought to put kitty ears on yours, so I did, and positioned the ears where they worked best, as the top of the hat tends to slouch back. A soft slouchy chullo with cat ears sounds like a great hat I think , but the ears can be easily taken off if they’re not behaving. Fin-ster, I just want you to know that in the traditional dress of the Peruvians who live in the Andes Mountains, especially near Machu Picchu, only the men and boys wear these style hats, and usually have many very big fluffy tassels and pompoms, yours only has one rather small one by comparison, so wear it with pride Little Man! PopPop wanted me to make them for you, so I did, they are made of superwash wool, so they won’t shrink if you throw ’em in the washing machine, and also, the wool was grown from sheep in the Peruvian Mountains!  I better get them in the mail now, I hope you like them, and Happy Christmas! Love, Nanna.

All posts Camino Inca.

Out in Autumn

Rain has soaked the earth in our neck of the woods since some time in mid October, so much rain in fact, that there were run-off streams rushing down the hill that I haven’t seen in a couple of years. The return of the rain season is at last on time, calming everybody’s nerves and we’re settling into a bit of a post fire season bliss. At present we’re having a spell of warm clear days after all that rain. So clear and mild out early this morning I was able to get out with my camera while Juno & Jeff went to dog class and I had a beautiful sunrise all to my self! Mid Autumn, and the golden oaks and maple trees are glowing, turning of the season in balance and everything in its place.  What is new: a thing showed up at the very end of October, and if you’re wondering what that odd photo of a small bit of machinery is, its an Ashford electric spinner folks! I write with exclamation and excitement, but to be honest, I’m not sure I’m so crazy about it. I much prefer spinning on my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel any day, but in recent months I have been unable to sit at the treadle wheel without a bit of back pain, or sitting at all for too long. So I couldn’t resist the temptation to try one, as my newly chronic back situation caused a bit of a dilemma, the optimal plan in doing so is that I am able to spin and ply while standing! I must admit in its favor, that it is quite a thrill to ply off several hundred grams of singles bobbins at lightening speed, something that perhaps in time I will find a real benefit from. Until then, its in the closet while the beautiful Ashford Traditional is out of the closet.  And Juno is eight months old this week ! Although her behavior is full tilt puppy still, and lots of misbehaving and testing her humans, she’s getting an adult coat of fur and looking quite beautiful . . .