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 arms, without having to wind it off, then 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. 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! I have something very special in mind in my spinning future that involves an array of spindle spun 1oz size balls, yarn dyed, and this is just the perfect tool needed for the project. 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 again, and photograph popping out the spindle piece by piece from the wound yarn and miraculously leaving the ball of yarn. 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, so not going far. The 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. C’mon Juno, you’re a good girl!

1930’s flax spinning . . .

What a coincidence, yesterday just after I posted about Virginia learning to spin on an old flax spinning wheel and the little flax knitted bag she made and sent to me, I found this little silent black & white film from Germany, which seems to be an excellent demonstration about the art of dressing the distaff and using an authentic flax spinning wheel and skein winder. Although claiming total ignorance here as I am not sure what’s going on in the very end where the lady puts something of seeming importance on her head covering the top knot in her hair, then marches on out through the village with the spun flax. Can anybody enlighten us in the comments? Anyway I hope you enjoy it . . .

A darling little flax bag . . .

Something arrived in the post today, from Pennsylvania, a dear little handspun & knit flax bag from my good friend Virginia!

Backstory: A couple of years ago after moving back into my loft studio, I was hoarding fiber to spin. Sometime in the last year Virginia announced that she was going to learn to spin and got a hold of an authentic antique flax spinning wheel she was renovating ((they have all the great antiques in Pennsylvania I tell you!)) So, in a gesture of congratulations and encouragement, I sent her the flax fiber I had bought, it was not enough to overwhelm a brand new spinner, just a taste of flax fibers. Besides, I still have not spun flax, wasn’t planning on it any time soon, and she had the flax wheel! Well, the dear woman does not dawdle, ever, and she spun that flax up as soon as she could get her wheel going, purring I might say, and look what she made for me out of the flax she spun! As a beginner she has already surpassed me, and I am speechless, utterly. The generosity of the knitters and spinners in my life astounds me.

Thank you Virginia, from the bottom of my heart, and I will cherish it !

Coming this Autumn . . .

Lady in Yellow: I’m serious. Do I look serious? I am, and it is because I am completely finished with these girdling knitteds buttoned to the point of strangulation, and cropped to my elbows and belly button. I tell you, I can not breath, nor eat even half a peanut butter sandwich and I’m starving! I am finished wearing things like this. Why is there nothing else available to knit that is comfortable and not ridiculously objectifying? Oh to be free, modern kind of free, free to move our arms, to bend over to pick up our own hand kerchiefs, and to feel confident to knit our own sweaters the way we want!

Lady in Green: Cheers Yellow, I can’t stand it anymore either. I am worried. Do I look worried? It is because year after year I can not find a single knitting pattern that is both beautiful as well as draping and oversized. I want to wear a big boxy sweater, and call it my boyfriend’s if anybody gives me hassle about it. Then I’ll eat three peanut butter sandwiches, because I am starving too! I tell you, I am completely fed up with one-skein pullovers, I want lavish knitting, acres of fluffy mohair & wool, with perhaps some botanical accent. Make it roses, I love roses. Where is the pattern I want? Is it in the pattern book you’re flipping through?

Lady in Yellow: None in this knitting pamphlet, and I’ve looked cover to cover. Well Green, we’re going to just have to protest I guess, go down to the Five And Dime and demand they carry knitting patterns we actually want to wear!

Lady in Green: I hear you Yellow! Lets go down to Woolworths this weekend and bring our knitting needles and threaten to poke the knitting department’s eyes out if they don’t get us some comfortable-to-wear knitting patterns with pretty colorwork, and that is big enough for our cousin Bertha to wear if she wants to.

Lady in Yellow: I’m in!

Lady in Green: Or we could join Ravelry then wait and see what’s coming around Autumn!

Lady in Yellow: Oh, that’s even a better idea, I’m in with that too!

Lady in Green: In fact, the new Fall Knitting Fashions are just now almost ready, so if we hold on another month, we might get lucky!

Lady in Yellow: And nobody gets their eyes poked with our knitting needles, better idea indeed, lets wait until September and see what Lady Luck brings!

Pikb’il Weaving

Brocade weaving that is white-as-snow and so very sheer, the Q’eqchi’-Maya weaving in this particular region of Alta Verapaz of Guatemala is distinctive and so artful. After having divided the plies of the already fine cotton yarn the single plies are fragile, so the Maya weavers starch their warp with tortillas and hot water made into a paste to coat the threads, then as it is often cold and rainy, the warp is dried over a small fire made in the middle of their living room floor. I am charmed. This style of weaving resonates with me perhaps more than any other weaving, so breathtakingly beautiful in the rural outback of mountains of Guatemala.

Also see accomplished weaver Liz Frey goes to the source, at a weaver’s home in a small mountain village, to learn Pikb’il weaving. If you give these two a watch, you’ll learn a lot, I promise. Researching indigenous types of weaving is just a thing I like to do, as I engage my mind and gain inspiration all the while knitting my latest sweater prototypes, and sheltered inside from the return of immanent scorching California heat. Every summer I drift and drift through months of heat and wildfire haze, but I keep my head down and stay industrious inside as much as possible, occasionally running out to walk Juno or help Jeff with some part of rebuilding his shop, and before I know it the first rain will come in early Autumn.

July

Knitting on the deep grey pullover of latest design, on a rare and beautiful grey cool July day, up until late afternoon when the clouds dispersed a bit. I’ve decided that regardless of the number of weeks it will take, this summer I want to knit a bunch of these sweaters, because I am really pleased with the design, so that will be me through to September, throwing stitches of mohair & wool, in a good mood. And another wall up for the shop, I was at the come-along cranking the pull rope and taking photos at the same time . . .

I am definitely looking forward to the finish of Jeff’s rebuilt shop. But as it is a weekend job for him on his spare time, it won’t be soon, hopefully by the end of Autumn (?) I have for many years wanted to make some knitting & spinning related items, but no rush on that, for now the knitting is all I can manage. Really.

Edit in: A lullaby sung at bedtime of the fog pouring over the ridge, from the Pacific ocean, thirty something miles from Bodega, and moving rather swiftly! I was in heaven as I watched a while, mesmerized about it as though it were an undulating living thing, before falling asleep. Cresting at 2600 feet, then sinking down the northeast face of Mt Veeder into the Napa Valley, drink it in poor fire ravaged Redwoods and Douglas firs! I may be playing optimistic, but I tend to think . . . to hope . . . that the weather is in our favor this summer, as we are all strung out to the max, over the mercury rising with extremely dry days, and when the wind kicks up, anxiety spirals into dread. Yes, let the wind instead, push us some wispy clouds of little drizzly drops as this. A lullaby indeed, and it was a good deep sleep.

balm

The mess of making, of designing, of starting over again, then again, and pencils, tape measure, calculator and notes strewn about the table. The yarn really gets used up and I feel no closer today to being well on my way than I was in the beginning of this design. The body of the prototype is getting the wrong gauge despite the fact that I made a correct swatch, this only means that one can’t really swatch for a project until all two-hundred-and-forty-seven stitches are on the needles, and I’ve done several days of knitting, then and only then will the elusive stitch gauge reveal itself. Well blast, so I’ll set aside the paper white cardigan prototype for now, and work on the greyed down pullover prototype in a set of larger needles, and I’m sure I’ll get gauge from which I wrote the pattern! Keeping this design journal going, if only to entertain myself in the process of design, and glad that I am. My summer is going to be busy with these two, possibly a third one (in the light grey on the right). In closing I’ll say that we’re having a patch of very lovely cool foggy mornings and cool days and that is the most healing balm of all! That, and the fact that Jeff (and Juno) are at last rebuilding his workshop!

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.)

A brief 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.

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.

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.

Okay, sock intermission over, back to the big colorwork knitting project at hand. But first, the links . . .

♥    ♥    ♥ 

Pattern : Double Cappuccino

Yarn: Berroco Ultra Wool Fine

Knitting Details: on Ravelry here.

Colors nearly perfect.

Over-dying finished, here is the palette I’m going to be working with, four shades of rose, and three shades of leaf. After my last over-dye, posted The color of old rose illustrations I was not happy 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. Brewing another thirty minutes in a dye bath of tea, the end result is some rather beat up yarn, but I don’t mind, because now the shade is nearly perfect, and in this case more important than the yarns roughed up texture, for it is only a few rounds going to be used in a yoke colorwork. 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!

The colors of old rose illustrations.

I haven’t yet been able to start my colorwork swatch because I am not perfectly satisfied with the colors from the parcel that came yesterday. For one, I think I need a fourth rose shade, another medium rose shade, but duller than the medium shade in the stack. Also the two greens are much too alike, and I think I want the lighter one to be the main leaf green, with a light golden green accent (or I may just have three leaf tones). 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.

( See all posts in this series.)

yarn arrival . . .

Yarn has arrived, its official, and I’m excited to finally start.

I’ve been mired down in chart drawing and redrawing for a week,

and now it is time to knit a swatch,

Peruvian wool, in colors of leaves and petals!

sock adventure

Having spent many months on the latest sock design overhaul, then sock yarn making & more sample sock knitting, I feel I have finally come to a place where I can just be done for a while, as I really do need to move on to some serious sweater knitting at this point, but we’ll see about that. After sending these two pairs of socks knit with the UnSpun Sock Yarn off to Vancouver this morning, I will stop next door at the Oakville Grocery and get a nice cup of coffee, and wrap my mind around going on sock sabbatical for however long it takes, and facing the new design in the territory ahead.

The grey pair is the pattern Double Cappuccino, and the pink/brown pair being one of the variations called Basic Brew. I’ve knit the Basic Brew with two yarns held together and ankle length for warmer weather boots walking, my sister-in-law wears wool socks year round, and walks a lot so she is my designated wool sock tester!

In closing, I’d like to say that I really have a hankering to resume some serious spinning on my vintage Ashford Traditional, and get to making more handspun, as it is my dream as well as my plan to make ongoing samples of all of my designs in handspun (and UnSpun). There’s nothing like the handspun, so crisp, and bursting with halo in the morning light.

Socks: Double Cappuccino Socks and Basic Brew Variation

Yarn: UnSpun Peruvian Superwash Fingering

and UnSpun Superwash Fingering held together with Stroll merino sock yarn.

Project details: here and here.

rose notes . . .

One of my rose bushes has so many blossoms on it this Spring, it is an English climbing rose I planted in the garden for Emma’s fourteenth birthday, when we were in the last stretch living in the tiny house while our house was being rebuilt, and so it is at last established somewhat, with heavy cupped peach colored blossoms so fragrant. I am a real fan of highly fragrant roses, which I inherited from my mother, 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 simplistic beauty. And this afternoon I made myself a rose “soda” and drank it while calculating notes for a sweater design. From organic rose blossoms, fresh-picked from my garden early this morning while out watering, when 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, I hope you try it too:

  1. Pluck petals off of roses, and place fresh petals in a pyrex liquid measure.
  2. Boil up some simple syrup, equal parts water to sugar.
  3. Pour the hot syrup over petals , stir, let steep for at least 4 hours. After a few hours you’ll really begin to taste the rose infusion, its pretty obvious, which always surprises me.
  4. Pour through sieve & funnel into a jar or bottle, and store in the fridge.

Pour a nice sparkling mineral water over ice, and splash a bit of the syrup to taste, and I think you’ll be impressed. I made an experiment with these two bottles of rose petal sugar syrup; one I used fresh petals and strained them out as they turn brown and mushy, but another I took dried petals I saved from a jar I keep in with my spices for cooking, the darker blossoms are a very strong old-fashioned rose scent, and they kept their color quite nicely, so I left them in the bottle, and there’s no question what the syrup is and it won’t be needing a label.  You might be interested in checking out the post years ago when I made rose icecream . . .  Sweet As A Rose from the archives. 

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 (see all UnSpun posts), dividing plies, replying with a tighter final twist, scour washing to set the twist and felt up any possible slack .

This bunch of skeins was my learning curve . . .

Well, then I just have to knit some socks.

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.

A few weeks ago I sent off these “boot” socks knit in UnSpun dk weight

to my sister-in-law to be test-worn . . .

Americano Variation of Double Cappuccino Socks, project details on Ravelry HERE

and also sent skeins of fingering weight sock yarn to a dear knitting friend for sock test-knitting, and so now awaiting her critical feedback. So far my own feedback is that – yes, 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. So meanwhile I am trying out a pair of Basic Brew . . .

Basic Brew Variation of Double Cappuccino Socks, project details on Ravelry HERE

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 — holding 2 fingering weights with US1.5 [2.5mm] needles — one of the fingering sock yarns (the pink) together with a puffy downy 100% merino sock yarn (the brown) and together another match I am over the moon about. I am learning that better than a single strong rustic dk yarn knitting up speed boot socks as the blue Vancouver-bound ones were, is holding two of the fingering weights together, for the stitches are softer and the merino of course, adds super downy softness to the strong rustic UnSpun yarn. I have sock-knitting on the brain a lot these days, but things are naturally winding down with the sock yarn-making, and feel its time I bring it to a fruitful pause so that I can get on with the next knitting & yarn adventure. I mean I have been doing so much unplying and replying, having fun with my super fast plying machine I bought last summer (the Ashford e-spinner I mention in this post) I guess I wanted to try to find some kind of a niche with it, and I most certainly did, as I am not able to spin fine sock yarns to save my life. Also, I haven’t done any fiber blending for Tweed Chronicles in ages, and just plain spinning, so those things I hope to spend a little time with soon. Just been working a lot outside and what little left-over energy I have , sock-knitting 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.

spring socks

I’ve been knitting this first pair of socks from my latest Un-Spun sock yarn, while the Springtime landscape explodes out of dormancy, so intoxicating and beautiful. I guess already its good-bye March, and its going out like a lamb. I will close by saying how pleased I am with myself, that I actually have had follow-through as well as forethought in designing some seriously nice yarn for sock knitting (and you can see the finished socks in next post.)

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. 

The bullet points:

  • Corriedale-Merino cross breed wool, and sourced from Peru. Created because I wanted a sock yarn that has rustic appeal, solid (non-gradient) heathered mix colors, and is durable.
  • Two yarn weights: Fingering Superwash Sock yarn, approx 374y =100g, and DK Superwash Sock yarn, approx 252y =100g. 
  • I start with a base yarn Knit Picks Wool Of The Andes Superwash, which is very consistently available and not too expensive. I make it by dividing the plies of the base (both bulky and worsted weights), then re-ply the singles with a lot of extra twist, and set twist with a very hot scour wash, finally thwacking aggressively and hanging dry out on the line. 
  • I made pages to link to from projects of my Un-Spun brand of Peruvian Sock yarns:  Fingering and DK  so now when I make socks and list the yarn used, there will be a nifty link with some information about it, as each has a different percentage yardage. I don’t plan on selling it, but I am interested in sharing my technique of creating it, which I really enjoy at the very least.

Shown is a skein of Un-Spun Peruvian Superwash DK,  made from superwash bulky-weight Wool Of The Andes in the color “Fjord”.  Now, if you are interested in trying this yourself, read further. . .

The Techy Part:

Like any handspun, this is going to take a little knowledge of spinning, just the basics, like how to recognize S-twist and Z-twist. The yarn had four plies of Z twist spun, and S twist plied.  How I did it:

  1.  First I load the bobbin on my wheel, in the spinning Z twist, unplying a little, but not all the way, so there is little S twist left.
  2.  Once the bobbin is loaded with partly untwisted yarn, I loosen the brake tension on the bobbin so I can pull the yarn back through.
  3. From the end I divide the 4-plies into two strands of 2 plies, and begin winding a ball in each hand of the two 2ply yarns, while at the same time continuing still in the un-plying direction, so the yarn further un-plies as the brake is loosened, and I wind two balls, one in each hand. 
  4.  When I have divided the whole length of the bobbin, I keep one of the two balls tied on to the leader yarn as I now begin plying on to the bobbin in direction of S twist with the brake tension set so that it gets a lot of twist before it reels on to the bobbin, more than a relaxed handspun that I always have done — I mean business here, as the strength of the wear of the sock is going to depend on the final re-plied twist.  When the first ball comes to the end, I either splice together or tie ends together with the other ball, and continue until both balls are on the bobbin again, full of super energized S twisted yarn!
  5. I wind on to my swift (in the clockwise direction, I think which relaxes the twist a little, tie, and then give a scouring hot wash, thwacked it aggressively against the side of the bathtub, and finally hang to dry.

When dry it the yarn will be wrestled into a more relaxed and well-behaved yarn, and if it then gets re-skeined a last time, the twist will relax a little more yet, but after all of that, still there will be some energy left from the super twist is always going to be in the yarn, giving extra strength and spring in your step!

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, 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?

Pattern footnotes & variations on the menu.

A sort of coffee menu seems to be developing as I’m adding variations to the Double Cappuccino theme since my latest pattern overhaul. I’ve written three unique variations for the sock pattern; a handsome country sock, a basic plain & simple sock, and a pretty little ankle sock with just a kiss of lace rib on the cuff.

First, the country sock — Cafe Latte — a really wide rib, along with a contrasting cuff, heel & toe. On this particular sample of variation I was experimenting with a *k1, p1* rib for half the contrast cuff, then I switched to *k3, p1* for the other half, before settling into the *k7, p1* wide rib . . . but the footnote on this sample is that I think one or the other would look best. Soon I’ll have this first pair of country socks finished, and will no doubt refine the idea in a second pair, for it is my favorite of the three variations.

Next is the ankle sock– Single Shot — just one lace repeat, but then continuing in the wide ribbing, as a plain ribbed half leg or ankle sock. The thing is that the single ribbing behaves in a particular way with the decreases of the lace, that it creates those little cup-shapes in the ribbing, which I find so adorable and I really love this variation. Single Shot is for those modest lace lovers out there.

Last and not least is the sock I’ve wanted forever — Basic Brew — for mindless knitting and dependably uncomplicated. Again the cuff shown in two ribbings for the sake of example; *k1, p1* and *k7, p8* , just a little step start of interest and then just go ahead and stride out, working the whole sock in stockinette, through the heel and all. A plain sock method I’ve always wanted and I think this Basic Brew variation will be it. Can’t wait for this finish because the soft gradient Kroy yarn in copper colors is really spectacular. Well, there’s the three variations which have been now added to Double Cappucino Sock pattern, and I’m going to just settle in with knitting samples of these for a while.

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!

friendly socks . . .

In our house we each have a bench, Jeff and I, which are posted on either side of the back sliding door where beneath we stash our most used shoes & boots. The shoes & boots are an ever changing collage, with socks often tossed on the floor about the shoes, sometimes strewn half way into the room and not so neatly tucked away as these well-behaved ones are, and as country life tends to be. Underneath ” my ” dusty bench are presently somewhat muddy LLBean Boots and Columbia trail boots, side by side, and it made such a nice homey scene that I just had to grab my camera, because it just so happens I noticed both pairs of boots had my two cherished pairs of Wild Wool Trail Socks stuffed into them. What is so special is that each pair are gifts knitted for me sent from from my dear knitting friends from afar, Petra and Virginia, side by side, it seems to me they are reminding me and cheering me on as I ((( again ))) make strides in hiking daily. The socks are my first choice for hiking, and working outdoors on the homestead, thus they are my most worn, and each time I slip them on my feet I really do feel the encouragement and support from my friends, in so much more than the knitting, their spirits walk with me. I am full of companionship today as I am tired from another Day One of a new hiking regimen (even only a couple of miles) with springtime ahead and feeling therefore also full of gratitude.

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.

.