Yarn Tasting: Miss Babs Northumbria

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Northumbria Fingering, 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool,  in the color ” Beachglass “.

How can one stray toward unhappiness with a beautiful hand-dyed wool on the needles like this?   Just my thoughts exactly.   I will be on the straight-and-narrow toward a hopeful horizon because I have this woolly lot given to me by a lovely little tadpole.  Something to cuddle and keep my hands busy & warm.

Soon I will cast on for an  Fishwives Lace Shoal  being that an engaging lace is just the tonic needed, because  I haven’t knit a stitch for two months, and I do believe knit-walking in particular has supernatural ability to fend off all that is unpleasant.   Just me and 100 grams /437 yards, and a good & kindly level path to meander on,  while contemplating the Territory Ahead.  Thank you tadpole!

♣     ♣     ♣

Its been a very difficult time for me in recent last month (already nearly two since the wildfire) as I grow out of shock, and face grief in its many facades.   There simply aren’t many things I can expect from myself for a while, but to survive this period of hard knocks, dealing with the insurance company and inevitable constrained possibilities of future rebuild  …  I am to say the least, just staying afloat with sails down, in a sea of uncertainty.  Spinning some, soon to be knitting again.

mid-august

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August is such a stale time of the year. No cool breezes, no moisture, perpetual aqua blue skies, and a lot of anxiety about wildfire. The grasses stand crisp and golden, and so picturesque, but really it is just in suspended limbo until the rain comes, there in the bleaching hot sun day after day while even the moss in the forest turns brownish and, like the grasses, is frozen in lifelessness for months.

Mid August is even more stale than when the month arrived, and by the end of the month I am usually quite fried,  dreaming of verdant countrysides in far off lands.  I must snap out of these lazy wishful days of summer. I have been far too lazy and not working on my well-intention’d project of knitting trail.  A knitting trail?  What trail?  Right. My point exactly. I did take a shovel to a stretch of woodland over the last year, and even though it’s only been a little more than some sticks along the way and a narrow bumpy path, Emma and I have been walking it on occasion ~~ thus far we have named it ‘the knit track’ , and which is about a sixth of a mile circuit, not including the distance to and from the track, which makes it about a half mile, and if one goes around the ‘track’ many times, it adds up.   It is intended to be a mindless walk so I can  knit-while-meandering  and Emma can smell the wildlife in the quiet pause of the afternoons.

Although the knitting trail already has one or two benches, I’d like them to become delicious secret woodland  spots, where one might carry out a pot of tea and accomplish quite a bit of knitting.  That my friends, is what my vague design is.  So how to sharpen those vague lines, and get this thing going?   I have been taking pencil to paper and scribbling out ideas, and I really do want to make this thing happen, here & now, in the face of the suffocating Mid-August!

There are quite a lot of trees to limb up and brush to clear (trees keep falling too, this drought is wretched!)  and general hard sweaty work to do within in the few acres which is the trail site, but nothing a woman (and her dog) can’t accomplish. This is something I’ve wanted to do since we built our house here and moved in 2005.  So Emma will supervise, and I will work, and we will get this woodland Knitting Trail done & dusted.

But first I’d like to call upon you brilliant readers of this blog, and please don’t be shy, give me some ideas about what you think would make a Knitting Trail special. The sky is the limit… and plenty of space in the comment boxes too.

Yoking it in . . .

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The point of knitting a sweater when body and two sleeves join together , when all that is left is the yoke, then the sweater is nearly done. I call it ‘yoking it in’ and that is the best part of knitting a sweater, for it just magically comes together with relative speed!  This one is Miss Fifteen’s, and second of two Autumn Sweaters I do every year (the first one I knit, Miss Twelve’s, is already complete , and awaiting photos!)

I had joined all pieces, then set off for a hike with the sweater to knit on the stretches of dirt road, then to tuck away in large knitting bag worn handles over shoulders like a backpack, for the woods wandering trail-blazing section.  Trail blaze we did, and when we got back back after cross-country hiking off trail a ways, getting mighty dusty from dry loose forest soil, and as I was filthy I showered.

I then pulled out of the bag Miss Fifteen’s ecru-colored Autumn Sweater, it was littered with bits of duff and leaf… rather funny actually, and fortunately no staining bits or bugs. Now I’m indoors and showered and setting in to finish this pup ! I expect to finish it tomorrow , take some still photos soon thereafter, and then sigh a sigh of relief as I  be well ahead of the Autumnal Equinox this year to give my niece’s their sweaters with a grand photo shoot in the town of Calistoga toward the end of September.

This of course, means there’s plenty of time to get into some other design ideas I’ve been thinking about ! 🙂

First Morning of Autumn

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knitting at the peak

I know two posts in one day. Its just that I wanted to share with you all my first walk of Autumn.  We were out in the early hourse on this first morning of Autumn, knitting while hiking about the woods a bit, then hauling on up the ridge to the peak of the mountain (at 2600′ elevation.) There were beautiful views of the distant ridges along the way up.  Mt. Diablo in the distance, rather southerly (to the right behind the trees)…
009Then higher up, looking more westerly, a grand shot of Mt. Tamalpais,  named by the indigenous Native Americans meaning “Sleeping Princess” (did you know Mt Tam is where mountain-biking was invented?) …
011Then at the peak, overlooking Napa Valley, easterly, and the sun was already high …
019We went down our favorite well-trodden paths on the way home…
026and our favorite short-cut deer trails…

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035Then across the last oak wooded section before landing back home. It was a glorious walk this morning, and I have made progress on a little knitting too !

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 I hope your start of  Autumn (or Spring) is equally as happy as mine.

What are you up to?

Glimpses From The Knitting Trail

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A big granite rock stack leads from our door out into the woods.

Recently Emma had a birthday ! She is nine.  Every year on her birthday I take her for a long walk and follow her wherever she wants to go.  There was a rather hesitant beginning as she contemplated what was down the road…

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Emma’s 9th birthday walk.

Then after we walked all over the place, unexpected places she led me, and I followed without question.  As our walk ended she found herself mesmerized in the sun beams of the forest, a little spellbound perhaps. There’s lots to think about when one is Nine.

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Emma in woods.

For those of you who have been visiting Yarnings for any length of time, know about my Knitting Trail, I talked about a while ago in this post.    I am gradually putting it all together, this spot and that, through forest and wood, through hilly and hollow lands.

on the Fairy Trail

Along the fairie trail

Here a shot as we blaze along the Fairie section of the trail (a very enchanting place that is so amazing!)  Also,  I am soon to wrap up my first official ‘Yarn Tasting’ of several sock yarn brands, and will be posting about that, but for now, here’s a little sock knitting of the morning…

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One of several rough-cut benches along the Knitting Trail.

A Knitting Trail

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Emma and I have  been working on our home trail in recent weeks.

 It is to be a knitting trail ! ! !

Our trail begins right next to Jeff’s workshop…

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And takes off into the woods, just follow Emma.

It goes upwards very quickly…

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It meanders along old deer-trodden paths ,

which Emma and I  have enhanced with our footsteps.

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It passes by tall firs,

oaks & bays,

madrones & maples…

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You will see my short rows of sticks on occasion,

they are trail markers in sections where the knitting trail goes one way,

while the deer may go another…

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Emma is charged with purpose as she surveys the forest, and the wildlife.

There is at least one mountain lion which lives in the area, sighted many times, and  I often wonder if it is the lion which she smells.  I think I would like to put some places to sit (and knit) along the way.  Just sit, knit,  and listen to the wildlife.

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Some small sections are getting the shovel treatment, like here at the trail-head.

 (Yes, that is our house, and my car, which I try to drive as little as possible)

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So you see, I have been working like an ox lately, for this is the time of year I love most to be outside toiling away, among the falling leaves of Autumn. There’ll be more photos later, as the Knitting Trail is honed to perfection !

* * *

But hey ! Its the last day of October today, and that means it is Halloween!   For the occasion I thought I’d post a photo of something remarkably ominous from the woods!   The raven’s cultural and somewhat spooky  symbolism  is not to be debated, however here they are just a cheerful and welcomed presence, and flock about year round. They make themselves very comfortable, eating the berries in the native trees, and fruit & veggies from our garden, and pick from our compost pile too.  I think they are fascinating birds,  possessing a truly amazing intrigue and even sense of humor (they like to tease Emma every chance they get), and they are the stewards of these woods all the same.  Here is a photo I took last week, zoomed into the branches of an oak while this fellow and his mate were making deep throaty chortling & clucking conversation…
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Happy Halloween everyone !

(( Note:  I am delayed with knitting projects due to interruptions life tends to cause. ))

Summer Landscape In Morning

Its been deliciously foggy down in the valley in the mornings lately , typical of later summer and Autumn around here.  Emma and I set out early today, at 6:30 a.m. to get up to the peak and take some photos of the fog before the sun was too high. On the way up the ridge the light in the grass was just so entrapping ,  I couldn’t stop taking photo’s of Emma in the dried grass, she was just glowing !

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At the peak about 7 o’clock the sun was already high, I’m so glad we didn’t set off any later than we did !

First shot, facing east. . .

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However, the fog  was dense and packed like a snow-covered lake, like I wanted to see it.   In the next frame,  you can see a division between of two ridges in a darkening foreground (actually I see a third very slight sillhouette)… our house is between them, down further at  2000 feet elevation, but it is not visible from where I am photographing, at 2600 ft.  Its my guess the top of the fog must be around 1700 ft.

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Emma  surveys from the precipice at the top. . .

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On the way down, a meadow bordering to the west of tall forest, the dried grass still not gilded golden by the morning sun’s rays seems as lifeless  as you can imagine !

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Next is the whole early morning hike in a slideshow ~~  going up to the peak, then coming back down, with the last shot in our drive.  Arriving home from such an excursion before 8 o’clock in the morning  makes me feel so invigorated, and so I celebrated as I often do, with another cup of fresh coffee, buttered toast & tasty home-made jam !

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Fog & Moss

Emma and I out exploring the mountain for a good long knit walk on Sunday morning .

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Moss devours the old oaks,  and drips off of branches.  So much fog and moisture from the coastal weather pounding this inland ridge which divides Sonoma and Napa counties, before sinking finally into the Napa valley.

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Close to the peak, we seek out private precipices. . .

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Emma scouts the ridge along the peak, for her usual treats . . .

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What is this bright blushing wooliness among the foggy forest  ?

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And the view , beyond the knitting, from the peak at 2600 feet.

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Long Shadows of January

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Out walking in the new year.

Long shadows cast in the piercing late morning light, vines and deciduous trees bare, a lovely wintery landscape in the mountains of Northern California.
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Jeff , Emma & I are out greeting the new year with cheer,  walking up and down watery rocky roads of the back country.  Bare trees and fresh grass bursting out from last year’s growth, and water springing out of the ground . . .

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Here Jeff watches a huge flock of doves explode noisily  into the air. . .

(Seems to me dogs rarely look up into the sky, but always into the bush !)

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Other things we saw :

lots of ice on the ground . . .

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deeply grooved erosion from water, in the mossy banked soft rock along the country road.

( We’ve had torrential downpours in the last weeks.)

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Whipping in the breeze, the colorful flags still flying in the meadow along the canyon precipice,

releasing prayers to the wind . . .

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First blossoms of winter !

the manzanita’s pink heart-shaped buds . . .

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A little bright wool resting on the grey bare vines !

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Is this perhaps *moi* knitting while walking???   Two satchels slung to each side, holding two colors being knit into another ( yes still another) pin-striped fingerless mit. Even Jeff commented at the end of our hike how impressed he was that I was able to knit while walking over some of the terrain we just had . . .

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Well, I’ve had lots of practice in recent months !

Happy New Year All !!!

Seeing Red

Knitting again on this cardigan started last year, which went into hibernation due to other projects that came up, and quite frankly, was forgotten.  Now near completion, I am in a total state of agitation, as I have had to knit the left, then the right button bands over, then bind off again & again. Soon it will be finished, and I can show you, after I get it all blocked a second time and buttons sewn on of course.

In the meantime…

I’ll show you some photos from yesterday’s knit-walk.  I followed Emma down in the meadow above the canyon (coyote-ville), and to our surprise, Emma spotted something very curious flapping in the breeze ahead.

Closer and closer,  curiouser and curiouser !


Ah ha ! There has been someone who has been adorning the mountain with Tibetan Prayer Flags around here lately.   The Masked Flagger has struck again !  They are admittedly quite a spectacle of artistic beauty. (That is, until they become bleached by the sun and wind-whipped to shreds.)

Oh, and is this a little knitting growing on a vine trellis ?

Tweedy & Autumny

Finally the rain clouds have come and rained and everything is moist and the forest smells wonderfully spicey with Autumny smells.  We’ve had rain this week enough to soak the forest and give the moss a good drink and I just love rain ~~ just look at those clouds ! 

I went for a knitting walk with this blue lump of a sweater,  with about a half ball of yarn at the start, thinking I’d have plenty for a long walk. I managed to get all the way back to the house, and ran out of yarn *just* as I walked in through the door, just enough to splice on to another ball ~ I call this a grand knitting coincidence !

I’m almost at the section of the Michigan Winter Sweaters (thats two) where I must fuss about with a tedious new technique ~  the seamless ‘shirt yoke’  that I have never tried ~ which will involve knitting back and forth on a lopsided saddle shoulder which is wider on the back than the front, and knits itself into the body as it goes.  This horizontally eating up the end of the vertical stitches, is making me nervous, because I’ve never done a seamless saddle-shoulder, but sounds exciting all the same !   Bless Elizabeth Zimmerman for writing the instructions out so dearly, but still I am not at all confident, because  I really just  am not a very good reader-of-knitting-instructions… don’t be surprised if I come back here and calling for help in another post soon.

Knitting In The Wild

I have been knit-walking rather obsessively lately.  Some days I go out twice, and I am elated to say that as a result I am both knitting and walking an incredible amount more than before.  In fact, I just can’t ever see myself ever again idly walking the mornings away without my fingers making silly loops, one after another.  I know, actually rather weird when you think of it. So here are some photos from this morning…Nearby,  where Emma’s absolute favorite trail takes us, we greet the nearby mountain tops on the other side of a steep and narrow canyon …

We like to hop over to the canyon precipice to take a peek down into the abyss…

((  and to sniff at what the wild coyotes have been up to ! ))

Right at the precipice.  Lichen covered volcanic rock, and grass as dry as papyrus, until it rains, which it hasn’t yet.  We’re having our Northern Californian Indian Summer, where typically in October just after you feel the cool of Autumn, we get visited by the hot clear days for another week or two.

My temporary knit-walking bag,  an old rather small hip pack I dug up this morning from the ‘gear closet’.  I have been experimenting with all kinds of methods to hold the ball of yarn while I knit and walk ~  from stuffing it into various pockets, or inside the front of my shirt, or under my arm, or in one of Emma’s treat  pouches, to wearing one of my felted knitting bags slung over my shoulder.  I have yet to design a ‘ hiking knitting bag ‘ but this seems to do fine for this morning.


A  shot from one of the high vineyards, overlooking the SanFranciscoBay to the south,  however in the bright morning light, and camera’s focus, you can’t see any details in distance.

Is that a tweed sleeve hanging on a Cabernet trellis ?

Two sleeves done & dusted, two more to go, for Two Michigan Winter sweaters.  Then I can join them to the bodies and begin the Elizabeth Zimmerman seamless hybrid ‘shirt style’ yoke I’ve been so looking forward to settling into.

Mountain Knitting


Making really good progress with the ‘his & hers’ tweed pullovers.

 I am calling them  ” Michigan Winter “.

How could I already be nearly finished with the main body of two full-sized sweaters in one week?  I’ll tell you how, because Emma and I have been doing a lot of  walking this week, being sure to get in at least one walk a day, short or long, and well, I’ve taken my knitting along each time, and I tell you folks,  it adds up !

 Just as I’m plowing through these young homesteaders’ pullovers,  I myself am getting fit as a farmer, and Emma is delighted about all these hikes too, as we go slower, further, longer, and linger at delicious smells in the forest duff.

Autumn in Northern California brings the leaves falling late,

but the Madrones are always first to drop theirs, beginning in July !

I love the terra cotta tones of the leaves as they turn on the ground, before the first rain comes.

As we meander up the ridge, my favorite once bloomed in purple wild sweet peas look so pretty,

even as dried as parchment paper.


I sometimes have to fix a dropped stitch or untangle the yarn,

and Emma waits patiently in the golden grasses.


Here  we are up into the steep section of the climb, and if it were a clear day without foggy haze in the distance,  you’d see SanFranciscoBay, and the GoldenGateBridge beyond the hills…

Emma always finds a stick to befriend…

Approaching the top of the ridge, SonomaCountyLeft and NapaCountyRight….

Finally at the precipice of the peak, overlooking the valley below.

If you could see Emma’s right ear,  it is about touching where we came from. . .

. . . and now it’s time to go back home Emma.  We’ll come again soon… probably tomorrow.

Morning Walk & Knit


I’m going to go for a Walk & Knit , down this old logging road, as soon as I post this. Out my door, down this road, navigating over uneven rocky sections in road as I amble along,

… while  k n i t t i n g  ! ! !

Yes folks, this is my new habit that I am giddy about.  I’ve done it a few times already, and everytime out the door it seems I think ” I should have my knitting “.  Some habits take a while to form. So this morning is my official ritual beginning of a Morning Knit & Walk and I’ll post photos of the scenery occasionally here on Yarnings.   Odd? Well, not really, as I walk this road almost daily, as I do knit almost everyday too. I’m very excited to make something official of this, because it will not only ensure I walk more, longer even perhaps (in the case where I am anxious to get back home and do hand work ),   it will certainly help me accomplish more knitting, even if done at a slower pace  (but only slightly slower pace). Well, I am going to have to make myself a proper knitting pouch, something like an apron with a big double pocket (in case I am doing color work and I need to keep yarn balls separate) … perhaps I will zip together upon my return.

Actually, I noticed in my blog specs data, that it has been visited a couple of times on this post , and also noticed search terms ” knitting while walking ” and so I decided to investigate. I searched the same phrase, and I am surprised to find a many fellow Knitter Walkers out there in the world wide web, and also some material to be learned on the subject,  such as various  ‘knitting walking bags’ to be made or purchased !  I kid you not !!!  Is this nothing short of a revisitation to the old traditions of women like these, in this very popular photo of Shetland Peat Carriers of Olden Days ?

Hardy women knitting away while collecting peat for fuel , trying to eek out a living !

(I’ve wondered for some time, is that a big sheep ram off to the left, up the road???)  Well, I’ve got a tweed pullover I just cast on last night, so here I go, on with my hiking shoes, and one of my kitchen aprons will have to suffice for now !

*    *    *

Upon my return :  I have gotten out the door and walked the back roads near my house without having to tie on my kitchen apron, because I found one of Emma’s old treat pouches which clip on served excellently to hold the yarn.  There are areas where Emma must be on leash,  and the yarn kept getting caught into the retractable leash line  … funny… so I devised a technique to pull out enough yarn for about a row, and wrap it around my arm a few times,  unwinding as I knit.  It worked fine, no mistakes,  I didn’t trip, and I worked up a sweat !