Monday, August 18, 2014

what else haven't you told me?

I've been using my Spindlewood spindle to sample random bits of fiber. I decided I wanted to use it for something else, and since I was going to toss the singles, I just pulled the cop off instead winding off the yarn.

The first thing that struck me was how pretty it was, like a slice of a geode. The next thing was that I realized I'd made a center-pull ball. I can ply straight from this if I want to--no winding required. Does everyone do this, and you all have been holding out on me?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

signs of spring

Signs of spring are popping up, like crocuses:

The first salmonberry blossom of the season (it was a couple of feet over my head, so the shot's a little blurry but I'm amazed to see one already):

Our flowering plum tree is starting to blossom--I love how the buds are like popcorn, just a few at first, and then an explosion of blossoms:

And fiber and yarn drying outside in the sunshine:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

cider pressing

It's been a crazy busy eight weeks, with a bunch of wholesale orders and two shows to dye for. But in between shows, I got to take a day off and go to a cider press down in Skagit County, at the home of my handbell choir director.

For someone who loves fall the way I do, it was a little surprising that I'd never been to one before. I've seen apples being pressed at demonstrations, but that was about it.

First, of course, you pick the apples. My director has eight trees of three or four different varieties, plus a couple of Asian pear trees whose fruit he also puts into the cider.

Then you wash the fruit in a bleach solution.

Next comes the actual pressing. With the press we were using, we had to cut up some of the larger apples so that the press wouldn't choke on them. You throw the apples into the electric grinder--stems, seeds, leaves and all. It all gets chewed up and dropped into a bucket lined with a burlap bag. When the bag is mostly full of pulp, you put a lid on top and crank it down, to squeeze as much juice out of the pulp as you can.

The fellow in the overalls is cranking down the lid. There's a mound of dejuiced pulp in a wheelbarrow in the foreground, waiting to be toted off to the compost pile.

The juice gets strained through cheesecloth into jugs.

We were asked to bring snacks to share, so I made some curried pumpkin-apple soup. I thought it would be good on a chilly day, and apparently everyone else agreed.

And after a few hours, you've got about 90 gallons of cider. (I think my director said this was his third press of the season? Jeez, those are some productive trees.)

We brought home five gallons as our share, and my husband is turning them into hard cider. The carboy is gurgling happily away as we speak.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Contest! Autumn Inspiration photos wanted

I’m starting to dye for autumn, which is my favorite season. The crisp air, the fall foliage (I grew up in New England), the brilliant blue skies, the feeling of a fresh new school year, hot apple cider--I love pretty much everything about it, except maybe the gigantic spider webs that pop up everywhere in the PNW.
Find your two favorite autumn photos and post them in my Ravelry group (I’ll pin them on my Pinterest inspiration board). They don’t have to be traditional autumn images--they can be what autumn means to you (a little back story would be cool, too). I’ll take the three with the most “love” clicks or the most repins, and dye colorways inspired by them, and we’ll vote for our favorite one of those. The person who came up with the original photo inspiration will get one skein or braid, on any base that I have.
Deadline is three weeks from today, Sept 2 (Labor Day). If you post your two favorites and then find another one you like better, you’ll need to delete one of your previous entries.
Have fun!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

LYS Tour 2013

For the past several years, local yarn shops from the central Puget Sound up to the Canadian border have hosted a weekend-long yarn crawl. Since my personal stash is entirely out of hand, to say nothing of my business inventory, I usually just visit a few nearby stores during the tour.

But this year, the Northwest LYS Tour included five stores in my county, plus three in the next county, and there were some incentives to hit at least eight stores. So I carved out a little time from moving into my new studio, and went adventuring. From a business perspective, I was curious to see what stores were carrying, and I also wanted to try to find a local source for Chiaogoo and Hiya Hiya sharp needles.

On Thursday, I went down to Skagit County to visit a friend recovering from surgery and then hit my first stop, Knot Just Yarn in Burlington. The staff is warm and welcoming, and I found just the right shell buttons to finish off my Low Tide cardigan. I also picked up some pretty beads--no project in mind for them just yet, but they're my favorite shades of purple and blue, so I know it's just a matter of time.

Their featured yarn, a merino/bamboo/nylon blend, was from their in-house dyer, Eweneek Yarns. The free knitting pattern is the Lady Grantham shawl, which is the blue-grey shawl in the photo.

Next up was Wild Fibers in Mount Vernon. This is such a pretty store, with beautiful fixtures. Their featured yarn was Herriot from Juniper Moon Farm, a naturally-colored DK alpaca yarn. I've liked the looks of Juniper Moon yarn for a long time, so it was great to see a lot of their lines in person. I love colors, of course, but there's such a soothing appeal about the subtle palette of naturally colored fiber.

I fell hard for a kit, a collaboration from Dancing Sheep, Stick Chick Knits, and Hazel Knits. I couldn't stop looking at the bag; I think it will be just the thing for carrying a spindle project. So it came home with me.

Ana-Cross Stitch in Anacortes was next. Somehow I always end up in Anacortes on a Sunday, when the shop is closed, so I'd never been here before. This was the first shop that had Hiya Hiya needles, though not the sharps. Their featured yarn was a very interesting cotton, Tahki Ripple. It's a tubular knitted ribbon yarn, but what makes it unusual is that it's thick and thin. I spend most of my days wearing grubby clothes that I can spill dye on, but if I were looking to make a summer-weight accessory that I could wear to the office, I'd be thinking hard about this yarn. This is their knitting pattern, a shoulder cozy. (You can see their huge array of embroidery thread in the background.)

I raced home to pick up my child from school, and then dropped in at NW Handspun Yarns. They featured one of my merino/cashmere/nylon yarns, Huckleberry Knits Cascara lace. This is one of only three shops in the entire state, to my knowledge, that has a real focus on spinning, though of course they also carry plenty of yarn. Sorry about the bad photo; the sun was coming in at just the wrong angle and I was in a hurry to get to taekwondo class.

The next day was my main moving day, so I just visited the two other shops in town, Apple Yarns and Mrs. Hudson's Yarns and Teas. Reverting to my usual blogging form, I forgot my camera for these two stops. Apple Yarns has a gorgeous seating area in its new location, with an incredible amount of natural light and cheery red chairs grouped around an electric fireplace. Lots of colorful Sweet Georgia Yarn, as well as Manos (the featured yarn) and some of my sock yarn.

It's odd, but despite living a mere 15 minutes away, I'd never been in Mrs. Hudson's before. This shop is small but cute. Their mainstay supplier appears to be Cascade, with a broad variety of lines. They also had two vendors that I hadn't seen in the flesh before, Swan Island and Imperial Stock Ranch.

On Saturday, I went to the last two stores on my list. The first was Beach Basket Yarns, in Birch Bay. They have an amazing variety of yarn here. I was drawn to some of the Classic Elite lines, especially a stunning cotton/alpaca sport/DK yarn. Practicality barely managed to assert itself; if I wanted a cotton yarn for warm weather wear, I certainly wouldn't want alpaca in it. Stupid pragmatism.

I really liked their lace section, too.

We took a lunch break after this. My son wanted me to show you his tomato basil soup in a bread bowl.

My final store was Wear on Earth in Lynden. There is a surprising variety and amount of yarn tucked into this store; I honestly hadn't expected much, but was impressed. And the sheer quantity of needles! Of the stores I saw, this was easily the one with the widest and best selection. Here, at last, was Hiya Hiya heaven. Not only did they have the fixed circulars and the interchangeables, but they had half a wall of sharp tips and cables. I ended up getting just a pair of tips and a cable so I could test out the cable and join before investing in a full set of interchangeables. I love my Chiaogoo fixed needles, and am sort of lukewarm about my fixed HH needles with the regular tips, but so many people love the HH sharps that I feel it's my duty to try them.

I turned around from the HH wall and saw this shawl hanging on a chair. I thought, "Hey, that looks just like my Winesap colorway." Turns out that it was. I'm not sure exactly why they had a store sample of a pattern that they don't sell (it's the free Multnomah pattern) in a yarn that they don't carry, but they did have at least one customer who appreciated it.

I made a Rogue sweater out of discontinued Queensland Kathmandu Aran, and while it wasn't a great match for the pattern (the yarn isn't crisp enough to show cables to their best advantage), I love how soft and cozy the yarn is, and how the tweediness livens up plain stockinette. So I was excited to see sweater quantities of this yarn in several cubbies.

This year got me really wanting to do the full tour next time. So much yarn waiting for me to come and see!

Monday, April 15, 2013

today is Patriots' Day

Today is Patriots' Day, anniversary of the "shot heard 'round the world," the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which were the first battles of the American Revolution. As a kid growing up a minuteman's march away from Concord, we got a heavy dose of colonial history at pretty much every grade level. But I knew this day for primarily three reasons: we got the day off from school, the Red Sox always had a day game, and the Boston Marathon was being run.

So today's explosions at the marathon really hit home at a very visceral level. Like someone is reaching back into my childhood and ripping that illusion of safety and predictability right away from my six-year-old eyes.

I am stricken on behalf of those who were killed, injured, or otherwise traumatized today, and their families and friends. And I am mad as hell at whoever thought they'd like to make a statement by doing this on Patriots' Day. Get this straight: you are not a patriot. You are a disgusting piece of filth. And the only revolution you're going to trigger is a renewed sense of common decency and compassion for our fellow human beings.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Madrona 2013

This post is embarrassingly late, but better than never, right? I was only at Madrona for one day this year. Got up at 5:30 a.m. to head down to Tacoma, which at that time of day is about a 2.25 hour drive, to be on time for my morning class.

Somewhere along the ride, my pocket wheel parted ways with one of its treadles. But luckily for me, Mr. and Mrs. Pocket Wheel were sharing a booth with my LYS, and Jon was able to fix me up with a temporary treadle for class. He provides extraordinary customer service--he's always willing to tune up your wheel, gratis. In my case, he didn't happen to have any wood glue with him, so he took my treadle home with him to fix and then dropped it off at my house the following week. Hard to beat that for service!

While Jon was putting on my temporary treadle, I ducked over to Jennie the Potter's booth. I hadn't managed to get her special edition show mugs at either Sock Summit or Rhinebeck, but third time was the charm. This is her Madrona 2013 mug, with a salmon and yarn lure on one side:

And a madrona tree on the other:

It's the first mug I reach for whenever it's clean. It is my favorite and my best: perfect size, wonderful shape, awesome designs.

I might also have gotten a new fancywood bobbin from Jon. This is bloodwood. It was hard to capture the glow of the wood; Carla told me the term is chatoyancy. It's the effect that makes tiger eye stones seem to glow from within. I love, love wood that does that.

Then I was off to my class on plying luxury blends with Judith MacKenzie. As with the class I took from her last year on spinning silk, I learned so much more than just the nominal topic. We did plenty of spinning with exotic fibers, to be sure, like the mulberry silk and merino/yak/silk on this bobbin:

But the most helpful take-home for me was learning how to spin long draw. I made a horribly lumpy single with the cashmere that she gave us (which I then plied into a sort of core/boucle mashup, using the mulberry silk as the core). When I got home, I practiced with my Jenkins spindle and a CVM/Romeldale/misc batt from a local farm, Spinners' Eden.

Still undeniably lumpy, but I got that pulling-taffy sensation more consistently. And hey! I actually managed to ply something. I have a million toilet paper rolls with singles that will probably never be plied. I rarely have the urge to knit with my handspun; I just like spinning it, so I never get around to plying and finishing the yarn.

After my class, I spent some time in the NW Handspun booth, since they were retailing my fiber and my new base yarn, Singular (the singles fingering yarn that I mentioned a few blog posts ago). I also demo'ed on the pocket wheel, since Carla was taking a class.

I roamed the marketplace, and got to catch up a little bit with some vendor friends. I watched Klaus's booth while he took a break, visited with Kate and Chris of Woolgatherings, Brooke of Sincere Sheep, Connie of Spindlewood (they had one supported spindle left when I saw them Friday morning. ONE), and got some feedback from Jennie the Potter about midwestern shows. Have I said how much I value my friendships with other vendors? Really the only thing I miss about my old job is my co-workers, so it was a relief and a delight when I first started doing the show circuit and realized that most vendors regard you with fellowship rather than competitiveness. While I would love to be a Madrona vendor, I do really appreciate the chance to chat with my friends that I don't always get when I'm vending. Every year, every show, I feel more and more part of the fantastic fiber community.

I did a little bit of shopping, too. I don't buy yarn anymore, as my personal stash is already too big and I have hardly any knitting time these days. I also resisted the call of Chiaogoo interchangeables, but fell prey to two batts of pygora/silk/merino from Terry of Rainbow Farms Pygora:

And this Gilded Lily Batt, a jumbo-sized batt from Judith (apparently the carding machine lives in its very own room):

I spent all too short a time knitting with friends in the rotunda, before I headed up to Seattle for dinner with a non-knitting friend, and a mad dash home to greet my weekend houseguests. Hopefully I'll be able to spend more time at Madrona 2014!