Wednesday, September 23, 2009

picture day

Terzo is the quintessential last child. The baby. He is waited on hand and foot by his four servants (two parents, two older brothers) because we simply haven't gotten out of the habit of catering to his every last whim. Terzo takes advantage of this mindset and has not challenged the status quo. You will never hear the words "I can do it myself" from his lips.

One of the things we tend to do for him is to lay out his clothes every morning. Since the start of school, we have been putting out "nice" shirts -- i.e., without any pictures or writing, usually with a collar -- and non-jean pants. Every morning, my LSH would compliment him on what a handsome guy he was on the way out to the bus.

After ten days of this, he did an end run around us yesterday morning and came down dressed in a Star Wars Lego T-shirt and clashing shorts. I took one look, and told him that he needed to change; I was referring to his shorts, but he launched into def-con mode one.

"NOOOOOOOO!" he screamed. "No more handsome clothes! I don't want to be handsome today!"

So we let the Star Wars T-shirt slide, although we did insist on non-clashing shorts.

Today, however, is picture day for the kindergartners. Back into handsome clothes. But he sabotaged our best efforts. Last night, while riding his scooter barefoot* in the driveway, he somehow slipped and smacked his head against the truck. The first my LSH knew about it, Primo was yelling for him and the dogs were going bonkers.

Luckily, having a doctor right in your house comes in handy when you have three boys. He and Primo managed to staunch the bleeding -- being a head wound, it was quite bad; Primo went back to hose down the driveway without being asked because he couldn't stand the smell -- and my LSH steri-stripped the wound closed. The location and nature of the cut did not make it a candidate for stitching, much to Terzo's relief.


So now we will have a school picture of Frankenkid with handsome clothes on.

* Yes, I have told him a million times not to do so. You can tell how well he listens to me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

rhinebeck knit

Oh yes, my friends. Life doesn't have enough deadlines right now, so I had to go and add another one. Rhinebeck is just a little less than a month away; plenty of time for me to make that custom knit to show off, right?

I fell in love with the Colonnade Shawl pattern the minute I saw it in the fall Knitty edition. I hemmed and hawed about colors -- is it too much to ask that a knitted item go with everything in your closet? -- and finally realized the answer was close at hand. Cloudberry Fiber Mill had some beautiful natural colored lopi yarn in the perfect weight.


(Pardon the crummy picture. The knit is jammed on a too-short cable at the moment until I can get another one.)

I cast on at 9 pm last night, my reward for plying up (with spindle) all the green Coopworth I had spun in the previous week. (I actually finished all four ounces; it yielded 77 yards of worsted weight yarn, so looks like I will need more yarn for that hat.)

As of this moment, I have finished the main color and just joined the contrast color. This knit is going as quickly as promised, although each row has started to take longer and longer... Eight stitches added every other row means I am close to 200 stitches on the needles at this point.

But I am reasonably sure that I will finish it well before the deadline, and that the colors will go with everything.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I have had "update farm website" on my list for quite a while now. I even received this book for Christmas to help me out:

But of course, I just never got around to it. I started to read the "Dummies" book a few weeks ago, reasoning that my website was going to get a little traffic thanks to me plastering the address all over my receipts and farm brochures. Then I got into my little dyeing production line and I was too tired at the end of each day to try and decode all that gooble-de-gook in a meaningful way.

Then someone linked to the website in a blog post about my fiber and reality came rushing in on a tidal wave. When I clicked on the link, I realized that my website was oh, about three years out of date. And most of the information was incorrect or missing. And it was just plain ugly.

So forget the "Dummies" book. I needed a quick, cheap solution. I looked into getting someone to design it for me but the farm budget is pretty limited and didn't really justify the expense. So I managed to come up with a reasonable website using Microsoft Publisher in about 15 hours, plus it was free!

The fun and games started when I tried to upload the blasted thing to my website hosting service. I think there was one of those cartoon clouds floating over my head with a bunch of "*&*%&*@#&*@" characters as I tried... and tried again... and then the whole website crashed and all I had was a "Page Not Found" sign up there... and live chatted with several people in tech support (who were more or less unhelpful). And then I finally figured it out on my own, after I stepped away from the computer a few times.

So here it is. Let me know what you think: the good, the bad, the ugly. Then again, maybe only if you find any typos. I don't think I can stand to look at it for a few days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I saved the best for last -- Primo's contribution to the farm booth, which Risa mentioned in her kind comment to Monday's post. With my father's and brother's help, he made cherrywood spindles. You can see them down on the left-hand side of my father's much better photo of the roving display.


For those of you who haven't seen a drop spindle in use, I had my personal photog Secondo take some pictures. Unfortunately they didn't come out too well, but the basic idea is: you attach a strand of fiber into the hook at the top of the spindle, and then set the spindle spinning. The spinning motion twists the fiber into a strand; it's the same basic idea as a spinning wheel, just thousands of years earlier on the technological timeline. The weight of the spindle dropping pulls the fiber as it spins it. When the strand gets too long, you wind the spun strand onto the dowel, and start the whole process again. Simple, right? In the same way that patting your belly and rubbing your head at the same time are simple: it just takes a little practice.


Right now, I am spindling up a storm with Coopworth in the "Zucchini" colorway. The weight of the spindles is 2.7 ounces and makes a nice worsted weight two-ply. I am almost done with the first 4 ounces of fiber; it is destined to be a winter hat for the spindle-maker, with a contrasting stripe in "Huckleberry" (a deep navy blue). I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Monday, September 14, 2009

with a little help

I think I am even more tired today than yesterday, if such a thing is possible, but I wanted to share all the help I had with the booth. Some of the stuff was mine, but a lot of the stuff was not.

My friend Joan made some of her unique Poc-ee-wok bags; most of the material she uses she has repurposed from thrift-store garments. The lining of each bag compliments the outside, and she finishes them with various found objects (shells, stones) or wooden buttons handmade by her husband.

My mom contributed bags specifically developed with the crafter in mind. The bags are fully lined and large enough for parts of a sweater or baby blanket (my beef with the bags you can buy commercially is that they just aren't big enough). No velcro for yarn to catch on; instead a flap on the top holds the yarn in while crafting.


In the picture, Joan's bags are on the left and my mom's are on the right; there were more bags on the other side of the display rack.

My mom also put in the book she wrote on Kumihumo, the Japanese art of braiding.

I had some needlefelting wool from my friend Linda, who is starting a fiber shop in Allentown. Some of my roving and other products will be in her shop.

Secondo once again handled the stitch marker market and he sold quite a few. We even had return customers, who had purchased the stitch markers last year and liked them so much that they came back for more.

Last but not least is Primo's contribution. I was hoping to take pictures today but with all the cleanup around here, didn't get to it. More on those tomorrow.

What was Terzo's contribution? Well, his angle was begging for money so he could buy drinks, funnel cake, etc. Basically spending the profits.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

tired, but a good tired

I am almost too tired to post, but I wanted to put up a couple of pictures of our booth.

Just after getting set up, with my invaluable crew in the foreground -- I couldn't have done it without their help -- and the ubiquitous blue tarp in the background:


A close-up all of the dyed roving, all in one place:


(Please pardon the crummy blurry shots. My camera drives me nuts on a regular basis.)

I am very proud to say that it was a success. I received many compliments on the various products we had in the booth (more on that tomorrow) and sold quite a bit as well, which is always very nice! I am very grateful to everyone who supported our farm venture... or is it adventure? sometimes even misadventure...

And now for a nice hot bath and bed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

fiber festing

Today was the debut of the farm booth at the NJ Sheep & Wool Festival, and all things considered, it went quite well. We had a little bit of trouble with the set-up, as thanks to the everlasting rain, I wasn't able to go up last night and put up the furniture as I had hoped. Instead we threw everything, including two sheep, onto/into the truck and trailer and left as early as we could. Thanks to my parents and some tarp intervention (does this at all sound familiar? you think I would have learned a lesson), we were able to get set up and keep the booth contents dry.

Of course, I don't have any pictures as I left my camera in the sheep trailer, which is parked at the fairgrounds tonight. I enjoyed visiting with the people who stopped by the booth and had various comments and questions about the contents. I even recognized Joe from his blog! And he bought some roving! I know, I know, I am such a stalker.

One of my volunteer duties this year was manning the gate and collecting the entrance fee. I tried to spindle to pass the time, but found that I was almost guaranteed to have someone pull in while I was either (1) doing really well or (2) trying to join a broken bit (i.e., not doing so well). Plus when I dropped it, it always landed in the mud. Truthfully, it had little choice.

I finally gave up when it started to rain again and studied the cars as they came down the road, to see if I could predict who would pull into a sheep and fiber festival. Here are my scientific results, in case you ever have need of this information:

Econoline van: 0%

Any vehicle towing a boat: 0%

Toyota or Volkswagen: 10% (I was a little surprised by this one)

SUV/Jeep/etc.: 30%

Mini-van: 50/50

Hybrid vehicle: more likely than not

Subaru or Volvo: well over 90%

Honda Element: guaranteed

Thursday, September 10, 2009

blink of an eye

It's my fault.


I blinked, and five years zipped by.


Today, Primo went to 8th grade, Secondo to 5th (and middle school), and my baby to kindergarten. (In the first picture, Secondo is on his way to kindergarten!)


I admit it. After months of swearing I wouldn't... and denying that such a possibility even existed... I got teary at the bus stop. That little wave goodbye did me in.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I have had a multitude of posts planned for this week about all the preparations for the fiber festival this weekend. Things I have made, things my family members and friends have made, the set-up, etc.

But sometimes life comes along and lays you out.

I am OK, my family is OK, we are all OK, but we are experiencing a crisis in my husband's family that has utterly and completely shifted my focus in a different direction while we deal with it. For a while today I wasn't sure if I would even be able to make it to the festival because my help might have been needed elsewhere, but I don't think that is going to happen. This evening, my husband asked me what still needed to be done, and I realized that I had no idea, I had it all in my head at one point but it is gone now and even seems kind of irrelevant and frivolous in light of all the recent events.

I am so wrung out emotionally that I am past the point of thinking clearly, at least for tonight. I am hoping a good night's sleep, and a little peace and quiet tomorrow morning when the boys (finally!) depart for school, will help to get me back into that particular groove. Right now everything seems a little touch and go.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Every so often, you may have noticed, I take on a bit more than I can handle.

Well, perhaps not every so often. Perhaps it is more like a couple times a week. Sometimes I think it is a personal failing. Sometimes I hope that it reflects an enthusiasm for life. Depends on my mood and my level of overwhelmedness.

A couple of weeks ago, I had seen this post on Carol's blog, about a soldier in Iraq who was collecting bundles of fabric and related notions to distribute to women in the community. I immediately thought of the box of fabric I had sitting in my workroom. The beautiful fabric I had purchased to make clothes when I first started out in my professional life. But then this little guy came along... and my life took a couple of crazy twists and turns... and then made a kind-of complete about-face... and basically I can't envision when I will need that kind of fabric again, let alone when I will find the time to do something with it.

The seed of the idea that was planted by the post keep nagging at me, despite my telling myself that was already over my eyeballs in many many other projects. I picked up the mailing boxes four days ago, and they sat and mocked me in the hallway. With 30 minutes to go until the post office closed today, I finally decided to take action, because I thought today was the deadline to get the boxes sent. I enlisted the help of Primo, who had foolishly elected to stay home rather than make the weekly trip to the recycling center. Little did he know that he would find himself arranging fabric, taping together boxes and hustling to the post office.

I have to admit that I had my doubts as I was throwing the packages together. Fabric? Really? It's that simple? And someone is actually going to distribute these bundles, and they are going to make a difference in someone's life?

It happens sometimes that you have to take a leap of faith on these things, and time was running out before the post office closed, and for heaven's sake, I had not touched this fabric in too many years to count. And it was perfect for the intended purpose (I think): subdued colors, drapey material, lots of yardage. So Primo and I stuffed as much as we could into the boxes, threw in some matching (I hope) thread and a few needles and zippers, bundled it as securely as we could and tied it up with our mis-matched ribbons. A few yards of packing tape and a customs form later, we were ready to send them out with fingers crossed that they would end up where they were wanted.

When I got home, I had more time to poke around Iraqi Bundles of Love, the blog set up for this project. What I found amazed me. The man organizing this effort originally thought he would receive around 50 boxes. He planned to tuck them in a corner of his office, and distribute them on a low-key basis.

He underestimated the power of the innernets. He is now projecting that he will receive 14,000 or so bundles. You read that correctly. He has had to find a warehouse for all these bundles, and also explain to the post office why he had so many priority mail boxes coming his way all of a sudden.

What an amazing result for a little leap of faith on his part!

I hope our little packages find their way into someone's hands who can truly use their contents. How about you? Anything sitting around that might need a different purpose? (He is taking yarn in addition to fabric...) The deadline is Tuesday September 8. I can't wait to see what happens.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

hot new franchise idea

A couple of my close friends have husbands who are on the hunt for a new business in which to invest. I have heard their tales looking at Dunkin' Donuts, and daycare centers, and car washes, and apartment complexes, and on and on, but nothing has caught on yet.

Their search is over, however, because I have a no-fail, success-fame-and-fortune guaranteed, blockbuster business model.

It would be called "The Week Before Kids Go Back to School Camp," or perhaps something a bit catchier but my brain is too fogged with dye fumes to work that out right now. The basic business idea is this: You take kids off their parents' hands for that one hellacious week just before school starts, when kids are alternating between being at each other's throats and coming up with some new, bizarre way to wreck the house and their parents' sanity.

Sometimes there is no difference at all. They are doing both at exactly the same time and as loudly as possible. Ask me how I know.

I guarantee you that parents would pay any amount of money to get the kids out of their hair for that one week, so horrendous is the childrens' behavior and so desperate are the parents.

Remember: you heard it here first, and I will demand adequate franchise fees from anyone who adopts my business model. I will also be the first parent in line for the service.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

production line

I am starting to get a bit bleary with the pace of production around here... On a good day I can dye two pounds of roving, because I let the roving cool in the pot and I don't have a bazillion dedicated dyeing stock pots. I do have enough to trip over on a regular basis, and I must confess to visiting my parents' house and stealing more cookware from them just to feed this little habit of mine.

As I mentioned before, the roving was starting to pile up around here. Literally.


That's not a pillow on my couch. It is a sheet -- given to me by my MIL with the intent, I believe, that I would actually use it on a bed -- with yet more roving wrapped up in it, awaiting the long-anticipated bags.

They finally arrived late yesterday afternoon, and Phase Two: Packing All This Stuff Up, finally began. After a couple of hours of work, the piles were in a slightly more manageable form.


For those of you awaiting the final outcome (*cough* my dad *cough*), here's the front and back of the bag, close up.


I'm pretty pleased with the end result. Now, to dye the remaining six pounds... and pack up the seven pounds already dyed...