Tuesday, September 30, 2014

interweave guest blog

The guest blog post about my trip to Winterthur for the Downton Abbey costume exhibit is up on the Interweave site! Featuring a photo of me by my photographer father, Maurice Marietti, who also has several photos in the article I wrote about the exhibit. I know he will want me to point out that the photo of me was taken on an iphone in the semi-gloom of a not-quite-finished exhibit, and is nowhere near his normal quality of work. If you have a chance to see the photos he took of the exhibit in the magazine, you will know this is true.

If you are interested in more detail about the exhibition, plus 25 beautiful patterns (including three by yours truly), then get to your local yarn store and buy this magazine!

And if you are interested in seeing the exhibition for yourself: hurry! It is only open for three more months. You can buy tickets here.

fatted calf

For the first time in a month... we were five at the table instead of just four.

We have seen Primo quite often since he left, about once a week, but he hasn't been home. We didn't kid ourselves that he came home to see us—he asked for a ride back yesterday so he could pick up his car and go visit his girlfriend at her college. But he did propose having dinner with us before we had to take him back again tonight.

So, fatted calf was killed, in the form of his favorite dinner, which is lasagna, at the top. The ziti on the bottom is for my middle child, who hates lasagna. At least I won't have to cook tomorrow night. The bread was my one cheat, compliments of Pillsbury.

Homemade dessert even! An apple pie, their favorite, with a "B" and four hearts, for my four boys. My to-do list was completely neglected in favor of all this cooking. It can go take a flying leap, along with all the laundry that didn't get done either. It was a nice dinner, even if we do have to retrain Primo in the fine art of not texting while at the dinner table and other niceties. Seems they leave for a month and revert to their wild untamed ways.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


The beginning of September was an out of the frying pan, into the fire sort of situation. We managed to get everyone sorted in time for the start of school, then I was into the thick of getting ready for Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival. Once that was over, I was facing a mountain of work. Everyone involved had been most patient but the time was past due for me to meet some deadlines. College tuition and all that, so I don't want to get fired. Catching up involved many mornings of waking up at 3 or 4 am and working in the dark quiet.

Then the icing on the cake: knitting classes.

I wasn't planning on offering knitting classes. I have batted around the idea for years, but I certainly didn't have time for them this fall. But a random post on our local facebook page generated an outpouring of interest, so it seemed like the iron was too hot for me not to strike.

So: knitting classes.

Every one so far has been full, with the graduating knitters clamoring for more classes and projects to teach them different skills. I have been busy trying to keep up. I'm not complaining! I love knitting, and I love teaching, and I love watching people fall in love with knitting, so it is a very happy conjunction, even if unplanned.

Today, finally, was a breather. The second round of beginner classes finished up last night. Today the kids had off school for the Jewish holiday. It was cold and rainy. I dressed in comfy clothes and vowed to stay in all day.

I attended to all those pressing-but-who-has-the-time tasks.

I made bread in the bread machine. Terzo went wild. Apparently I have not made bread in his recent memory. Oops.

I made homemade ratatouille pasta sauce, for the first time this season. The Disney movie of the same name had it right. It is my ultimate comfort food, especially when the ingredients come out of our garden.

So hallelujah and thank the good Lord for Rosh Hashanah today, and happy new year to all those celebrating. I certainly feel like I have a fresh start.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

fallout finish

The rest of the weekend was as great as the beginning!

All day Saturday, I took a class with Jane Woodhouse on natural dyeing. After an exhausting, burn-the-candles-at-both-ends schedule last week, it was the perfect antidote. We had fun experimenting with the different concentrations and effects that could be achieved, but there was enough down time waiting for the dyes to set that I could sneak away for a quick nap. I don't think I was missed.

The end results were nothing short of spectacular. We made five different stock solutions, the colors that can be see all the way to the left, using madder, cutch, logwood, fustic and cochineal. We then used them in different concentrations to produce those colors. We were all taken how well the colors harmonized together. Mother nature really does know what she's doing.

Another fun spinning contest Saturday night, this time wearing giant workmen's gloves... The wonderful Amy Tyler, pictured on the right, won. If you ever have a chance to take a class with her, jump on it. She is incredibly knowledgeable and funny and warm and patient all at the same time. One of my all-time favorite instructors.

This morning my mom and I had just enough time to seek out the labyrinth (after a few wrong turns) and walk it. Turns out we were too busy talking and not paying attention to the woods around us—we missed the bear that the people right behind us nearly ran into!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend with my mom and other lovely, talented people. I did get a little bit of the creative recharge I was hoping for. Now if I can just get a little rest, I should be ready to put it into action in the coming week.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

fibre fallout

It's late September in an even year, so that means it's time for the Fibre Fallout, the bi-annual retreat organized by the North Country Spinners Guild.

My mom came with me to our first one four years ago, but had to miss the last one due to a work commitment. I was thrilled that she could come again this time around.

Yesterday we took an excellent class in spinning using the long draw technique from Amy Tyler. She loves Coopworth, and we spent quite a bit of time with it, so that was a bonus! Today I will be learning how to use natural dyes, while my mom has more spinning, this time with Robin Russo, a class I took last time and which also heavily features Coopworth. Coopworth is such a rare breed in US that it was fun finding out which breeder had produced the roving they were using.

In addition to the spinning and dyeing and other sorts of creating, there is fun of the sort that only fiber types can enjoy. Last night Robin participated in the "see how much yarn you can spin in five minutes while blindfolded" contest. She didn't win, but the winner isn't pictured; one photo couldn't capture the other six people competing. We are all eagerly awaiting tonight's mystery contest.

There is catching up with old friends, and making new friends. Just as enjoyable are the beautiful surroundings of this retreat set in the mountains. I hope to make it to the labyrinth today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

unofficial downton abbey knits 2014

The 2014 edition of Interweave's "Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits" is almost here!

And take a look at the preview page!!

Not one, but two of my patterns are featured! The green scarf and the pink beret are both mine, and my article about the "Costuming Downton Abbey" exhibit at Winterthur also got a shout out.

Stay tuned for more... I am working on a guest blog post for the issue roll-out. I'll let you know when it goes up.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

postmodern jukebox

Instead of writing a blog post as planned, I spent the vast majority of this evening watching youtube videos published by Postmodern Jukebox. (The remainder was spent with my husband and Terzo at the movies watching "Guardians of the Galaxy," and the less said about that, the better.)

Back to Postmodern Jukebox: the group is kind of hard to explain, but they are very talented musicians and singers who reset (mostly) current hits to music styles of a different era.

Take their Great Gatsby rendition of "Fancy" as an example.

It's not just 1920s. They cross multiple genre lines, including klezmer ("Talk Dirty") and mariachi ("Wake Me Up"). I cannot get enough of this interpretation of "Blurred Lines."

Or their equally fantastic doo-wop version of "Timber." I could listen to those voices all day.

Their clever classical take on "All About that Bass" was released a week ago, and got me started on my musical appreciation evening.

At one point, Secondo came in from the other room, asking what I was listening to. After showing him a few examples (which he had to agree were pretty good, the equivalent of an enthusiastic review from a teenage boy), he said, "Geez Mom, you're obsessed!"

Which I pretty much am, and which also goes a long way in explaining this blog post—as well as my current thinking that I simply must get to one of their concerts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

five hundred hats

Do you remember Bartholomew Cubbins? He of the 500 hats?

Very much how I am feeling these days.

Yesterday's hats were:
  1. Medical biller, from 6 am to 8 am;
  2. Shepherd (ballcap from MDS&W of course), while we caught Marigold and sent her off to her new home at Val's;
  3. Paralegal (no hats allowed in a law office) from 10 am to 1 pm;
  4. Mom, my favorite hat of the day, while I spent a precious hour eating ice cream and catching up with my newly-minted college freshman;
  5. Entrepeneur, as I hunted down supplies for my new knitting classes (more on that in a day or two);
  6. Teacher, as I taught five new knitters how to read a basic pattern, cast on, and do the knit stitch (second favorite part of the day);
  7. Volunteer, as I attended a church vestry meeting.

Phew. Today's hats are slightly less numerous and luckily do not require me to leave the house, because it requires a little attention. I haven't even unpacked the truck after the weekend's show, so that is on the list.

Plus I want to get a hat design out of my brain and on the needles. Maybe that will be the last and greatest hat?

Monday, September 8, 2014

best festival surprise

Two years ago, Coopworth was the featured breed at Rhinebeck. A person I knew only through Ravelry, username Spindlecat (she has amazing things on Etsy), contacted me to purchase some Coopworth roving. She told me later that not one, but two of her entries won first place.

Yesterday, I had the nicest surprise when she stopped by our booth to meet me in person and show me the skeins. They were gorgeous, as you might expect for skeins that won first place at Rhinebeck, always a place of excessively stiff competition. One was a grey fingering weight, and the other was a white lace weight.

Then she did the most amazing and generous thing.

She gifted me the skein of white lace weight.

I may have started referring to it as "my precious" and carrying it around the house with me. I wish I had a better picture to show off its gorgeousness. My best guesstimation is about 330 yards, and it is whispering "Estonian lace scarf" to me. What do you hear?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

fun fiber fest day

Where to start?

Well, with the beginning I suppose, when Secondo and I sorted out the breed display and got in back in order. We had to shorten the sign a bit due to the leftover wind, but it worked. The girls were much more content with the cooler weather.

When we got back to the booth, we found Robin had removed the protective sheeting—this is how we left it last night, after the storm—and had it all back in order!

That gave her enough time to take a spin with an angora bunny. Literally. It's hard to tell but that is a very cooperative bunny on her lap, that I was sure was going home with her. (She resisted.)

Robin also organized Kevyn's participation in the Shepherd's Lead contest, with a friend of hers (Robin, that is, not Kevyn, though I am sure Kevyn found her to be perfectly pleasant). Kevyn wasn't too thrilled about her outfit, but I have no idea why. She looked fabulous, with her matching halter!

At the end of the day, she and Kali were thrilled to be done with the whole thing. They practically sprinted back to the trailer and hopped on board.

And once we arrived home, no halters were necessary to move them back to their flock. They were as happy to be back in familiar pastures as we were.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

fall equals fiber

It's that time: the kick-off to fiber fall festivals, aka Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival, aka the NJ Sheep and Wool Festival. My mother was scheduled to teach a workshop there in kumihimo, the Japanese art of braiding, so it was the perfect reason yesterday to leave on time for once and get there decently early to work on the booth and breed display. I even managed to take two sheep with me, Kevyn and Kali (mostly because they are the easiest to catch) so that left one less thing to do this morning.

While my mom taught her workshop, Robin and I worked on the booth. Unfortunately the brutal heat sucked me dry and I wasn't able to accomplish all I wanted... including the breed display. I couldn't figure out the pieces due to being more or less the state of a limp rag.

Today was another day, plus my parents and Robin were there in full force.

Thanks to my dad's level head, and me locating two of the missing pieces of dowel, he and I managed to get a decent breed display put together. It took third place. Sorry the picture is less than optimal, it is always less than optimal due to the backlight in the morning when I have time to take the picture!

Thanks to the efforts of my mom and Robin, the booth looked fantastic this year. A friend had gifted me some gridwalls, which because I am cheap for some reason I have resisted purchasing before now.

With the investment of some hangers and hooks, display was a snap. The chalkboard signs looked fantastic too!

Unfortunately the brutal heat was the harbinger of a brutal rain storm. My friend Norma and I managed to get the banners down just in time, before they sailed away (or worse yet, ripped). But everything else is in disarray and soaking wet, including two very unhappy sheep.

I'll have to leave a little time tomorrow to get it put back together, but I am bringing a secret weapon with me.

So happy to have one of my boys coming! Don't let that look fool you, he asked to come. I am sure I will appreciate him even more when it's time to pack it all up, load it and go home.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

first day of school 2014

It's de rigueur.

My sophomore, a little bereft without his older brother, mostly because he has been demoted from having a personal driver to taking the bus.

My big fifth grader, who made the transition up to the middle school today. The fact that I no longer have a child in the elementary school, after a 12-year run, is making me sadder than anything else this year. More even than sending one away to college, it is smacking me in the face with the fact that time is marching on.

We were missing one this year, of course, and he still hasn't started classes. He is currently away on a pre-orientation backpacking trip with a small group of freshmen; he returns tomorrow, and classes start next week. I doubt I will get a "first day of school" picture out of him, but I do have a "moving in day" picture that will have to suffice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

new signage

If a fiber festival is in my near future, then I must be devising ways to update my booth. I don't know if I will ever be entirely satisfied with it. My latest mission has been my signs.

Years ago, our family was the beneficiary of a large lot of fallouts, those pieces left from framing mats after the center is cut out. Using computer fonts, decent cardstock and the colorful fallouts, I managed to make some decent signs over the years, but it was a pain to reprint and reglue every sign when prices changed. Plus they looked about as good as they cost.

While on my cooker hunt at the thrift store a few weeks ago, I also scouted out cheap frames. The best were blank ones, intended for diplomas, priced at a dollar or two apiece. I took them to a talented crafty friend, who owns a store in town and gives classes in how to make chalkboards out of old window frames and such things, and she transformed them.

Wish I had a "before" picture. They went from nothing special to stunning.

Now to learn how to write a bit more artistically! Computer fonts saved my butt in that regard. I took her advice to use my sons' chalk pastels, outgrown and dusty from non-use (that was not part of her advice, though I was glad to find another use for them) but the sign was still not worthy of the frame.

My second attempt:

A bit better. The nice thing about the chalkboard is that I can keep trying!

Monday, September 1, 2014

dyeing around

We accomplished the second leg of Primo's college installation on Saturday. Considering the first trip consisted of a bare minimum of possessions...

The second trip required a bit more stuff, plus his bike. Thank goodness he is so close because we have one more trip to make.

The Rutgers crate is a vintage family heirloom from my first year. Hopefully it won't be spray painted Princeton orange at some point during his time there.

It does finally feel like he is gone, especially because I won't be able to make the third trip this weekend. When I had the prospect of seeing him in a week, he didn't seem that far away. Now I don't know the next time I'll be seeing him, his departure feels a bit more permanent.

I'll be at the NJ Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend instead, so I have been dyeing up a storm in the turkey roaster.

This was one of my favorites...

Until I dyed these two. I'm going to have to force myself to leave the turkey roaster alone and get some other items ready to sell but it's going to be tough.