Sunday, May 31, 2015

practically perfect in every way

A title not just reserved for Mary Poppins. It also applies to our finally-finished screened in porch/deck combo off our kitchen.

When the electrical went out in the barn last April, it was determined that the cracked, unusable cement porch off the back of the house would have to be torn out as part of the fix. We have been wanting to replace it for years, but it was never the right time. Certainly our eldest going off to college was not the best time either, but much like the decision to have kids, the right time simply does not exist. We bit the bullet and went for it.

(Speaking of that college kid, he is officially home for the summer. First year, gone in a snap of our fingers.)

Screened-in porch + first coffee of the day + knitting = paradise, or at the very least a most pleasant way to start a day.

This photo was snapped before all the screens were in place, hence the construction equipment in the background, but you get the idea. The fleece blanket was because it was still cold out there in the morning last week.

Added bonus: convenient sun drying on the deck railing!

And as Terzo discovered last night, all the fun of camping in your backyard without the hassle of putting up the tent.

This is how I found him this morning. Looks almost as good as knitting for a great way to start the day.

Friday, May 29, 2015

straw, not hay

After a really, really, really rough day at work today, this post by the Buckeye Milkmaid definitely helped put a smile back on my face.

Especially #8.

I guess I am missing it some days more than I would care to admit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

memorial day 2015

It wouldn't be a Memorial Day if we didn't participate in a parade, of course. My apologies for this being a few days late but my computer has been monopolized by two different Spanish projects (Spanish teachers: "¿QuĂ© pasa con eso?") and some technical difficulties with downloading the pictures.

We were blessed with a lovely day for a parade. Warm, but with a nice breeze.

The population of the club is shifting to mostly-high-school kids now, and they have their own organizations to march in. FFA, marching band, Boy Scouts, sports teams.

So our club was at a slightly low ebb this year, but the ones who came were enthusiastic. Turns out I didn't need to be worried about Primo. He was there, with Dusty yet again. His girlfriend even joined in to supplement the numbers a little, donning a 4-H t-shirt so she could pass, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Except Snickerdoodle the rabbit, who was decidedly not enthusiastic and in fact, ready to go home after the first block. Much like her owner, who is transitioning into the self-consciousness of the teenage girl and after years of being in the parade, and was not sure she wanted to be there at all. Hard to watch the girls go through this stage, from enjoying life and not caring what others think, to caring so acutely all of a sudden that it interferes with their ability to have a good time. She did enjoy the shouts all along the parade route of "A rabbit!" "Look at the bunny on the wagon!" "Oh, how cute, see the rabbit?" so there was that.

Our ever-patient float driver and his trusty truck, back in service after a year off. His patients get quite a kick out of seeing him in this role. He got almost as many shout-outs as the rabbit.

Near the end-ish of the parade route, stuck for a bit on the millpond bridge, with the mill to our left, and the parade behind us all the way down Main Street (of course, what else would it be called?). The store where I hold many of my knitting classes is visible on the second floor of the mill, with the lamps in the windows.

This kid managed to continue his eight-year streak of not walking the route.

It wouldn't be a Memorial Day if we didn't, well, remember.

A reputedly lovely ceremony is held every year at the end of the parade, at the war memorial plaque in front of the local schools. Unfortunately we have yet to attend, because hot, stressed animals cannot wait to be returned home after the rigors of parade participation. One day, I will be able to go, no doubt the same year that I will be sad to see our parade days come to an end.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

champagne toast

The bride received the shawl today, so I feel like I can share a few pictures. Unfortunately I didn't get nearly enough. Monday afternoon went like this: rush home from work, unpin shawl, press husband into service taking a few pictures, wrap in tissue paper, drive to post office with five minutes to spare before it closed.

My biggest regret: not getting a good full picture of it. These are the less-than-optimal blocking pictures, snapped with my iPhone...

And then a few with the shawl draped around me, with the better camera.

Hard to see the little beads but they reminded me of champagne bubbles, hence the name: my toast to the bride and groom.

ETA: I forgot to identify the pattern: It is "Sweet Dreams" by Boo Knits, part of her In Love collection. I originally had something a lot simpler planned, hence my thinking that two weeks was plenty of time to knit it, but this pattern proved irresistible. It is very well written and clearly charted out; I don't regret having to purchase the entire collection, as I will definitely knit more of her patterns.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

shawl, sheep and spinning

To answer the question on everyone's mind: the shawl is done, but not without a lot of personal sacrifice along the way. I flew way too close to the sun on this one, on a variety of levels. The picot edge binding, over 350+ stitches, gave me plenty of time to reflect on this project, and not all of it produced positive conclusions. BUT it is done, and blocked and drying as I type this. Into priority mail tomorrow, and I can spend the rest of the week trying to catch up on everything that has been neglected as I worked to finish it. I will post some finished pictures after it is in the recipient's hands.

Finishing the shawl was made slightly more challenging by the fact that: today was the local park's historic exhibit day, to which we are more-or-less permanently on the hook to bring sheep. Kali and Kevyn were this year's victims volunteers, mostly because they are pigs for grain, making them the easiest to catch. It doesn't hurt that they are among the best on halter, either.

They spent the day ignoring people while vying for shade in their pen, though there was one moment I wished I had on camera, when a little girl (about one year old) bent down to pet a lounging Kali, and Kali let out a little baa. The baby was so surprised that she fell smack on her rear end and laughed in an odd combo of delight and terror. Poor kid!

The sheep were temporarily distracted by this tiny weiner dog. I don't think they have ever encountered a dog that small and roused themselves up out of the shade to investigate, even though they usually ignore dogs at best and hate dogs at worst. I am not sure they realized this was a dog, however.

My job is to spin and talk about the process of making what is on the sheep into what is on people's bodies (though not today, way too warm for wool).  I managed to sneak in a bit of knitting on the shawl edge when I had a little break in visitors.

The best part of the day, apart from a few hours with Secondo while he volunteered with me, was this little boy, around eight years old. He was fascinated by the process of spinning and spent quite a while asking me very probing questions. I had started by talking about the difference in technology between a wheel and a drop spindle, for which I had brought along some old pencil roving. After a while, I handed over the drop spindle and he went to town, even re-attaching broken roving after I had explained the process to him. 

That is all his work! I gave him the drop spindle (it was a freebie from the North Country Spinners, made specifically to teach beginners) and the rest of the pencil roving when he had to leave. I have had both for over five years, so it was great that they found their way into appreciative hands.

At the end of the day, the sheep hightailing it out of the park so fast that I barely got a picture before they disappeared into the trailer. As usual, they didn't need a halter to move back into the pasture with the flock. They were almost as glad to get back as I was to be done with the shawl.

Friday, May 15, 2015

not quickly enough

The shawl is coming along, just not quite as quickly as I had hoped. Progress so far, in the usual lace-like way of looking like nothing more than a dishrag at this point:

I am not sure why I am particularly surprised, because if I am perfectly honest about it, I haven't been holding my own feet to the fire quite as closely as I should have been. I have been operating on the blithe assumption that it will get itself done, and of course it will, but at this point not without temporarily resigning from my family. 

Or some sort of miracle. I have been banking on the miracle, but this pattern (the divine Sweet Dreams by Boo Knits) adds six stitches every two rows, and so now I am up to some ungodly number of stitches on the needles, and growing exponentially. One conveniently forgets how long it takes to work rows consisting of hundreds of stitches per row, no matter how intuitive and simple the pattern may be. Perhaps I shouldn't have started the second repeat of the lace body, but it's too late now. Nothing to do but press on and plan to be up very, very late this weekend. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

a lovely day for this mother

Somehow, a Mother's Day with no obligations on the actual day. Unprecedented. We decided to drop in on the college freshman and spend a little time with him before he gets into the thick of finals, which start next week. 

My Mother's Day wish was to to simply spend a little time with the three of them, so we met him at campus and ended up at the Princeton Art Museum. What a revelation! Quite a broad collection, including one of Monet's Water Lilies (which Secondo could not believe was real) and works from Picasso, Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol and Degas, to name but a few. 

I loved this window by Frank Lloyd Wright. circa 1904, called Trees. Much inspiration there.

Then back to the courtyard behind his dorm for me to open presents, framed photos of the boys and a new frame for Primo's preschool artwork. It had dropped on the floor, the glass shattered, at some point during the year since he had left. It was bittersweet to think of how much a year had helped with the relationship, decidedly rocky when he left but now a genuine source of joy. The perfect day to reflect on the difference a year had made.

As for the wedding shawl, it is coming along. Yesterday morning, I was finished with the stockinette starting part, up to 157 stitches and ready to start the first lace chart:

As of this morning, through Chart A (okay, only four rows, but still, progress) and onto Chart B, with the beads starting to take their places in the scheme of things. 

We just put a porch onto the back of the house and it is everything I dreamed it would be in terms of a place to sit and knit outside. This morning, with coffee and quiet except for the birds singing, it was heaven. This evening, not quite so much, as the bugs drove me inside. Eventually it will be completely screened and then I will move out there on a more or less permanent basis.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

in search of cashmere lace

I am sufficiently recovered from Maryland to realize that I have another deadline staring me smack in the face: a wedding. In just a smidge over two weeks. Of course, I planned to knit a shawl for the bride.

This isn't some last minute urge that came over me in the throes of yarn fumes at Maryland. I have been planning this for a while, because I purchased the yarn (a beautiful skein of cashmere lace from Pepperberry Knits, colorway "Sand Trap") plus matching beads, all the way back at Vogue Knitting Live in January.

I wound the yarn into a cake sometime in early March, so it would be ready to go whenever I had the time to start it. Then came more knitting classes and getting ready for Maryland and at some point I told myself it would be the perfect antidote to Maryland preparations, knitting time to spend with some beautiful yarn on a pattern that someone else had designed.

Today, I finally had the time to cast on, but as the more astute among you may notice, that is not a cake of Pepperberry Knits cashmere lace. When faced with the prospect of a track meet this afternoon with plenty of down time in between Secondo's events, I went in search of the yarn and needles so I could cast on...

And I couldn't find the yarn.

I still haven't found the yarn. After a frantic ten minutes of searching, with the prospect of arriving on time to work growing ever dimmer, I remembered that I had purchased a skein of Juniper Moon Findley, colorway "Oyster," some time ago on sale, with no particular project in mind. In a pre-destined sort of way, it is a similar enough color to the cashmere that the beads will work. It is still plenty scrumptious in the way that 50% merino wool, 50% silk can be.

BUT. It is not cashmere. At some point, I have to find that cashmere. For the next two weeks, however, I will be doing very little other than knitting this merino/silk lace, and liking it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

mdsw 2015

This will be a brief post about Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. It was a great weekend but I am pooped! So mostly along the line of a picture being a thousand words and all that...

The obligatory loaded truck picture. I just about fit behind the driver's wheel.

Tables, grid walls, fleeces, pelts, basically everything that wouldn't fit into the cab, all wrapped up tight in case of rain—and it did rain on the way down, so I was grateful that we took the time to waterproof everything.

One of my first stops, dropping THIS YEAR'S skirted fleeces off at Sweitzer's to be processed. Yay me!! I did keep back three raw fleeces, to be sold in...

... this wonderful booth, our biggest ever and I think our best ever. The extra space and extra help this year (because the two of us that spearhead it said we couldn't do it alone for much longer) made all the difference in ease of getting everything in place.

We had tons of beautiful yarn this year, but we continue to struggle with the best way to market it. Part of the problem is that we are trying to sell yarn in the spring; we did much better with yarn in the fall at Rhinebeck. Any thoughts about displaying it would be much appreciated!

Speaking of beautiful yarn, this was part of the display at Sweitzer's booth, which I discovered when I went back to settle my order and bill. All of this yarn was dyed by their five year old daughter Lilly, and part of the proceeds were to be donated to the Wounded Warriors project.

I had pledged not to buy any yarn this year, but I had to make an exception. Maybe this will be a sweater for my little niece; not quite sure yet.

This was my other purchase, from a woman who made beautiful sheep pictures using paper cutting. This is a print made from the paper cut original, which had colored paper behind it. Multicolored sheep and turtles; too similar to our farm to resist.

One of the greatest pleasures is catching up with friends, too many to list. These are women I know from the Fiber Fallout Retreat, who were competing as Team Oz (hence the costumes, unfortunately the Lion has her back to the camera) in the Sheep to Shawl costume. At 8 am, a bell is rung and each team has hired a shearer and found a suitable sheep. The shearer starts to shear and the team grabs up the fleece as soon as it comes off the sheep and starts to process it. One team member cards the wool to prepare it for spinning, two members spin it and the fourth weaves it into a shawl on a pre-warped loom. Their warp colors were based on the "Emerald City" and the fleece was dark; it was a beautiful combination. I missed the ending, as I was in the booth, but rumor had it that they took third place (out of six or seven teams) and their shawl brought in over $1400 in the resulting auction. A pretty good result!

Now it's time to focus on getting my stuff back in order. I don't want to dye anything for a while, but I do have a standing order for dryer balls that I have to get filled; I was waiting for my fleeces to come back. I was thinking I would have some left over but they all sold out, a happy problem to have.

I also have a big knitting project with tight deadline to start. It had to wait until after Maryland, but now... it's after Maryland. I think it's going to have to wait until after a good night's sleep as well.