Friday, 28 November 2014

Good To The Last Inch

Finished my sweater last night. It was a teeny bit nerve-wracking. When I cast off the second sleeve, the ball left was pretty small, and I wasn't sure it would be enough for the collar. I saved all the scraps I cut off when I wove the ends in, and sewed the sleeves on with a different beige worsted I had a little ball of in my stash.

Picked up the collar stitches and started knitting, watching the ball get smaller and smaller, thinking maybe if I run out, I can just make the collar a bit shorter, hoping I wouldn't have to unpick the sleeves and shorten them by a few rows to salvage enough yarn to finish the collar.

And I didn't, but it was a close call. About a dozen stitches from the end of the bind-off, I was running out, but I spliced in one longer scrap I had, and I made it. Just. Had to tighten the bind-off stitches a little, but the collar rolls and any unevenness won't show. If someone's close enough to the collar to see that splice and tightening while the sweater's on me - chances are they're not interested in the sweater.

So there you have it. I'm pretty thrilled that it all worked out AND I managed to finish in November, considering how late I started. I have one teeny-tiny pile of ends left, above, and a sweater (still needs a wee blocking, but it fits and I'm happy).

Next up: fingerless mitts to incorporate someone's first handspun yarn. There's only a few yards (the length at bottom right) and very thick-and-thin, so I'm thinking I will do some trim at the cuff with it, and the rest in my handspun. Last week I spun some fleece I had that looked to be a decent colour and texture to match it, in a bit more of a 'rustic' yarn than I usually do, so that will get swatched up and started today.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Ever get those days when you wonder what the heck your brain is on? The body of my sweater is done, and I cast on for the first sleeve. Five inches in, I come to this instruction:

*sm, k10 rows. sm, k1, M1L, k to 1 st before marker, M1R, k1* 5 times.

Now I had no excuse. It was 9:30 in the morning, I slept well, and had nothing more muddling than tea to drink or eat. I've known how to read for over 3 decades, and I swear, I can follow instructions to knit complex articles. But for some reason, my brain totally skipped the asterisk at the beginning of the line, and relocated it to after the instruction to knit 10 rows.

I read it, and wondered why you would put all your increases for the sleeve in 5 rows, all bunched together. I read it again, and noted that the diagram for the sleeve had no indication of this shaping. I knitted the 5 increase rows, decided it looked weird, and thought I would have to rejig the pattern. Read it AGAIN, did the math, looked at the rest of the sleeve instructions, and figured that my sleeve would end up more than half a foot short following the directions, and no-one on Ravelry had noted this kind of a serious shortfall in the pattern. So I read the line yet again, very carefully, and this time it registered. That asterisk at the beginning of the line. Knit 10 rows, do an increase row, knit another 10 rows, then do the next increase row!

I think it's going to work a lot better now.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Progress Report

Feels like I've been really productive the last few days. This morning I got the last of my gorgeous red and purple silk/wool roving from Rhinebeck 2012 spun, plied and off the wheel. (Needed the wheel freed up for some other spinning I want to do this week, that was a good motivation.)

Two skeins of that, roughly fingering-weight, and it will probably become a shawl or scarf for me. Something super-simple, I think, just to show off the yarn.

Yesterday I sat myself down and said I wasn't allowed to work on my sweater until I finished at least the first mitt for a pair I'm making Gaby, who was one of my classmates and a definite fan of my work.

She fell in love with the Winter Twilight mitts I made for myself, with a red sky; the sky in these is a purple sock yarn from our local Riverside Studios (katdry on Rav), which I bought a few years ago and hadn't gotten around to using yet. I'll see Gaby Sunday, so I thought it would be nice to have them done by then.

And I did end up having time to knit on my sweater, the more so because I was on the phone with my mother last night, so that was a nice chunk of knitting time. I'm at about 12", finished the waist shaping, and about 3" to go before splitting for the armholes. That seems like it's on track to finish in November...

She said there was no new information yet about the Dog, except presumably the Week-enders still have her; but she was going to visit the Baker today and find out if there was any news...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

NaKniSweMo - The Fast Version

I was thinking I had no shot at knitting anything for myself before, say, January, because I had a list of commissions to do before Christmas, and possibly a few lined up afterwards.

However, lopi wool and 5mm needles means projects go pretty fast, especially when there's none of this other job stuff going on. As of yesterday, all the things which had to be done before Christmas are done, and there are 3 pairs of mittens, a hat, and a scarf drying in the bathroom.

There are still things on the to-do list, I admit. Two pair of fingerless gloves for Gaby (but they'll go fast, and they're not for Christmas presents), gloves for my friend Jen (but I won't see her until after Christmas; she only gets into town Christmas day), another pair of fingerless gloves I have to spin yarn for, but I have to finish what's on the wheel, and card the wool before I can even start spinning.

I started one of the pairs of fingerless gloves for Gaby, but I kept looking at the lovely tweedy skeins of Irish wool Jen brought me the other year, and which I had been planning on using for doing the local NaKniSweMo (National Knit a Sweater in a Month) KAL this month.

It smells properly nice and sheep-y too, and I think that the extra sniff at the yarn was what did it. I said screw it to the other projects, and sat down to hunt Rav for a sweater I liked that was within my yarn budget of 900 yards. One cup of cocoa later, I was casting on for Tweedy Dan. I like cables with the Irish tweeded yarn, and the finished projects on Rav look good.

I know, there's only a dozen days of the month left (well, 11 now). But I'm going to try anyway, and see if I can get myself a sweater by December. About 4" and over 3400 stitches done so far...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Dog In The Manger

I heard this story last night, and it's half-way between making me really indignant and incredulous - as in who the he;; behaves this way?! I know, like, and respect all the local people involved, went to school with their kids, that sort of thing, and I'm really hoping it works out...I'm waiting for the next instalment of the drama.

Now, this is a small rural community. Everyone knows everyone, kind of thing, and news spreads fast. The locals involved are all long-time residents, well-liked and respected. There's the Farmer, his Dog, the Baker, the CSA grower, and the Baker's Friends, as key players, as well as the Week-enders. What happened is this:

The Farmer has several dogs, and likes them, but can't give them a lot of one-on-one time - farmers are busy people. So when one of his dogs decided she wanted more company, and headed down the road to visit the Week-enders from the city who had bought a house for week-end visits, he didn't worry about it too much. The Week-enders thought this was the cutest thing ever, and took the dog everywhere with them when they were there on week-ends, having discovered the Dog loved going in the car. They took her to the local picnic, where she got into people's food. When the Farmer (who was also at the picnic) remonstrated with the Weekenders, they said "not our dog, not our problem". They also took the Dog to the Baker's when they went there to lunch every weekend, which she loved. There were people and other dogs, and it was fun.

The Farmer asked the Week-enders if they wanted to keep the Dog, since he knew the Dog wanted more company than he could give her, but they thought it would be too much responsibility, and they really preferred just the part-time visits. They thought it might be nice to have her in the city for a bit, but they had to bring her back after a couple days, since the Dog stopped eating and pooping, and was clearly unhappy and wanting to go back to the country.

The Dog, by this time, could find her own way to the Baker's, and went visiting there, where the Baker fed her and let her lie on the porch and socialize with visitors. The Farmer then asked the Baker if she wanted to keep the Dog, but the Baker thought her house was full enough with a husband and two daughters and a grandson and two other dogs and assorted cats and birds. But she offered to look for another home for the Dog, where she would have lots of company. It happened that the Baker's Friends, who she had known for decades, were looking for just such a dog, and they had acres of space, and another dog, and were home all day to pay attention to the Dog. So the Baker told the Farmer this, and since the Farmer also knew and liked her Friends, he agreed the Dog would be happy there. And she was. And the Friends told the Farmer this, and everyone was happy.

Now comes the kicker. The Week-enders, when they came down again, were mad as hops when they discovered that the Farmer had found another home for 'their' Dog. They stormed right off to the Baker's Friends, and yelled at them for taking 'their' Dog, said she had been 'their' Dog for years, refused to listen to anything they could say about the Dog being happy there and the Farmer (who was, after all, the actual owner) giving his permission, told the Friends that they had been planning to adopt her all along, and had made arrangements with the CSA grower to keep the Dog when they couldn't, whistled the Dog into their car and left in a cloud of dust. Then they called the Baker and yelled at her for  twenty minutes for giving away 'their' Dog, and told her the same story about their arrangements with the CSA grower. Now, the Baker and the CSA grower are neighbours, and his wife and her sister are good friends of the Baker's, and were there for lunch. So it didn't take long for the Baker to discover that the Week-enders had never said anything about their so-called 'arrangements' to the CSA grower, and he was not happy to hear about them lying about talking with him, or about them taking the Dog from the Baker's Friends.

So as it stands, the matter is thus: the Week-enders have essentially kidnapped the Dog from the people the Farmer approved as her new owners, claiming her as 'theirs', when they said previously they never wanted her full-time, (and when she was clearly unhappy in the city with them). They have permanently alienated the Baker, the Farmer, the CSA grower, the Baker's Friends, and most of the county, since the locals know and like and will support their own against the Week-enders, shocked and indignant at their behaviour. And the Friends and the Baker and the CSA grower have agreed that if the Week-enders do try to place the Dog with the CSA grower, that he will agree and then return the Dog to the Baker's Friends, and tell the Week-enders that she ran away or something. We are all hoping that that is what happens, and that the Week-enders don't keep the Dog until she gets ill, or worse, out of sheer pig-headedness. She shouldn't have to suffer for their behaviour!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Baking and Problem-Solving

First snowflakes of the season today, powdering the ground like the icing sugar on the linzer cookies I baked this morning, and I got caught in quite a little swirl of the snow while I delivered the baking.

The Friends of the Farm are having a craft sale / bake sale fundraiser tomorrow (10-4, in building 72, I believe), and were looking for people to bring in baked goods, so I decided that making something to bring would be a nice excuse to mess around with cookie cutters. Especially since I'm teaching the last dye class of the season tomorrow, and won't be able to go to the sale itself.

The cookies were fun. It was the packaging that gave me pause. Oddly enough, I never think of that part of it when I'm planning. And I'm not the sort of person who keeps disposable plates in the house. In retrospect, filled cookies sprinkled with icing sugar might not have been the best choice, but they were pretty. It was just a case of getting them divided, wrapped up nicely without messing the icing sugar up too much, and transported on the bus. Ended up making squares of corrugated cardboard from a Knitpicks box I had, covering those with foil, and using some larger plastic bags to tie over the foil board with cookies, since the sandwich bags I had were too small to use without making a mess of the cookies. Then, luckily, the CAT box my work boots came in was just the right size to stack the squares in. Tied it shut with my green jute garden twine, and presto. It worked great.

There was another bout of problem-solving a little later which also worked out pretty well in the end. The linzer recipe only used the egg yolks, so I thought maybe some meringues to use the whites would be a nice idea. A quick flip through recipes found an espresso version and a chocolate one using cocoa powder. Now here's the importance of reading a recipe properly - the espresso ones said to mix the instant coffee with the sugar. I thought for some reason that the cocoa would be the same (hey, flavoured powder, right?) Um, nope. After my nice fluffy egg whites had turned into chocolate goo and I had tried in vain to stiffen it into peaks with the beater, I took a look at the recipe for the chocolate version and discovered they had you fold the cocoa in at the end. Oh.

Well, I hated to waste something which at this point was basically a runny chocolate icing, but I thought, hey, eggs and sugar and chocolate...if I add some milk and cornstarch it'll basically be a pudding mix, right? So I did just that, stirred it over the heat for a bit, and voila. Not something I could bring for the sale, but tasted very rich and chocolatey, and textured like a soft custard. Dessert for a couple days, definitely a win.  

Monday, 10 November 2014

Holiday Season

The boss has verified that I'm officially done work for the season, so I'm taking an extra day in the country today.

Despite a few light frosts, there were still enough flowers and grasses that looked nice in the garden to cut what is likely the last bouquet of the year - chrysanthemums and feverfew, miscanthus plumes and a grass whose name I don't remember, with seed heads like flattened oats or feathers (quaking oats, maybe?).

Since it's decent weather today I may go and give the dye garden a last clean-up for the season after lunch. Right now, though, I'm supervising the fruitcake in the oven. 'Cause Christmas is coming, right? And this fruitcake is good out of the oven (which is why we always make part of the batter into  a muffin tin full of mini-fruitcakes), but better when wrapped in brandied cheesecloth and  aged for a while in the fridge.

I know fruitcake is kind of a joke, and many people don't like it. My mother used to work for a lady who had I don't know how many bricks of it in the freezer that people had given her - she didn't like it, but couldn't stand to throw it out and waste it. I say it depends on the fruitcake. If you're talking supermarket bricks, or even bakery stuff, no, you'd have to pay me to eat it. Even the local bakery in town, which ships fruitcake all over the place - well, I tried it once and that was enough. But our fruitcake is moist dense stuff, with bananas and spice and 6 eggs in the batter, and just enough cake to hold the fruit and nuts together. Comes from a now-battered magazine, older than I am, which also has our Stollen recipe from for Christmas breakfast.

It has candied fruit, yes, but that's only a fraction of the mixture; the rest is raisins and apricots, dates and prunes, and walnuts, all soaked overnight in brandy. We've converted people to fruitcake lovers with this recipe. And it certainly wouldn't be Christmas around here without it!  

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Backlog - Knitting

Before I forget - the Birkeland Brothers woollen mill I mentioned supporting a couple posts back? They got their target money and more, largely thanks to Ravelers by the looks of it. And now I have 5 lbs of carded lambswool coming from them this month sometime...which is one really good reason I didn't buy any fleece for myself at Rhinebeck. Planning to spin lots of skeins to natural-dye next season.

Right now, though, it'll be knitting until after Christmas. Did I tell you about Joan? Lovely lady, who I've taught in spinning and dyeing classes. She had a few knitting projects on the needles that she KNEW she would never get round to finishing, but she really wanted them finished, so she commissioned me to do them. Starting with a sweater for her daughter, cast on 2010, which she wanted for her birthday in early November. I got that one started ASAP, steam-blocked the pieces the night before I left town for Rhinebeck, and spent Friday and Saturday evenings and driving time knitting the hood and sewing it all up. Chantal modeled it for me in the hotel room so I could send pics to Joan, and the sweater (and a mitten I knitted Sunday to finish another commission) were dropped off for delivery.
It's Paton's Hooded Pullover, if you're curious.

Between Rhinebeck and the end of the month got reserved for Guild Ex and Sale knitting. Not that I got a huge amount done. But I reckon a hat and mittens and fingerless mitts is decent for two weeks when there's a job involved also.

The Ex and Sale went off really well, and now I'm back on commission knitting...Joan's remaining projects (2 pair of socks and 2-3 of mittens) for starters, which are to be Christmas gifts. Then a pile someone ordered through Johanne at the ranch - also for Christmas - which I will pick up the supplies and info for this weekend. And two pair of fingerless mitts ordered by a former classmate (thankfully quick knitting and not for a Christmas deadline). Any holiday knitting of my own may be a little late getting done, and no way I'm getting to do the NaKniSweMo KAL I had considered.

I'm happy to have the extra work, especially in the off-season - but first thing I cast on in January is dang well going to be something for me, and preferably with one of the new skeins from Rhinebeck! Because the last thing I knit for me? Was the Alpha Socks I finished last February.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Backlog - Rhinebeck

Right, so the outdoor work season is just about over for me, and I'm preparing to curl up and hibernate in the yarn and fiber until April. It's bloody gusty out today, and supposed to be flurries later this week, so I think that's good timing.

Only just got around to moving the pictures of my Rhinebeck goodies and our visit to the Vanderbilt Mansion. We had a lovely time (who could help it?) Friday turned out to be the nicest weather of the weekend, warm and sunny enough for us to have a picnic on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion after we went on our tour. Behind the house is a pretty sheer drop-off (wooded, but still, you would probably want to keep drunken guests indoors) and a lovely view across the river.

The parterre gardens were probably less effective than they would have been earlier in the season, but the pool is alway pretty even without the water lilies in bloom, and some roses were still out (one with a bee in headfirst, trying to get in to the nectar.

Indoors we weren't allowed to take pictures with flash, so most of mine didn't turn out well, but the entryway wasn't bad.

At supper that evening, it turned out the person at the next table was a Gotland sheep breeder. Not a breed I was familiar with, but when we went to see the fleece and yarn samples...dudes, it's lovely. I am so getting a fleece next year - I know I saw some at the fleece sale, but I was hunting mohair for someone, and that was before I went to the barns. Silver-greys, soft and drapey like alpaca, and curly like a mohair or something. Anyway, both River Bend Gotlands and Quinta Melo Gotlands (can't find a website for them) had cards there, and I am hanging on to those.

We all did some spending, of course. I think our newbie, Francine was the worst...she went home with an inkle loom, and if her budget wasn't already gone, I think there was half a chance she would have bought a mohair sheep. She certainly fell in love with their cuteness. My budget went pretty fast, but I got lots of pretties. Admittedly, half the pile will be leaving me as gifts, but there are some things for me. I was eyeing some gradient rovings last time, and spent 20 minutes deciding on one from Loop, in mostly reds. I also got a couple skeins of sock yarn, one in periwinkle from Hudson Valley Sheep and Wool Co in Red Hook, and one of Fleece Artist BFL sock. Because I do have a couple pair of socks that I'm about to give up mending.

Then there were a couple skeins of alpaca and silk, one in sea-green for a friend's Christmas gift (, and one in olive (Tess' Designer Yarns) for my mother, along with a tin of Heal My Hands (oh yeah, I got one of those for me too, figured it would help with the gardening dryness.) And a few bundles of multicolored roving for spinning friends (Wellspring Farm).

I can never leave Rhinebeck without books...didn't find everything I wanted, but came home with a history of the Hudson Valley, and a stack of Piecework back issues. One of them has a lovely afghan pattern, which I'm going to have to make sometime. There's no pic of it on Ravelry, but it looks like this.

And I can totally see it in a palette of the natural-dyed colours. Sheep's-black or darkest walnut for the trim, and a range of corals and golds and greens for the panels, or cooler tones of rose and mint and day. There has been and is a lot of other knitting going on, though, and tomorrow I should get around to showing off all that!