28 April 2009

barn notes

Hoorah! The animals got out today. I was inside, sitting at my spinning wheel, minding my own business, when my mom ran into the room and announced we had a problem on our hands. The sheep were suddenly out in the north pasture gorging themselves on grass as fast as they could rip the tender roots out of the damp soil. 

A sheep in a fresh grass pasture is a curious sight. Usually skittish and shy, a determined sheep gorging is oblivious and immovable, focused on one thing only.  A UFO could land in front of them, and little green people could march out with stun guns, and they wouldn't bat an ear.

I jumped up, pulled on my mud boots, and hurried down to the barn. Our plan, hastily compiled, was to lure them back into the barn yard with an offering of grain. We got a small bucket, and walked out amongst the happy animals. 

The sound of the tearing and munching of grass was like the hum of a large factory machine. And the lambs weren't eating so much as tearing around, helter-skelter, from one end of the pasture to the other. Excitable, playful, completely uncatchable. 

My brother shook his bucket and I yelled things like: "come on, guys, let's go back inside!" and "do you want some grain? some GRAIN!" And, yeah, they completely ignored me. 

Finally my mom came out and we got an even bigger bucket of grain. Presently one of our original ewes, Nora, was coaxed back into the barn yard and after fifteen more minutes of frolicking in the grass, so were the others. So, it was a good day here on the farm. 

After the long winter who wouldn't love a chase through the green grass? (I sure did.)

27 April 2009


I couldn't spell as a kid, in fact, with all these hi-tech gadgets on my computer, I'm not sure I'm that great of a speller now. For the last ten years word processing programs have given a person a head's up by an alarming red squiggle four letters into a misspelled word that something is off. (You made an error, back up quick.) So my fingers dash across the keyboard correcting and tweaking words before I even register or think I spelled something wrong. 

The fluidity of these programs, the ease with which entire templates are upgraded and switched around, allows for a lot of wiggle room. A word isn't spelled wrong until it's in black and white, sent off in an email, or printed up on some professor or editor's desk. (And then beware, you idiot, after you had so many chances to spell it right!)

So, notorious speller that I am, imagine my surprise and chagrin, that some former middle school teachers of mine would think that I'm a fit character to mediate a junior high spelling bee. My last spelling bee appearance was in the sixth grade where I spelled the word 'friend' wrong, thank you very much, and that was the end of me. I will forever be haunted by the rule i before e, except after c.

Spelling bees afford the opportunity for great notoriety amongst your peers. Either you choke on a word like bankruptcy, or soar right on through, past words like wreckage, battalion, or dromedary. (Dromedary, defined for the curious, is a camel of unusual speed, bred and trained especially for riding.) 

Knowing that would have thrilled me as a kid, if only I could have gotten that far. If only I knew then, what I know now. Oh well, my spelling bee doldrums made me the extra-particular reader that I am today: enthralled with words of mysterious origins. 

I will never forget one of my favorite scenes in one of my most beloved movies: Anne of Green Gables. When Anne shows everyone up in a spelling bee by spelling the word chrysanthemum correctly. Classic!

Image info: I couldn't resist the maple blossoms in the top photo. Nature's first hue is coral around here. The next two images are of some hand painted and hand spun CVM romeldale fiber. 

The finished single ply I'm calling far far away. I got the pale turquoise color by submerging the fiber in the left-over dregs of the dye bath from the finished fiber beneath the skeins of yarn in the bottom image. It's amazing what subtle hues you can get from the leftovers. 

25 April 2009

what goes up

. . . must come down, down, down, baby. 

Let me tell you, I spent some time trying to come up with an idea for a photo shoot for these socks. This is Minnesota, nothing seemed to work with my underwater garden theme. All the ponds still have an edging of lacy ice, and the ground is still frozen in the shadows of the trees. 

My brother had the idea to climb a tree. Not very original, but there are a lot of them out here, and I thought it would look sorta bizarre with my feet sticking out into the blue nowhere. So I shoehorned myself into my summer blue jeans, rolled them up flood survivor-like, and followed my brother into the front yard. 

I'd climbed all these trees before, countless times while waiting for the school bus, or playing ghost around the house on summer nights. In theory, it should be easy to climb them today. I'm still limber, I'm still spry. 

I think my mistake was trying to climb them stocking-footed. I had to be careful, because I didn't want to snag the soles of my socks on the rough bark, and that threw my center of balance off. So anyway, I almost killed myself for the first photo. (Or at least sprained my thumb, I think, trying to hang on.)

But to no avail, my brother caught me on the way down. You know, in the movies, or on tv, people don't seem to fall hard, but I was coming down fast, let me tell you. Like a wool wrapped brick. Beneath the trees, as you can see, is a soft layer of moss. I love moss. I kept my feet firmly planted on it for the rest of the photos. 

The yarn, as I described in a previous post, is my own hand spun. CVM romeldale fiber is perfect to wear close to the skin. I know it's almost the end of April, but I may find use for them yet.

I was inspired to make these socks, by Lynn Vogel's wonderful book: The Twisted Sister's Sock Workbook. Check it out. 

24 April 2009

a color fix

No calls today for subbing, but I was up bright and early just the same. Spring time means I walk around the house with one eye toward the sky all day long. I woke to a hazy morning sunrise, but the weather forecasters are promising a thunderstorm by late afternoon. 

I hope they're right. My garden needs rain, the dusty roads and my father's new planted oat seeds, they all need rain. This morning we were talking about rain, about lightning to be specific. I read recently that every time lightning strikes the earth it fixes nitrogen in the soil. That's why it looks so green and fresh after a rainstorm. Yes, all of the plants just got a big gulp of water, but at the same time they also just got a fresh batch of nitrogen to feed their hungry roots and leaves.

Lightning is one of the ways mother nature 'fixes' the color green, and here I thought I was pretty snazzy with my dye pot and bottle of white vinegar. The fiber above and to the side comes from my mother's CVM romeldale sheep. I dyed it with red oaks in mind. There's one red oak tree that sits at the end of my parents' driveway, every fall it turns the most fantastic shade of golden molten burgundy. 

I plan on spinning fingering weight singles and then combining them for a worsted weight double ply yarn. We'll see what I end up with. It's never quite what I had planned. 

Pray for lightning, everyone. (And have a nice weekend.)

23 April 2009

Rhubarb Moon Snugs

We always had a garden when I was a kid. I can remember running through the rows of green beans, and tiptoeing through the asparagus beds looking for where the cat was hiding. The rhubarb patch always drew my eye. The plants, with their magenta stockings, always seemed to be plotting something more exciting than the dog days of summer. (A wild party down by the creek bed? A secret meeting in the strawberry patch?) 

Today the garden is an even more magical place for me. Last year for the first time I planted and really watched what I sowed. (Part of this experiment was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a wonderful memoir I read in the dead of winter 08.) The other part was because something just seemed missing from my summers. What was I supposed to be doing with my time, anyway? Trust me, a manageable garden is a far more exciting way to spend a summer evening than anything the networks have hatching on tv. 

So these snugs (based on Pick Up Sticks Big Snugs Pattern) grew out of my desire to be in my garden in the dead of this past winter. We really got walloped this year, with temperatures and wind chills way below zero. Using my own hand spun yarn, a rich chocolate brown and a creamy off white from my mother's CVM romeldale sheep, I followed the pattern as written. But after their spin/shrink through the washing machine I let my imagination take over. 

Using more of my cream-colored hand spun yarn, I needle-felted in vegetable, flower and insect shapes from my garden. Next, I filled the shapes with more pot dyed fiber of various colors and hues. I worked until my fingers cramped and my eyes were blurry. I added the summer moon, and friendly blue-black beetles. I just couldn't put them down. Finally, I sewed a soft leather pad on the bottom of each sole. 

And you can bet I wore the heck out the them these past few months--lucky for them I have my real garden to warm me now. 

20 April 2009


Creative collapse, chaos, calamity Jane, remember to press down on the clutch as we careen into high gear here at tendril and twine and try out new things. 'New things' is a pretty tame way of putting it. Hours spent sweating over the keyboard perplexed and confused, trying to nail something down that pleases you amidst the ever changing realm of cyberspace. And I can claim I grew up around computers!

After several hours in front of the computer this weekend, I had to step back and remind myself what inspired me to hurtle myself online in the first place: my love of knitting and fiber. Thank goodness knitting and spinning seem to be as hi-tech as they will ever get. 

Above is a felted (technically fulled) clutch I made some months ago with odds and ends of worsted weight yarn. The pattern comes from Melanie Falick's Weekend Knitting. Knitting it was a breeze, the hardest part was finding the right zipper and sewing it in. 

I actually tried to sew my zipper in place on my sewing machine. (The sewing machine still works, but I did sew over my finger.) In the end I sewed the zipper on by hand. 

After the finger mended, of course. 

18 April 2009

A Simple Plan

My afternoon started out with a simple plan to update the template on my blog. It quickly deteriorated into pure panic. As you can see things are a bit "up in the air" here at Tendril & Twine although, at least now this page looks vaguely familiar. Forty-five minutes ago my screen was filled top to bottom with black and white code. I'm hoping to find some semblance of order come evening, but can make no promises, save that I will not give up until I'm satisfied with a new layout. 

Hope your weekend is proving more relaxing.

14 April 2009

The Industrial Arts

Jitterbug Sock Yarn in Wasabi Squeeze 
ceramic dish by my cousin, Ashley, circa 2008

Today I subbed industrial arts and I had to tell a kid (several times) to get off stilts. The crazy thing is: I didn't even pause at the time to think about how abnormal my day job is. Less than five minutes later I had a different student tell me that I look like one of the actors from That Seventies Show and I didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted. Maybe I should rethink my hairstyle . . . it has been a while.
Misty Alpaca lace weight
tiny pots by my brother, Jacob, circa 2002

Another time, a few months ago, I had a student ask me if I liked canned oysters. A five year veteran of the subbing trade (a benchmark that makes me highly suspicious) I refused to give him a straight answer and instead asked him why he needed to know. "Because," he said as he patted his front shirt pocket. "I've brought a can of oysters for lunch." Eighth graders are bizarre. But I've been there. One of the reasons I like working with kids is because I'm reminded what it's like to be a kid. 
Opal hand painted sock yarn
vessel by my mother, Julie, circa 1976

I was watching the Jane Austen Book Club (based on the novel by Karen Joy Fowler) last night and, Prudy, one of the characters asserted that high school is never over. I completely agree with her. I will miss subbing when I start graduate school, it's kept me in touch with what's going on with the world. Having been a teacher I am now, more than ever, grateful to be a student again. 

The photos above are a teaser to some upcoming projects. I paired the yarns with some ceramics from my family's collection. I have a weakness for ceramic pieces, it's almost as bad as my weakness for natural fibers. 

13 April 2009


Like peanut butter and jelly and Batman and Robin, some things just go well together. They compliment each other. One, combined with the other, brings out the best aspects of both mediums. . .or personalities.

In this instance, I'm talking about the combination of mohair from our angora goats and fiber from our CVM romeldale sheep. Above is a bowl of washed mohair locks. Sometimes our goats look pretty scary. It's hard to believe that some hot water and a dash of soap can have such results on mohair fiber, but it works. 

Here's a basket of blended romeldale and mohair fiber. I worked them together on my mother's drum carder a few weeks ago. The resulting combination is soft and pliant. The mohair adds a silky texture and a gloss to the finished product. I'm going to spin something special out of this. 

10 April 2009


Not on yarn alone, my friends, does one survive. Although some days it seems that it's my knitting that's keeping me going more than anything else. Above is a shot of some broccoli seedlings I started in early March. 

Here in northern Minnesota we can't get out into our gardens until mid April. Even then you're pushing your luck, but that doesn't mean I won't try. I have all my seed packets sorted. I'm itching to put in a spring crop of spinach and lettuce. 

Above is a plate of assorted yarn. The central hank is my own hand spun, to the left is all that remains of a hank of Cascade Chunky Tweed. 

It being Friday afternoon, my brother and I are in cahoots over dinner. He insisted that we make French onion soup. I was fine with that, but the recipe calls for thyme sprigs, a herb we don't keep stocked in our cupboard. We have a sturdy clump of it outside in an herb bed, but it would be dormant now after the long winter, wouldn't it? 

I was really craving French onion soup, because I went out to dig. 

It didn't take me long to find some green shoots, and we woke to a hard frost this morning. Looks like big bowls of French onion soup with artisan bread and bubbly, golden homemade cheese all around folks.

Enjoy your weekend. (Check out your herb beds.)

08 April 2009

Away in a...plastic barrel

We've had our share of excitement here on the farm this spring, but this event crowns our birthing season. All of our mothers have delivered and my mother can finally get some sleep at night. 

The most recent addition to our barn is a trio of kids (baby goats) born to our angora goat, Bailey. Two boys and a little girl. The boys are fawn and white in color and the girl is a velvet black. Their squeaks add a different tone to the lamb's cries that already reverberate through the barn. 

This photo shows the snug little bed my father built for them. Despite their silky coats, baby goats tend to get chilled easily. The golden light comes from a heat lamp fixed to the top of the plastic barrel. I like the way the light glows through the sides of the plastic and down on the animals. It looks hi-tech, but it is the exact opposite.

If I were a kid myself I think I'd want to curl up next to them. 

07 April 2009

Beginner's Luck

 made from my Blackberry Wine hand spun

I taught myself how to knit as an undergrad in college. It's a long story, but part of my trek to class every day involved circumventing a building complex that contained a coffee shop, a flower shop, a wine shop, the district library, and a yarn shop.  A very potent combination.

I visited the yarn shop often, but as a non-knitter I was completely baffled by the projects on display. Surely the sweaters and mittens, even the hats, were way beyond my skill level. No one in my life knit, a few distant and dusty aunts might have crocheted. But no one was talking about that.

The yarn drew me in. At first I didn't touch, then I did touch, but only with one finger. Soon I was fondling the skeins and I guess I'm lucky the shop owner was a generous, understanding woman, because she showed no shock when one day on the spur of the moment (a week after I'd broken up with my first college boyfriend) I purchased a half mile of fine Shetland wool the color of the sunset. 

She wound the skeins into tidy cylinders (my dad's a farmer, they reminded me of big hay bales) and the yarn sat on my night stand for another month. Then I bought a beginner's book on knitting (and more yarn, of course) and taught myself how to cast on. 

Initially, my stitches were all inside out (if that makes sense.) But isn't that the way life goes? My beginner's luck still hasn't worn off.

05 April 2009

The guy in the fedora

I don't know if any of you have to worry about your brother losing his fake fingernail in the mozzarella cheese that he's making, like I did this afternoon. 

I'm just blessed to be surrounded by fascinating people I guess.

The fake fingernails: for his undergrad he studied classical guitar. Some of you might have seen an earlier blog that I posted about my sister's bridesmaid dresses, which brings me back to my brother, his name is Jacob, by the way, he's playing guitar in the wedding. Thus the four fake fingernails on his right hand. (Easier to pick strings with, or so I've heard.)

He's left his better half (Hi Traci) in Cincinnati for the summer. He's home to help my parents with a renovation project and hopefully to intern for an architectural firm in the Twin Cities. He too is studying Architecture. 

I took some pictures of his hat a few days ago. I'm going to be starting some new projects and I wanted to share the yarn with you. I'll divulge more in an upcoming post. (Just so you know, I added the feather. Creative license.)

04 April 2009

Milk & Wine


I wore my new cardigan yesterday over a crisp white blouse. I was subbing again, this time American Studies. I'm really going to miss being a substitute teacher when I go back to graduate school in the fall. There's so much variety in being a sub. (More work when you're the student.) I will be getting my masters in Architecture and Sustainable Design, two subjects I am very passionate about. I just hope I can keep up with my knitting, spinning and events on our farm. 

Speaking of animal husbandry, I have to run. One of our lambs, Stella, has fallen behind the rest in feeding and needs to be bottle fed. It's my turn to sit in the straw and whisper to her as she devours her breakfast. We all fight over the rights to that job out here. 

Happy weekend everyone.

CVM romeldale lambs

02 April 2009


You can't go wrong with vintage, whether its buttons or roses. In this instance it's both. My grandmother's vintage buttons (mismatched of course) and a dozen ivory roses courtesy of my sister. The roses arrived this afternoon at an opportune time. My sister dropped them off at the high school office while I was doing a combo sub job: half the day German, the other half choir. The sweater beside the blossoms has been a long time coming. Finally: my Blue Sky Alpaca Eyelet Cardigan.
As I alluded to above, the buttons were a gift from my grandmother. I wish I had a photo of the button jar that I hunted them out of. Are there any others out there who know the thrill of scrabbling through a pile of buttons looking for the perfect set? You find four that match, but the fifth is elusive and you have to make a creative decision: abandon your choice or go for slightly mismatched. I don't know if you can tell, but I choose slightly mismatched. The buttons are all shell with different edgings. One of my grandmother's maxims is to never throw away a button, I think I'm going to assume that maxim as well.

All of the buttons I choose still had bits of string and knots woven through them. Scraps of polyester and lace that I had to cut away. I wonder what garment they came from and where she wore it? I don't think anyone else will notice my mismatched, vintage buttons. They will be my secret. (Well, mine, and my grandmother's.)

01 April 2009

Scuba Socks

These socks have been a riot to knit up. I'm using single ply fingering weight yarn spun from the Underwater Garden roving in my previous post. I'm delighted with the way the yarn is striping. It gets even better at the heel. The colors shift slightly, bringing in coral and mauve tones beside the turquoise and blue. 
Sushi rolls of fiber. I can't wait to see how the next sock plays out . . . I must have a low tolerance for adventure because stuff like this always keeps me on the edge of my seat. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...