30 May 2009

here's looking at you, kid

I spent last evening watching Casablanca and making paper crafts. 

Knitters often put so much effort into their knitted projects that there isn't enough time for fussing with the wrapping of the gift they've invested their creative energies in. 

It's true, at the end of many of my knitting ventures I often end up shoving the finished knitted object at its recipient with little more than an incoherent grumble and some choppy gestures. 

I gave myself a lot of leeway on this project. 

As I mentioned in a post a few months ago, my sister is getting married this spring. (In two weeks, to be exact.) Tonight we're having a girl's night out and tomorrow there's a shower at my cousin's house. 

My sister's colors are all shades of blue. I tried to wrap this gift with her colors in mind. I like the way the satin ribbon and the tweed yarn look against the brown paper wrapping. They say that god is in the details, and my sister loves embellishments and finishing touches. 

Knowing that this gift will soon be unwrapped I couldn't help but snap a few photos. I'm a sucker for anticipating the comfort and joy (I hope) she and her soon-to-be husband will get from this gift. 

I can't wait to share it with you all in just a few days. Cheers!

29 May 2009

i capture the crochet hook

Things have gotten a bit crazy here at tendril/twine as I attempt to finish everything on my 'to do' list before I start my summer classes at the University of MN on June 15. I always meant to learn how to crochet, now I am being forced to master some of the basic technique in a matter of days.

Single crochet, double crochet . . . I got myself a beginner's manual and attempted some of the knotted fingerwork with a hank of fine wool, but ended up with a piece of tightly worked knots that I will only be using as scrap . . . or perhaps a doorstop. Possibly a heavy duty pot scrubber. 

I had a far more generous learning curve when I started knitting, at least it wasn't as steep as a rock face. By the time knitting night rolled round I was quite proud of my (I shall dub it) slip stitch which I was generating with a lot of tugging and gritting of teeth.

My friends at knitting, many of whom are steady crocheters, were not impressed. All of my stitches were a fright and I was ordered to pull them out at once. I was then 'retaught.'

Luckily, the teaching stuck.

I can now merrily complete single and double crochets that actually look like crochet. My top secret project is now nearing completion. Too bad this blog doesn't have audio, I'd like to dub in a mad cackle. 

25 May 2009

by the wind swept

Today the wind swept almost all of the apple blossoms away. 

The flowers that remain are fragile, faded and bruised. Their petals are scattered across the lawn and wilting in the furrows of my garden. The perfume of apple blossoms is almost unbearable. The trees must know that the flowers will soon be gone, therefore they are giving off one last drenching of scent. I'm sure the smell of our apple blossoms will carry into the next township. 

At the start of such a day I was in a rush to finish my Bella Mittens. Inspired by the mittens the character Bella wears in the movie Twilight, based on the bestselling novel by the same name by Stephenie Meyer. I couldn't help but throw myself into the symbolism of forbidden fruits. 

A few red apples and a couple of star-crossed lovers would have been nice at this juncture, but having none of those 'props' on hand, the fading blossoms seemed like the perfect backdrop. 

This pattern is a free download on Ravelry, and it gets five stars from me. Easy to follow and lovely when finished. 

Made from our own hand spun these mittens are unbelievably soft and pliable. (And I'm not just saying that - they are!) I love the way the cables pop in this natural color. These mittens were a practice run with this fiber, now I'm going to start spinning for a sweater. 

Something with lots of twining cables.

24 May 2009

a napoleon in the garden

 . . . be a _________ in the kitchen, a __________ in the bedroom and a napoleon in the garden. 

I'll allow you to fill in the beginning of this phrase according to your own discretion and mood. Mad Lib your hearts out. Various words will do, but I think the last part of the phrase holds true. 

I have discovered planting a garden takes a lot of strategic planning and maneuvering. Certain vegetables compliment one another, onions and marigolds form a good front line and its always a good idea to have a bumper crop of sacrificial eggplants. 

Call me a cold-hearted general . . . a napoleon even . . . but since I don't believe in dumping toxic chemicals on my plants, strategic planting, 'marigold foot soldiers', and bastions of onions and garlic are my primary defense. 

(Of course an electric rabbit and deer proof fence doesn't hurt either.)

P.S. As you can see - despite the 'friendly fire' -  I'm managing to get some cables done on my mittens. Yesterday, I lost them in the strawberry patch, but no worries, I found them after some frantic searching.  (I also discovered a bunch of lovely blossoms.)

P.S.S. I order many of my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange out of Decorah, Iowa. I swear, every seed holds true and you can't beat their selection. Tally ho!

23 May 2009

a week in wonders

I spent the entire winter daydreaming about my garden. 

I've bemoaned it before, but it bears repeating: it gets cold here in Minnesota. So cold it's sometimes hard to imagine that there is such a phenomenon as summer, and that it will come round again, as soon as the seasons shift and change. 

This past December was bitterly cold. Our forest was trapped in an icy stillness for days and days. No wind, just beautiful, perfect ice and snow. 

One of the coldest days in December found my brother and I in the forest taking pictures of some felted balls I made for my portfolio. When I needle felted them in November my thoughts were on seeds and my garden and the mysterious and myriad ways the forest stores and stacks its seeds in various packages.

Our fingers all but froze off as we tromped through the snow, arranging the balls and admiring the light. 

I can remember, I was so cold that I was wishing for summer, but at the same time it was difficult not to admire the elegant structure of the forest reveled by the cold. The lay of the land, accented by the snow. 

You should see my house on this late day in May, there are seed packets scattered on every surface. The garden is waiting in the side yard, halfway planted. It's funny now that I should be thinking of winter, when spring is finally everywhere. 

I think Andrew Wyeth put it perfectly when he said:

"I prefer winter and fall, when you can feel the bone structure in the landscape...Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show. "

I know I wouldn't love the winter as much if I couldn't witness the overflowing frenzy of summer. The apples trees at the end of the garden are so filled with the buzzing of bees that I wouldn't be surprised if they suddenly took flight, trailing their tendriling roots and spattering dirt like confetti. 

I wonder where my apples would end up?

21 May 2009

the fairy road

'Over hill, over dale, through bush, through brier,
over park, over pale, through flood, through fire, 
I do wonder everywhere, swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen . . . '

Shakespeare : A Midsummer Night's Dream

My idea of fairies probably doesn't jive with yours.

I mean, when I was a kid, I used to imagine that they were all nice and sweet and lived in strawberry patches with wild rabbits, but now I have a different picture of fairies in my head. 

This picture has been informed by the novels of Charles De Lint and Holly Black. My fairies could be nice, or they could trick you out of life and limb. They could beguile you off the beaten path and into a nasty patch of poison oak or an endless bog. 

I guess you're wondering why I would think about naming a skein of yarn after a bunch of rotten fairies. 

Well, I like the idea of magic and risk. 

I like imagining that if I walked a fairy road by moonlight I might run into a few minor problems, like an old woman with an apple or a trio of cloaked fairies trailing nightshade blossoms, but, that I would return home safely to snuggle into my bed. Perhaps with a fairy charm to tuck under my pillow and stories to tell my grandchildren. 

So, I'm naming this skein of yarn the fairy road. This is one of the skeins that I spun while sitting and chatting with people at Shepherd's Harvest. I have 270 yards here, worsted weight. I plan on combining it with some of my other hand spun to make a shawl. Something simple, yet intricate. 

Something to wear for a twilight walk on midsummer's eve. 

(And I hope I won't provoke any fairies.)

19 May 2009

what's in your tool kit?

Surprisingly, these days, more than just a hank of yarn and a clutch of mismatched knitting needles. I started knitting because I wanted to hold the color and texture of beautiful yarns in my hands. 

Every time I visited a yarn shop I was attracted to the display cases and arrangement of yarns. The way the skeins hung from wooden knobs in cascades of contrasting or complementing colors. I didn't want to buy just by one hank of yarn (which was all I could afford) I wanted the entire display to be in my home so that I could look at it all the time. 

Later on, as my confidence grew, and I progressed through my knitting repertoire, conquering mittens, hats, sweaters and socks, I found my aptitude grew in other areas as well. 

Unexpected areas. 

A good friend once told me there was no high comparable to the exhilaration a knitter feels after turning the heel of their first sock. She described knitting in design terms. The finished piece was a structure with shape and dimension. 

A sock is a beautiful thing too; designed perfectly for its function and use. Extraordinary! I think, for all of us crazy knitters who knit compulsively, that sometimes the skill of our craft is lost on us because we do it all the time. But socks rock!

Ahem, where was I? My confidence grew in other areas . . . and I wondered what else I might construct and not just out of yarn. So, this summer I'll be starting my masters in Architecture and Sustainable Design. 

Heels might not be walls and windows, but I feel that with a good pair of hand knit socks on my feet I can do anything. 

An image of a pair of socks would be good here, but all I have to share with you are a few photos of some hand spun I finished this morning. Hot off the spinning wheel: our stone gray top. It turned out beautifully. I double plied it and will be making mittens out of it as soon as it dries after setting the twist. 

18 May 2009

fiber hive

It was waiting on the doorstep when I got home from work. A nondescript cardboard box that I all but fell upon as soon as I saw it. As some of you may know, we've been waiting anxiously for this delivery: the first batch of this season's washed and combed CVM romeldale top. 

I didn't know what to expect, but I was expecting big things and big is what I got. Can you believe the size of this fiber hive? I took a picture of it next to one of the large trees in our front yard to illustrate its size. 

There's about fifteen pounds of fiber here, enough to keep me busy for quite a while. And we have two more colors coming back to us that haven't arrived yet. This batch spins up into a tweedy stone gray with flecks of charcoal and ivory.  

I am in fiber heaven and it sounds like the fast whir of my spinning wheel or a thousand bees in the hive. 

I want to make a little nest out of this fiber and live in it forever. But I expect I'll get too hot, so I guess I'll just spin it into lots of sweaters, hats and socks. 

My first project is going to be a lovely pair of cabled mittens. I'm spinning as fast as I can . . . you could even say I'm as busy as a hive of bees . . . so I should have something to share with you soon. 

P.S.  Inspired by the fiber frenzy in our household, my brother has decided that he wants to learn how to spin as well. He'll be joining the gals and me tomorrow night out on the front porch of our local yarn shop for a little impromptu spinning lesson. 

Should be an educational week here at tendril/twine. 

16 May 2009


How is it, I ask you, that the animals in our lives seem to sense when an object is special to us and then persist to roll all over said object, thus infecting it with their hair, odor and various dried seed pods and bugs?

Let me introduce you to the culprit: Jackson, our chocolate lab of mysterious origins. (Wrapped in a scarf a friend brought back for me from Paris.)

I say mysterious origins because he came to us as a rescue dog from the kennel. We don't know how old he is, or the place where he spent his puppyhood. Like many rescue animals, he has formed a strong attachment to my mother, his primary caregiver, and in her absence, to whoever is in the house at the time. He's petrified of thunderstorms and huddles close when anything rumbles.

Recently, Jack has formed the very naughty habit of perching in all our favorite places whenever we leave the house. If a door isn't shut tightly he curls right on top of our bed pillows.

Yesterday he pitched a picnic on top of one of my very special finished objects. (It's something I can't show you yet, but soon. Very soon.) He could have laid anywhere on the bed, but he choose to settle himself right on top of my knitting. Why? 

My sister has a cat who does the very same thing to any of her quilting projects. She sits right on top of the pieces she has spread out across the floor. My only guess is that animals sense when something is special to us and they want in on the experience. 

Or maybe they're giving us their approval? Or maybe (especially with cats) they just want to vex us? 

You can bet I won't leave these socks unattended for long. I'm almost finished with the second, and calling them chicken scratch socks in honor of our new chicken coop here on the farm and the fact that the 'v's in the lace pattern remind me of tiny chicken feet. (These are the socks I was working on at Shepherd's Harvest.) The lace pattern is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Gull Pattern, familiar to anyone who owns a copy of the Knitter's Almanac. The fiber in the apple tree is some of my hand painted, hand spun roving. 

Can you see the tiny sheep in the background? 

(No dogs were harmed in this photo shoot, but they did get taken for a long jaunt afterwards.)

14 May 2009

flat out

A special thanks to Sandy of Winterwind Farm and all of the wonderful fiber-lovers who visited our stand at Shepherd's Harvest this past weekend. 

It's taken me a few days to recover, I can tell you that. Too much stimulation. Too much fiber, texture, color and fuzzy animals. As you can see I'm flat out. 

The curious may wonder if I managed to to find time to walk around and knit my sock as promised. The answer is yes, and boy did I get a response. Several people were very impressed with my knitting dexterity and I somehow managed to avoid diving into a display of discount yarn arranged in boxes spread out across the floor in the corner of building C. 

A very narrow escape. 

I feel compelled to be honest and fess up that knitting and walking wasn't as fun as I thought it would be. My eyes were drawn to the people around me and the displays of wonderful wares, not to my knitting project. I was relieved when I finally allowed myself to stuff my knitting in my tote and let my eyes devour the feast before me. 

It won't come around again for another year. 

As for today, the grass was very appealing. I was tempted, for a short while, to stretch out under the apple blossoms and just heave a sigh of relief. Spring is well under way, and summer just around the corner. 

We got a call yesterday, from our fiber people. Our cleaned and combed top is being shipped. All of our wonderful, earth-toned, shades of fiber ready for spinning and knitting. 

I'm just going to close my eyes and enjoy the anticipation. (As you can see, I've drawn quite an audience.)

08 May 2009

fest fest

It's down to the line here at tendril/twine and Crosby Hill Farm. The living room is a maze of overturned boxes spilling out fiber, hand-wound balls of colored roving rolling about and spinning wheels set to warp speed. 

We're scrambling to create some sort of card that describes our farm, fiber and animals. My mother has been scanning the National CVM Conservancy and the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association looking for a good one-liner.

I still have to bake a few dozen chocolate chip cookies, and pack some other goodies to snack on while at the festival, not to mention gather all my clothes and spinning paraphernalia. Plus, I'm scheduled to sub choir later this afternoon, so I'm sorta in a tizzy. 

We'll make it to the festival, I'm sure about that. I'm just not certain what I'll be wearing and if I'll have my head screwed on straight. Cheers!

07 May 2009

bold knitters from fierce climates

I'm impressionable. One of the things that really struck me my first visit to Shepherd's Harvest three years ago was the women walking around knitting socks as they perused the booths at the festival. 

Walking and knitting at the same time. And socks no less! 

How did they do this? Many of them had children in tow, or perhaps a baby fastened to their back. How did they manage to look so serene and confident while completing a task that took me hours of steady concentration while planted firmly on my bottom with minimal and no distractions? 

How did they keep their fingers and stitches in order whiles somehow not dropping one of their needles, or, worse yet, dropping a stitch? (Or even worse worse yet: the baby.) I mean, I can see knitting a scarf, or a dishcloth, but socks? And every single person I saw was knitting a sock, I made sure to check. 

Is there some unspoken rule that if one chooses to walk around and knit at the same time, the best thing to knit is a sock without losing face? Some unspoken code amongst knitters? 

To discover these answers for myself I'm joining the throng this year. I'm going to attempt to walk around and knit a sock . . . well maybe for a little while. The moment I crash into someone or collide with a sales display I promise to stop. 

Here's a preview of my project, some hand painted yarn I made at my last knitting circle. I'm calling the colorway Mandan Bride, after some colorful corn I'm growing in my garden this summer. 

I started the toe sitting down, but I plan on knitting the rest standing up. 

(Maybe I'll be bumping into you at the festival this weekend.)

06 May 2009

I'll be in the yurt

Rumor has it (and also the event's schedule) there will be a real Kazakh Yurt at Shepard's Harvest this year. This little fact has intrigued me ever since I browsed the events schedule in mid-January. 

I was happy to learn that there would be spinners galore at the festival, plus an assortment of of natural fibers and yarns. I'm interested in procuring one of those devices that holds my bobbins so that I can spin triple ply yarn. I'm excited about the fiber sandwich and all of the wonderful food, but a real Kazakh Yurt -- that's just over the top. 

It really captured my imagination, is what I mean to say. When I was a kid, my brother and sister and I, and several of our cousins, built this tepee-like structure out in our woods. Here's what we did, we took a bunch of fifteen foot, fallen tree branches and leaned them all up against the central trunk of one large basswood tree. In that manner we got a circular structure with a steeply sloped ceiling (made from all those branches.)

I think everyone was happy with the result, but I was fascinated. I really wanted to live out there. I wanted to build a little fire, fry up some eggs and snuggle into the curve of the tree roots for the night. I could bring out some blankets and perhaps that recliner that my mother was threatening to throw out anyway, and stay until the frost hit and snow blanketed everything. 

In case you're wondering, the structure still stands. I visited it about a week ago. Some of the  larger branches have fallen, and all of the sticks have acquired a silver patina of age, but I can still fit inside of it. 

There are bluebells on the floor and a carpet of spongy moss. 

Again, I considered living out there, but the acquired prudence of comfort that comes with age stopped me pretty quick. It's a long way out for an internet connection. 

So anyway, I'm highly curious about the yurt that will be set up this weekend at Shepherd's Harvest. The kid in me might want to stay all day, scramble some eggs for dinner and camp out that night under the stars . . . 

This project is made from some shetland roving purchased at last year's festival. I pot-dyed it in various shades of green, teal, aqua, moss, rust and tan, then spun it into a single ply worsted weight yarn. 

The pattern comes from Spin Off magazine Summer 08, titled Morning Surf Scarf

Mine is more of a wrap . . . a forest wrap. 

04 May 2009

Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival

We're definitely getting excited around here at Crosby Hill Farm. In less than a week we'll be attending the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival, an annual event for fiber enthusiasts held at the fair grounds near Lake Elmo, in Stillwater, MN. 

As some of you know, our fiber history began at Shepherd's Harvest three years ago, when my mother fell in love with a lamb named Julia. She later bought some sheep (and yadda yadda yadda plus a lot of hard work) here we are today with lambs dancing around in our barnyard and overflowing baskets of soft fiber to sell. 

This year, Sandy, of Winterwind Farm, invited us to participate in a sales booth at the festival. We'll be selling CVM romeldale fiber from both our farms, plus mohair from our collection of colored angora goats. Our stock has grown out of Sandy's -- a luxurious and gorgeous lot!

If you're attending the festival I hope you'll stop by and say hello. I imagine I'll be spending a lot of my time in the booth, with my spinning wheel and a basket of fiber to work up. I'm looking forward to experimenting with all of the various types of fiber available at the festival. Sometimes its nice to just sit back and spin something that someone else has prepared for you. 

Here's one of our lambs, mugging for a photo. The other image displays three shades of freshly shorn CVM romeldale fiber taken near the end of February.  Since then the fiber has been washed and combed. 

Over the course of the next week I'm going to be previewing some projects on tendril/twine, projects that grew out of last year's festival and fiber purchases. I think one of the main reasons why I love the festival so much is because of its inspirational and educational quality. 

I leave there with more than enough ideas to keep me busy for an entire year. 

02 May 2009

some bitter greens

"And therefore since I cannot prove a lover
to entertain these fair well-spoken days, 
I am determined to prove a villain . . ."

What would you prepare for a dinner in honor of reading Shakespeare's Richard III? 

Tonight our menu is darkly plotted. We've joked around about preparing a savory pot roast, still bloody, sided, perhaps, with a few bitter greens tossed in herbed vinegar. Of course, there would also be hunks of crusty bread and goblets of dark red wine.  Lots of goblets of dark red wine, eaten in a tower haunted by ghosts. (An imaginary tower.)

I've insisted we make chocolate souffle for dessert using the fresh eggs from our chickens and a bar of - you probably guessed it - bitter dark chocolate. 

To start off the festivities we're watching Al Pacino's Looking for Richard, a 1997 documentary about the making of a production of Richard III in London. The documentary is led and directed by Pacino. 

The cast includes Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey and Aidan Quinn. There's even a cameo by James Earl Jones. It's fantastic and gripping. Shakespeare's Richard has to be one of the best villains of all time. And the way Pacino plays him . . . you just love to hate him. 

You've see these socks before, my sweetheart socks from Interweave knits Holiday 2007. I let them slip for about a month, but now I'm back on top of them. 
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