29 June 2010

toasty twist socks

It's been a long time since I've knit a pair of socks, but I couldn't resist this pattern when I saw it on Ravelry. So far it's been easy to read and fun to knit. I'm almost done with the first sock.

The twisted stitch that forms the spiral around the sock is a new discovery for me. I love its simplicity.

25 June 2010

feline approval

How is it that the cat always knows which object in the house is the subject of the most creative energies . . . and therefore moves to roll about on said object whenever the opportunity presents itself?

My feather and fan throw is now 60% complete. We have a camping trip and a long drive coming up at the end of the month, which means I should be binding off and sewing up loose ends soon.

23 June 2010

just spinningly

This weekend I worked with some fiber that almost seemed to spin itself . . . almost.

I don't know if it's a good thing to say that about a type of fiber, when it seems like hand-spinners are perhaps one of the only groups of people I know that love the challenge of hand crafting their medium through hours of processing and hard work.

Maybe this batch of yarn seemed to go so "spinningly" because of the over-the-top, luxurious results that I got from my efforts.

This fiber is 60% creamy CVM romeldale wool and 40% kid mohair. I'll get a natural example of this fiber up on the blog soon.

21 June 2010

knitting + hammock = bliss

I spent some time by the lake at a cabin in Wisconsin this weekend and participated in the usual "cabin activities." I attempted to canoe across the lake with my mother as a navigator only to discover that we were both exhausted when we got to the far side . . . too bad we had to row back.

That happens every year when we go camping.

I watched others attempt to catch fish off the dock and saw several sunfish reeled in. (Tonight we'll be eating some of those fish at our grill out.)

I sat in the shadow of the cabin drinking beer and watched as one of my cousins got thoroughly skunked by his wife in a game of washers. (That's where you throw a really large washer at a bucket in a wooden frame. 3 points for the bucket, 1 point for the frame.)

Then, when no one was looking, I grabbed my knitting a tiptoed out to the hammock by the edge of the lake. It was one of those impossible days in Wisconsin where there were actually no mosquitoes buzzing around your ears.

I love summer.

17 June 2010


As promised, here's a preview of the new project I'm working on using the yarn from the partially completed socks I was working on last fall and talked about in my previous post. The pattern comes from Beth Ann Paustian of Black Purl Designs : Sock it to Me Baby.

This little sweater is addicting, but I've had to pause indefinitely as I've run out of yarn and I'm hunting for more. Hopefully I'll have found some in time for the weekend, if not, I've got more than enough knitting to keep my fingers busy.

16 June 2010

design camp + knitting

This week I'm working as a teaching assistant at a design camp for a local twin cities school. The students I'm working with range from first to fifth grade.

Our design goals for the week are to teach the kids design principles and process, while at the same time, helping their teachers incorporate what we in the studio call "design thinking" into their teaching curriculum.

We're helping them to design and build "gathering places" on the grassy lot and nature area behind their school. First we'll investigate the site through sketching, photography and note taking, next we'll help them build study models out of collected materials, and finally we'll help them build full scale structures.

Should be a blast, these kids are so creative.

Anyway, the entire design process and thought behind it always brings me back to my knitting and spinning. Designers, whether of buildings or knitwear, (and I'd like to do both) go through the same process.

Knitting has helped me immensely in architecture school. I'm not afraid to take what I've learned from a project and set it aside to explore a new aspect of an idea. (Just like I'm not afraid to frog 3/4 or a sweater . . . well, I said I wasn't "afraid" but I do sometimes get frustrated.)

They say that "designers fail faster and better," and it makes me think back to some of the projects I've started and my own learning process to complete them has required me to rip them apart at several stages.

Anyway, this may be a tangent . . . but I can see the connections between design camp and knitting. You can bet I'll have a knitting project in my bag today and that I'll be working on it during my lunch break.

P.S. the images in this post are of a pair of socks that I was working on at a wedding I attended at a Wisconsin vineyard last fall. I've completely unraveled them and now I'm using the yarn to make a striped baby sweater. I'll have some images of that project in my next post.

09 June 2010

slugs, bugs and beer

I want lace on my knitting needles, but not in my garden.

To bring you up to speed: this year I'm tending an urban garden in my boyfriend's backyard. (He graciously donated about a third of his yard to this project so I can't have BUGS eating my plants!)

Currently most of my broccoli plants and a handful of my bean sprouts look the delicate lace leaves of a hand knit shawl. The culprits, I suspect are two varieties of beetles and a clan of slugs . . . well, not to mention the rabbits . . . but they seem to be afraid of the garden hose. So I have a handle on the rabbits . . . I think.

Never get to cocky about your garden. That's rule number one.

Rule number two is expect the unexpected. With this new garden on a new site in the city I knew I would be coming up against many unknowns. For instance, the soil that I found beneath the sod in the backyard seemed rich and loamy. It's filled with earthworms and plant matter, but I still don't know whether it will have the right matrix to sustain hearty vegetables.

I've brought in some compost from my parents' farm and started a compost pile of my own in the back of the lot, but the success of this garden will take time. I just want to see my plants grow into their blossoms so that they have a chance to produce fruits.

To do that I have to outsmart the bugs, slugs and rabbits. Like I noted earlier, the rabbits seem to be afraid of the garden hose I've wrapped around our tiny garden, but ultimately I'll probably need a short fence. The bugs and slugs are my immediate concern. I've tried a mild soapy spray on the leaves of my plants, because I will not use chemicals.

What seems to be working the best, however, is beer. A dollop of beer in the array of ceramic coffee cups that I have strategically placed around the garden. I found the coffee cups stashed in Garrett's garage. (He doesn't use these cups because they have a rim of metallic glaze that makes them spark in the microwave.)

The slugs don't mind. They seem to love slithering over that silver edge and plopping into the frothy pool of golden liquid I've set out for them. Too bad once they're in they can't get out!

Ah, the adventure and anxiety of a garden.

07 June 2010

a weekend at the wheel

This past weekend was gray and rainy, perfect for the garden and for time spent at the spinning wheel. On Saturday afternoon, my mother, my cousin and I sat in a cozy room off my parent's kitchen and spun yarn as lightning flashed across the sky and pinged off the tin roof.

Progress is also being made on my feather and fan throw. I spun some more chocolate brown worsted weight yarn for the spacing between the colorful yarns that make up this project.

I recruited both my mother and my cousin to each spin a skein of yarn for this throw, so the finished object will be a group effort.

I think that's the best way to make a large project. When it's finished this throw is going to stay at my mom and dad's house. Whenever one of us snuggles underneath it we'll think about this spring's sheep, the colors we spun up and the memories we shared.

05 June 2010

things a farm girl should know . . .

I keep on forgetting my grandma Lolly didn't grow up on a farm. Sometimes I expect her to know things that a farm girl should know, like how to treat slugs in the garden.

(She told me to stick a rusty nail close to the stem down near the roots of my tomato plants. That's for cutworms, so she was on the right track and I can't find fault with her desire to help.)

No, grandma grew up in town, the daughter of the owner of a small gas station. She and my grandpa farmed a small dairy farm later on, but that she married into, so she can't claim she was a farm girl.

And I don't think she'd want to.

My grandma Lolly is known for her watermelon lipstick, baked chicken and petal pushers. She was my first boss. When I was fifteen she taught me how to count back change to weekend campers at a local RV resort.

My sister and another cousin worked with us and I don't think we'll ever forget grandma Lolly laughing and shouting at us for some of the practical jokes we played on her. (Like fixing things to the ceiling fan and waiting for her to flip the switch and turn it on, or the time we all smeared on her watermelon lipstick and waited for her to notice our movie star lips.)

It took her fifteen minutes.

I'm home for the weekend, so grandma Lolly and grandpa Bob came over for dinner. Grandma Lolly brought one of her signature desserts. Her signature being to never bring the same thing twice. This new recipe was a daring improvisation from Country Woman or some other magazine. A confection of crushed nuts, coconut, pudding and whipped cream.

"Just something new." She told us. "Just something different for once."

Meanwhile the chickens were running around the yard outside the kitchen window. Grandma looked up and suddenly shouted.

"That roaster is attacking that hen. Look at it!"

We looked. No, we had to tell her, what she was seeing was something more along the lines of affection between the roaster and one our egg-laying hens.

"I suppose," grandma Lolly said, "this is a farm after all."

Yes it is, grandma. Yes it is.

P.S. The top image is of a card I illustrated for my cousin Ashley's birthday and the fiber is some yarn I spun last night . . . while I was watching the chickens chase each other across the yard.

The colorway is called Barn Raising, which is appropriate for this farm girl, I think.

03 June 2010

barn notes : lil jenny (not jilly)

Some of you may remember our donkey, Betty Lou. We got her last winter from a friend who basically gave her to us because she needed space in her barn and knew that our farm would be a good place for one of her animals.

Well, Betty Lou has grown on us . . . after a fashion.

Initially, we thought she would be a good addition to our farm because she could serve as a guard donkey for the sheep. But this spring when our lambs were born, she took one look at those cute, wobbly bundles of wool and tried to stomp them to death with her sharp donkey hooves.

That's right, we're lucky my mom, Julie, was in the barn. Because Betty was going after those lambs with blood and brimstone in her eyes. I don't think she had anything against lambs, maybe she'd never seen one before.

Anyway, after that Betty Lou wound up in another cow yard - with the bulls. (And yes, she held her own just fine.)

I think everyone has been so focused on the lambs that we forgot that Betty Lou was expecting herself . . . though no one knew exactly when.

About a week ago my dad went out to check on his cows, he does this a couple times a day, and he saw a strange creature standing behind Betty Lou. A little baby "donkeyette" with short donkey legs and a large donkey head with wide, soulful donkey eyes.

Baby donkeys are the cutest things.

We're lucky Betty is the gentlest of mothers . . . perhaps we'll be able to mix the sheep and the donkeys soon. We're naming the baby donkey Jenny, after my twin sister. I was supposed to be able to name her, and after I heard Jenny was promoting Jenny, I tried to push for Jilly.

I didn't have any luck, though.

01 June 2010

knitting in appropriate places

It's finally summer vacation for me and that means I'm spending a lot more time with my knitting needles. I've finished a few projects and started some new ones. Some people might find it strange that I knit all summer long.

Perhaps to the general public knitting seems like a winter or fall "sport" not something one would choose to do during the summer. Wool and 90 degree weather are not exactly compatible - and we've already weathered some pretty hot days here in Minnesota.

A few weeks ago I had a funny conversation with my boyfriend, Garrett. (His summer sport is volleyball. On a side note, I like to play with him . . . but there's always this fear in the back of my mind that I might sprain or jamb a finger and that would interfere with the knitting, you know.)

Anyway back to our conversation. He said he was going to play volleyball and I said "great, I'll come with. I'll sit and watch, try to soak up some sun . . . and I'll bring my knitting."

I was pretty excited about this. Not only would I be entertained by the sport and my project, but there was also the prospect of a cold beer and some tacos after my fingers were worn out.

Garrett seemed to find the idea of a young woman knitting beside a sand volleyball court on a hot summer day sorta funny. Now, ladies, he has so many other wonderful facets to his personality that I didn't tell him off or leave in a huff, trailing a spill of brightly colored yarn. I brought my knitting bag with us to the volleyball game and did some thinking along the way.

My thoughts were about people who knit. Here are my reflections: if you happen to enter a room with a lot of people and find one person, say a women, knitting chances are she's making something beautiful and has an entertaining story to tell about the project or its recipient.

Chances are she's educated and successful in some way - and I don't just mean she makes a lot of money or has a college degree, success is measured on so many levels. She's probably happy or at least happy with the project she's working on if it's going well.

My point is: if I walk into a room with a lot of people and I see someone with a bag of yarn and knitting needles, I'm very likely to gravitate toward them and start up a conversation. "What are you making? What's the stitch pattern? Who are you making it for?" Yadda yadda yadda. And before you know it, you've made a connection and you've learned something new.

I'm not going to worry any more about knitting in appropriate places, I'm just going to bring my knitting and dig in.

The images in this post are of a current project. The pattern is a simple four row repeat of a feather and fan stitch, the fiber is a variety of hand spun, hand painted and store bought yarns.
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