Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm sorry I've been so cranky....

It's Christmas Eve and that means all of the holiday rushing and hustling is behind me and also, now that a couple of my kiddos are getting into adulthood (which I keep reminding them is totally overrated), means I have all 3 Things at home - yay!  I wish I could say that the holiday hustling being over is because I accomplished all I set out to do, satisfied every need, and made everything alright and well in the world but, alas, I fell short in so many ways.  Nah, it all comes down to a respect for deadlines. 

I think this comes along with being self-employed.  It doesn't really just 'come along', it's something you cultivate over time - often after many attempts to do more than you ever can and find yourself totally spent, completely saddened and feeling like a failure.  Sure, you can dust yourself off and try again but, over time, you get tired of that, too.  So, the wise person (or the one just beaten down by this repeated experience and desperate for a change) realizes there are tools and tricks to make things more efficient.  The wiser person realizes that you have to know when to stop.  When to call it done, even if you know you can do so much better.  After 4 layers of frosting on your daughter's fairy cake because you are sure you can do better on a wing - you realize that this level of tenacity for 'better' is a bit whacky.  Don't ask me how I know.  So, I try to operate with some mental picture of a target.  Then, an "I would really like to have x, y & z done by this date/time," then, "omg, this is due now!".  Then, the release - you've done the best you can, you've run the race, it's time to let the chips fall where they may.  Noon on Christmas Eve is my stopping point.  What is done is done.  What is not, well, it goes on my list of things I didn't get done.  I'm really still learning that letting the chips fall bit but it is so much harder than it sounds.

So, between shopping, all the holiday preparations, working, and getting around the school schedules, the transportation issues, and the ice storms, even a simple trip to acquire food for the family leaves me feeling growly.  But, that's not at all the kind of cranky I'm here to show you.  I was a little flabergasted this year when all three things requested socks and knits for presents.  We've just started to migrate out of those early teen years wherein it apparently became very embarrassing to wear your mom's handknits.
Thing 1 grew out of it quickly so I've been knitting for her for years but the boys have proven to be a challenge.  I cranked out a few pairs each of some simple black socks and maroon socks (their school colors) and knew those would be a go, but not very interesting color wise, huh?

So, for Thing 1, I pulled out the new EKF self-striping sock yarns - this was the intro to self striping that was the Happy Hooves Yarn Club feature last month.  The new colors will have 3-5 stripes of color in each sock.  I have to say, this is seriously laborious as a dyer and not without tears figuring the whole thing out and adapting my equipment to work but totally worth it!  While I was testing batches, getting used to the winding procedure and generally hating the process those first few times, I kept thinking, "this can't be worth it all."  I mean, how simple is is to just change colors when you need a new stripe?  But, then there's all the weaving in of ends, etc. and then, on the 3rd try when I achieved color striping perfection?   I totally got it.  There is just a rhythm and joy to knitting along on a simple sock stitch and having a rainbow of colors unfold.  And, by rainbow, I don't mean strictly bright, typical rainbow colors - the possibility of color options is endless and each round is a thrill - getting to the next one to change color again.  It made the hand knit socks go so much faster and, on the sock knitting machine - it was just pure, wicked fun!  These are for Thing 1 but Things 2 & 3 liked them so much, I cranked them a pair too.  We're at 7 pairs so far - I told you I was cranky!

Then I have my x-moose present to myself - a pair of  socks in my 'Cheshire Cat' colorway.  I love this colorway so much I could knit it over and over.  And, I have.  This is my 3rd pair in this colorway and the first I will keep for myself.  These socks go with EVERYTHING and while they are predominantly greys and black - those peaks of bright Cheshire Cat eyes just make me happy.  I can wear them with slacks and still feel adventurous - win!

The last pair were actually cranked in November but I'm just now showing them to you because it took me this long to close the toes.  Actually, one toe because my awesome friend Kelly closed the other foot for me a while back.  Yeah, I've actually been hanging on closing one toe for over a month!  Cranky!

These beauties are much more my style for knitting yarns.  This is my 'Bunch of Hippies' colorway and I love it for its bright, bold beauty.

I'm so grateful to this Kelly woman - not only because she's been an awesome friend to me (I know the combination of being super nice to her and saying so many nice things about her here will have a much desired effect of making her want to pinch me and that, my dears, is just how our friendship gig works - LOL) but also because she's kind of the reason there is so much crankiness here.  I'm embarrassed to say I have had this vintage sock knitting machine for about 5 years now.  I bought it for its charm - because I wanted to make LOTS of socks, and because the history of these machines just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  It reminds me every day of the resourcefulness, grace, and fortitude of women and I really dig that sort of thing.  But, mostly, I wanted to make lots of socks.  How disheartening it was to find that you don't just put it together and start a cranking.  It's a machine - Ugh!  I don't 'do' machines!  They break, they are unpredictable,  they need people with some machine skills and finesse to operate them!  Woe!  I tried watching countless videos, tried setting it up multiple times.  I'd make progress, get a sock done - go back the next day to make its mate and have yarn messing disaster on my hands and terrible swear words flowing freely from my mouth.  It was horrible and it went on for months before I finally gave up, put it in a box labelled 'Stupid Thing' and stuck it in the attic.

Then, said friend invited me & my machine into her lair where, as it turns out, she is a sock machine genius and she had it assembled, up and running in no time.  Then, there was that awful part where she had to watch me use it and tell me what we both already knew.  It wasn't the machine that was being stupid, it was yours truly.  She showed me how to be less stupid and, before I left, I had socks!  I've been cranking since and, wouldn't you know it, making LOTS of socks. For a while, when the machine would fall out of alignment or go crazy, I would panic and immediately start calling her name like Sheldon calls for Penny but, over time, I've actually learned how this thing works and I only pull a Sheldon when the stuff really hits the fan:)  She's always there whether I'm panicked or not and reminds me to be the machine's alpha, not the other way around.  I still experience surprise every time I pull a pair of socks off the thing and think, "I'm making this happen - ON A MACHINE!"  This from a woman who, more than once, has experienced a breakdown on the side of the highway and contemplated 1) trying to find out what is wrong and see if it can be fixed 2) calling a repairman, getting a tow truck and going through this fresh hell or 3) hopping a bus to the airport, using said funds for fixing car to relocate to a city nearby and forget where I came from.  Believe it or not, before kids - option 3 was my favorite and how I came to live, car-less, in downtown Austin for a few years.  I don't deal with machines well.  I have total breakdowns over broken machines.  This is not a quality that is serving me well in the current social climate.

I guess you could call this a happy ending.  I'm happy, there are socks, machine is fine.  I just wish, for once, I could have had it all - that it could have been a 'Stupid Thing' that caused all the problems, got magically fixed, and I remained a genius the entire time and am now even more, geniuser????
Ah well, a girl can dream. 

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!  I'm off to 'test' the caramel batches I made and sent out for holiday gifts.  Yes, they've already been tested but today's taste buds might be the best to decide.  I love the basic salted caramel but then I went and made a batch of bacon caramels.  I wish I'd have put more bacon in but I'll do that next time.  Lastly, there was the nut cluster blend wherein I put pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, white chocolate and dark chocolate in the pan, poured the caramel over it and salted the top - yuuuum!  I'm going to have some of those with a glass of cinnamon whiskey as my Christmas Eve fireside treat tonight!   Be well!  Enjoy your holiday!  Knit for sanity!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spicy Food, Spicy Yarn (aka Why We Do It, part 2)

Ahhh, oops, I forgot (insert the multitude of things on our to-do lists this time of year here)____!
That's about how every 'okay, I can relax a minute now and get my thoughts together,' moment goes in my world right now.  A busy time, but a good time because giving is something I really enjoy doing.  It's hard to remember that sometimes, though, when the lists get longer, the days left to ship 'gifts' gets shorter and time seems ever more elusive.  Also, really, how fast can one knit without going permanently cross-eyed and falling over dizzy from intensely staring at the needles trying to will them to work faster magic? 

Every year, I vow to knit for MORE of my friends and loved ones.  Yes, you read that right, MORE.  Experience, the passing of the newness of the life I've taken on as a fiber artist, reality, and a total understanding that I am lucky to manage the basic list I've had for years (which may or may not be due to the fact that I never seem to get it together and actually start all of my made projects before Thanksgiving - LOL) do not appear to have affected my hopes and dreams of knitting something for everyone.  Clearly, something has to change but I'm unclear, at this moment of crazed holiday making fever to discern whether it will be the ridiculously late start date, the expectations, or the cold, bleak hand of reality gripping my 'to do' list and tearing it to shreds with an indignant flounce in front of my face.

Sometime last week, I started to really kind of panic.  Not a super crazy dramatic panic but a slow burning panic of, 'Man oh man there is no way I'm getting all of this done," sort of panic.  Then, it occurred to me, like as if I didn't know it before - almost an epiphany, if you will, that I can make OTHER  things.  I say this in total sarcasm because I've been a 'handmade' gifter for 20 plus years so, clearly, before I was a knitter I 'gave' other gifts.  So, I through a batch of my jalapeno jelly together, with which I'm toasting some bagel chips.  I had to product test so I spread some cream cheese on my favorite tamari seaweed rice cakes and spread some of this spicy deliciousness on them for breakfast.  Yum!  This afternoon, I'm on sugar scrubs, some yarn dyeing (still gotta work for a living - ha!) and some special caramels that I won't talk about until they are tasted and a recipe is ready!

Want to make your own?  This recipe is super easy!

1 1/4 lbs jalapeno peppers, split in half and seeds/stems removed
2 cups apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1/2 inch of grated ginger
6 cups of sugar
2 pkgs sure gel pectin powder

Put the jalapeno halves and the vinegar in the blender and puree.  Pour into saucepan with sugar, lemon juice, ginger and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 10 mins.  Stir regularly to avoid scorching.  Skim foam off the top.

Add about 4 tbsp water to the pectin powder in a bowl and stir well to remove clumps.  Stir into your boiling jelly mix.  Continually stirring, boil mixture for about 2 minutes.  Add 2-3 drops green food coloring if desired for color.   Pour into jars.  Put clean lids and rims on jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 mns.  Check jars for seals, label, give most away - keep some for the loved ones IN YOUR HOUSE!

A variation if you want a relish - add 2 cups cranberries, slice and diced (removing seeds) lemon and 1 orange, 1 tsp vanilla extract - add 1 cup of vinegar and sugar as well.  Follow exactly as above adding all fruit in the very beginning.  Makes a spicy, tart, sweet relish!  Looks gorgeous in gift basket.

I would just like to admit, right here and now, that the jelly is going in my packages but I still insisted on including knits as well - LOL.  I have some serious weaving in of ends and toe closures to do as I've been knitting scarves and cranking socks like a madwoman! #noselfcontrol

A totally quick knit?  Art yarn.  I know, I know, not everyone is sold on this yarn form.  I love me a good art yarn.  Give me a sexy boucle, a coiled skein of happy, or a skein full of baubles and jewels any day.  But, for some, art yarn just makes the sound, 'blech'.  So, in fairness and for purposes of showing that art yarn is highly personal, I chose the form I'm not usually a big fan of myself - slubby yarn.  Slubby yarn, if I can be totally honest with you, kind of makes me angry - LOL.  I don't know why - I'm certainly no purists in terms of handspun.  I love a superfine handspun lace or sock yarn that is oober consistent and nearly identical all throughout and then I'll put it down and fall right in love with a thick and thin single that just screams at you, "What, are you afraid to play a little?".  But, slubby yarn irritates me.  It just seems hard to knit, hard to conform to a shape or look, hard to love.  So, I took some black top and some noil (camel, silk, wool YUM!) that I'd dyed in deep jewel tones and corespun it very loosely and airily over my core.  I did this to get a super lightweight, bulky yarn full of air and warmth but still very stable.  Then, I plied that with a single strand of handspun black top. Let me tell you, this is some seriously poofy but noticeably slubby yarn....little pops of color peeking out of the slubs that I'm trying to love.  Still, as I knit them, I growled a time or two when a slub would make a row look a little wonky.  So, I ripped it and moved up 2 needle sizes to get a drapier, more relaxed gauge.   I made two skeins - one just plain and one infused with trinkets and charms.

My girl is all about Steampunk so those trinkets were brass key charms, black pearls, glass beads and some wooden skulls.  What happened after that took only about 4 hours of knitting and produced, even with all of those charms, a 5 ounce scarf that is SO SOFT, so blingy, and so easy I may make a few more, oh, I don't know, instead of sleeping tonight:)  We'll see.  This simple keyhole scarf was made like this:
I know this look is not for everyone and there are definitely people on my gift list that I would not gift this scarf to.  Well, maybe this scarf knit in a basic or 'normal' yarn but not with the bling and baubles.  But, the girl I knit this for will love it.  And, with her dark chocolate wool coat or black leather coat and boots, she'll look stunning it it!  She's the kind of cool chic that will class it up with some simple wardrobe choices and relish that camel, silk, wool softness keeping her warm as she jots from class to class and then hangs in the campus coffee shop.

These keys were a lot of work to spin into this yarn but I know they are the 'special' touch that will really thrill her to no end!  Totally worth all that pre-stringing and coaxing it through my orifice. Spinning muggles, that is not as perverse as it sounds!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why We Do It, Part 1

It's Small Business Saturday!  I hope you'll take the time to support a local, internet, or favorite small business today!  And a heart-felt thanks to all of you who have or will visit the shop this weekend for our annual Black Friday thru Cyber Monday sale.

I know these sorts of promotions can be quite a bore for some of you and who among us hasn't gotten completely irked at an annoying sale commercial that plays over and over again?  We may not always be in support of all of the companies and their approach to this weekend but I do hope we don't let that help us fail to support the businesses we do value.  As you know, small businesses are pretty personally important to me.  It's not just because I am one.  Long before I was one, I was pretty devoted to the concept.  From shopping at the very first Whole Foods Market over in downtown Austin to mentoring small farmers and business growers to becoming a business owner myself, my entire adult life has been a journey around those values.  I have no real issue with big business - quite the contrary.  I feel it's important to say that from time to time because it seems that we tend, as human beings, to assume there has to be one side vs. another.  I think smart marketing is in realizing that we need both to compete, succeed, and prosper in a world market.

So, while I do not despise big business, my values lie in the world of the small.  That is not to say that I do not buy my paper towels at a large box store.  Or, to imply that I will spend a lot more money to buy something at a small store that I can get elsewhere for a fraction of the cost.  At the end of the day, I have a family to take care of and I believe wise appropriation of resources is always warranted.  It IS to say, though, that I appreciate and value the approach and experience that is being and shopping with small businesses.  I understand that there is a value in the personal, tailored experience of knowing and working with your provider.  When business becomes a relationship, everyone tends to get what they need.

And we NEED small businesses.  We need people who will/can think outside the box and create a place where truly unique things happen.  We need people who find innovative, new concepts and introduce them to us, show us how to embrace them and why we should, and support us along that journey.  We need creativity that doesn't come from a school or a set of rules or a chain with a pre-ordained shelf stocking list.    We need the guy who first thought to put beer, chocolate and salt in some hard cheese and sell it at a local farmer's market so that others would experience it and then realize they could put ___ and ___ and ____ in cheese and it would be AWESOME!  We need that small hardware store in town that knows that a large percentage of the houses in Maine are 100+ years old and drafty as all get out- so they stock all of the items you need to winterize at the time you need it.  The box store, who's home office is in Georgia or something, will catch on later and have the stuff a little cheaper but you'll be snug by the first snow knowing you're already all set.  That's the same box store that puts all of the pool chemicals out in March, when most of our pools are still a sheet of ice to skate on and stops ordering them by May when we are just starting to imagine it ever being warm enough to swim.  But, without that box store, we'd be out of toilet paper year round and, trust me - take it from a woman who lived off the grid and farmed and raised 3 kids for almost 10 years, roughing it is not necessary and any spiritual value you would derive from such existence can be very closely replicated by a remote week of camping twice a year.  Just trust me, we need both.

So, even when the holiday songs are making you need to bite someone, the people are cranky and sweet little old ladies steal your parking spot - I find it helps to remember the reasons why we do it. Sometimes it comes down to that very special gift that will make "insert person's name here" so happy because they will be so surprised and you know they want it and sometimes, less rewardingly, it's because you need toilet paper.  Sometimes it's because you've just found the perfect knitting pattern and, voila - it's on sale!  And, sometimes, it's because you know that everyone will be out next Saturday and you are procuring a batt to sit and spin so you don't follow through with that need to bite someone next week (planning ahead - cuz you are wicked smaht!).

For myself, as a small business owner of almost a decade, I can only partially put into words how grateful I am for the support and the relationships I have been privileged to forge over the years.  For the many times I have sat down to my holiday feasting table, looked at my ravenous family (I'm always late with the food, why am I always late with the food?) and thought of how grateful I am that you have supported me, challenged me, helped me grow as an artist and business woman - and made every day I've spent doing things that are meaningful and beautiful to me with my life.  You are why we do it.  Without you, we couldn't.

Thank you. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fix Yourself Soup

This is not going to be one of those whiny, "I'm a mom and no one cares if I'm sick so I have to take care of myself," posts.  It's not true and is true all at the same time but the whining part is neither productive or any sort of release so I reject it.

Does no one care?  Absolutely untrue.  My kids definitely care and they are being super nice and helpful.  But, what I think moms really mean when they say these sorts of things is that life must go on.  The world can't stop every time a mom comes down with the crud.  The kids can't stop, their busy lives don't stop, it all has to keep on keeping on and the sicko mom starts to feel like a real arse just for getting sick.  Nevermind she's been housed with sick teens for 2 weeks fighting it off after having an allergic reaction to the flu shot that she got trying to do the right thing so that no one got sick this season.

So, there's caring and then there's the reality that life continues to be busy even when all you can manage is rolling over and finding the tissue box before disaster strikes.  I maybe whined on Saturday.  I felt like warmed over canned carp on moldy rye on Sunday.  By this morning, I was plenty irriated that I'm not getting better and decided to take this on.  After seeing me for 10 minutes, the doc declared me sicker than sick, scribbled some magic words on paper to get me drugs, and sent me on my germy way.  I'll take those but I'm taking it a step further and living on my 'fix yourself'' soup.  It's all I'll eat for 2 days and it almost always does the trick.  Want to make your own?
You'll need:
4 cups homemade chicken broth
1 cup red wine
2 cups water
1 cup each chopped shitake and portabella mushrooms
8 green onions, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 inch of ginger root, grated fine
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 package tofu
1/2 cup finely chopped cabbage and cauliflower per serving
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the broth, water, wine mushrooms, garlic, scallions, ginger, tofu, soy sauce and cayenne to a boil, turn down to simmer.  Simmer 15 mins while shaving the cabbage and cauliflower.  Put these raw veggies in the bottom of a bowl.  Spoon hot soup over it.  Add a large scoop of kimchee on top and eat while steaming hot. 

This is just the thing I need to get myself back in the carding studio so I can make up some more yummy batts for the NEFF next weekend!  You'll find lots of yummy EKF batts in the 'Art for Your Feet' booth.

This yummy you see here is my Starry Starry Night batt.  I know I've said about a hundred times on this and the blogs that came before this one that this particular painting was instrumental in my becoming an artist.  So, you know, the batt recipe is extra special to me.  That's why it's all about luxury with a 50/50 merino silk base and lots of spice.  I may have stolen a few for myself.

I'll spin those tonight while my soup and the doctor's magic words start their work.  Then, I'm back at the whirlwind that is the busy lives of everyone in our house. No rest for the wicked:)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Totally Rhinebecked...

And the meaning of that is as versatile and vague as it sounds:)

It's taken me two days to get unpacked and corral my family members of the two and four-legged persuasion, whip everything back into shape, and start to resume a normal schedule again.   In this way, being totally Rhinebecked is to be so thoroughly exhausted from the excitement of it all and days on the road that I actually count getting dressed as an item on my 'to-do' list.  Yes, seriously.  Also, while I'm confessing to my lameness, I had maple cotton candy for breakfast yesterday, partly because it wouldn't have lasted another day and partly because I was too lazy to soft boil an egg.  Yeah.

What kind of stimulation would be required to produce such a thorough level of exhaustion?  It is all encompassing.  I mean this so truly that I cannot explain without sighing out loud repeatedly.  Start here, with simply the most gorgeous sunny weekend:
To that, add a constant aroma of every temptation you can imagine - coffee, apples, fair food (which I discovered only smells good if you take them in indivually.  If you're walking past cider donuts, deep fried pickles and artichokes at the same time, your senses get overwhelmed a little and you may swoon a bit) and wool.  Yes, there is a lot of wool smell both on and off the wool givers.  You could hyperventilate with all the wool huffing you'll do and not even care.  I mean, breathing?  It's slightly overrated.  Lastly, add the opportunity to bump into so many of your friends and acquaintances all in one day and mostly spontaneously.  It's like you are visiting a knitter/spinner's Disneyland that is stocked with friends old, new, and yet to be made.  I don't want to name names - and there would be so many that I fear I would muck it up in trying but to all of you who shared a hug, a laugh, a bit of knitting, a friendly punch in the arm as I walked by (you know who you are), thanks!  It was awesome to get to see so many of you at one place.  And, for those of you that I didn't get a chance to see - :( - next year!!!!

Driving back to Maine, I realized I hadn't even plugged in my usual audiobook or music for the ride.  I just sat in the car thinking about the last few days and smiling. My GPS startled me when she finally spoke up, it was so quiet in there.  Totally Rhinebecked.

Then there's the weeks leading up to Rhinebeck, where so many of you found my batts in the Tsarina of Tsocks' Art for Your Feet  booth - thank you for that!  I carded, dyed, carded, came up with new ideas on the fly, carded, labeled, carded for weeks leading up to the show and even though I was exhausted, you made me feel so good and so grateful when you turned out in numbers sharing the batt love and saying such kind things about my work.  Thank you seems too simple to cover it but it is all I can come up with in my Totally Rhinebecked state.  Thank you, seriously.  You'll find more EKF batts at the booth at the Art For Your Feet booth at the Big E in a little over a week.

I came, I shopped, I ate so many sinful things that I should just start sleepwalking on the treadmill.  I somehow acquired a pig puppet and made silly and tasteless jokes with it all weekend. I rekindled my love of popcorn and all things maple.  Between the wine tastings in the food booths and a stop in New Hampshire on the way home, I've overstocked the wine collection.  That's okay, that just means I need to have friends come up for dinner more often.  Now, I have a roast in the oven, a list of new batt ideas to execute RIGHT NAOW and I'm back to the carder and spinning wheel. 

When I have the guts to confront laundry, and I've properly washed the sweater I wore in the sun and sweat in atrociously, I'll be back with notes on my finished Rhinebeck sweater - literally finished on the way to Rhinebeck because stress is my motivator :p  Just look at the face I came home to.  This is a 'while you were away I threw a fit, ate your ottoman, and tore up the handspun skeins stored inside of it but you still love me, right?'  Yeah.  Totally Rhinebecked!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Finished With Denial

I've been chatting with lots of friends, lately, about sweater knitting.  I used to knit sweaters, but when my love of sock knitting took hold - I lost sweaters for a while.  When I'd been bitten by the sweater bug and wanted to return (this also means I live in New England and wore out the few sweaters I'd knit for myself instead of for my loved ones and realized I only like hand-knit sweaters, therefore, I would need to knit them) to it, my skill and desires were not aligned. 

The sweater knitter within had always been happy with a simple, top-down raglan sweater with no interesting cables or patterns.  Just your basic, 'can knit this after a hard day of farming without much thinking' type of sweater.  But,  the knitter that I am now finds this simplicity boring.  The wearer of knitted goods that I am now expects fit and flatter and at least a touch of the magic that is achieved by wise ones like this lady - who can and willingly will teach you a lot about fabulous sweater construction. 

This is all good news for the returning to sweater love me - except for the WIP basket and the proof within - that I've continued to knit simple sweaters (and poorly, even) in spite of my desire to do otherwise.  See, the returning to an old love me is totally in for the full experience.  I am eager to learn, to grow, to apply old wisdom, to figure out why I strayed in the first place, and to make a home for sweater knitting, again, that feels totally right for me.  I can apply what I knew then, what I learned along the way in other knitting projects, and what I'm hungrily devouring now.  But, anyone who knows me even a little knows I'm not one to give up on something - even if it is a most obvious failure.  I keep thinking if I clap long enough, and wish and believe, it will be good.

At the Common Ground Fair last week, I was talking to an old friend about this very sort of denial and how frustratingly stagnant it is.  In the time spent clapping and believing, you could solve your problem 40 times over.  We went back and forth describing scenarios wherein we both acknowledged we had already learned the lesson but it just wasn't something we applied anywhere else.  Grr!  We started problem solving, knitting, and enjoying some cider.  I remarked that I didn't want to give up on the hopeful inspiration that is believing you can do anything you want to do and do it well but the stagnant denial had to go.  She very simply declared, "It's obviously time to BE the solution."  We laughed, a little nervously for both of us I think, and hugged and promised to meet up again before the Fair next year.  We do this every year and for 10 years have only seen one another at the Fair each year.  We just walk away, keep clapping and believing, and let life get so busy and chaotic that we are barely coming up for air next year around the same time.  I half know that it will be next year before I see her again but I also know this - I will BE the solution every day for that year so that, when we hug and laugh and knit and shed tears over all that was the year before the next time, I will be wearing a fabulous sweater.  A 'being the solution' flag, if you will.

So, naturally, I cast on a brilliant sweater in some yarn I am vehemently in love with.  I'm showing you neither today but I will very soon, I promise!

Today, I am breaking a chain.  I'm finished with a lot of things, but mostly with denial.  Our Ravelry group has a 'Fall Finish Along' going on until late November.  Anyone and everyone is invited to finish something in their WIP basket and show it off.  I went digging and pulled out some of my most shameful lingering projects.  At first glance, this ICED sweater seems a sad waste of time spent in the WIP basket, for all it needs is one sleeve and the collar.  I pulled it out, declared it was my easy finish and it sat.  And it sat.  And then it sat some more on my counter for three weeks.  Seriously?  It's a bulky wgt yarn with only a sleeve and collar left?  No, it's really not.

The questions started pecking at me - why didn't I do the collar?  I remember why.  I knew I wanted and needed some extra length on the sweater and should have done some short row shaping at the waist to drop the shape of the back a little more.  But, I was swimming freely in denial at the time and didn't want to take the time to do it.  I wanted my sweater NOWAH.  So, I knit the garter bottom, yes, in spite of knowing I would not be happy with it, and went on 'believing'.  Only, I kind of knew it because, if not, I would have snapped and knit that collar right on with no hesitation.  I moved to a sleeve instead.  A sleeve I did not finish the way I wanted it, with a garter cuff to match the bottom.  So, I went on to the OTHER sleeve.  Because, walking away from a problem is always the key to finding it solved, right?  No.  It really isn't.

This was supposed to be a 2 week, at most, project.  Just some leisurely knitting to take along to an outing or while watching a movie or something.  It could have easily been done.  Now?  Now it is a simple sweater turned into a 6+ month process of avoiding three simple truths. 

Truth #1 - the garter bottom needs ripping out, some short row shaping inserted, then re-knit the bottom.  Totally doable in one evening of knitting.

Truth #2 - the sleeve cuff needs adjusting.  Even more doable.  We're talking an hour, tops, of knitting here, what is wrong with me?

Truth #3 - that collar is not there because I love it and I couldn't allow myself to knit it without facing truth #1 first and having an end result I will actually love wearing.  Even in my firm fidelity to denial knitting, I have yearned to be the solution.  There must be better ways to torture myself than getting pneumonia from lack of sweaters and making the simplest thing too hard.  Even my self-destruction is a geek.

I am ashamed.  Ashamed!  My only consolation is that this is totally fixable.  I hope I will wear the cardi for many years to come and, at least half way through them, not wince in shame every time I think of how long it took me to knit a simple sweater.  Well, my consolation is that and this sweater I'm working on now.  Yeah, I lied, I'm totally showing you my Rhinebeck Sweater.  Annie Modesitt, you've really rocked my world with this design - I love it!  If you are also love slapped by this sweater, you should knit one, right now.  You can find it here.  The yarn is a new base I'm adding to the shop next week - it's a gorgeously soft worsted wgt merino/cashmere/nylon blend that just makes you sigh and make happy, contented sounds when you are knitting with it.  It's dyed in my 'Dragon's Blood' colorway because I really need a seriously red sweater with a v-neck.  It's going to be my armor as I power trudge against the current of the river of denial. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No Mick, time is NOT on my side...

Apparently, I've been in a time warp for the last month.  You can tell just how crazy things have been by the fact that I have been listening to the same playlist for the entire month just due to lack of time to change it.  I mean, that's not hard to do - unless you've been a droid person for the last all the years you've owned a smartphone and now you're switching over to mac software and pulling your hair out and cussing alot.  In that case, user ignorance is also NOT on your side and you might quickly feel doomed and overwhelmed and just let the same Rolling Stones album you've had since you were 16 play OVER and OVER for the 48 hours a day you are driving everyone around.  If this is also you, you are now appreciating the  cruel irony of that song.  Also, if this is you, we are living a parallel life - call me sometime, maybe be can pull each other out of the vortex and enjoy a cup of coffee - LOL.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling sorry for myself.  I decided years ago to just stop that cold turkey.  It becomes harder to do the more you realize that the person making all of your life choices is YOU and, by process of elimination, one can only then determine that you are choosing your path, no matter how crazy it is.  When you get there, it just seems silly to feel any drama about it.  Ya are what ya are - if that makes you angry, change.  I'm more in the stepping back and taking a much needed moment to laugh at with myself stage.

You may be wondering, what does a woman with three kids entering various very important phases of their lives (year 2 @college for Thing 1, Senior year for Thing 2 and Freshman year for Thing 3), two designs in the making with nearing deadlines, a class to teach at Fiber College next week, a handful of articles to write coming due, and a busy club and business to run do?  The answer to that question might should have been become a ninja master at time management or, possibly, forgo and opportunity to volunteer and participate in the parent's fundraising group for her kids football team.  It might have needed to be something like, 'voila, you are now functioning like a sane person!'  Ha ha - none of these have happened, though I'm starting ninja time management training as we speak.  Instead, I chose option 1153:
I did this.  Meet Bruce Wayne, our puppy.  Yeah, I said that.  He's a puppy.  He's almost as big as a full grown 'regular' dog but this is no regular dog.  He's a Blue Harlequin Great Dane puppy and will likely weigh more than me at full maturity.

So, the last month has been prepping for the coming school year (starting very soon at a theater near me) and doing some puppy/mini horse training.  It really hasn't been all that bad.  Bruce is a super good puppy and lots of fun to pal around with.
He loves riding in the car with me, which is good, because with two kids in practice doing 2 a days for football and a girl in school 55 miles away - I spend alot of time in the car.  He's super fond of yarn but does not destroy knitting.  He doesn't like the whirring of the spinning wheel but, since he's already discovered it is very sacred to his mom, he has chosen to ignore it instead of agressing against it.  He eats peanut butter cookies like they're going out of style and is generally my best pal.  I don't know how to tell him that I can't take him with me today - he hears keys jingle and gets himself in the car.

During all of this driving, I've stopped here and there for a few shopping endeavors.  I stopped into one small shop and found these totally unloved shells on a clearance rack - all tangled up and a little rough.  I immediately wanted to bring them home and make them cookies but, they're shells.  Instead, I decided to do them justice in another way.  I've had these batts in my head for a while. 
They are 'abalone' batts.  I wanted to make a batt with just a touch of sparkle, and I mean just a touch.  I wanted to sparkle to play backseat to all of the colors and layers of visual depth created by using the contrasting colors against a slate grey background.  I find abalone shells fascinating.  They are kind of blingy, definitely rich in jeweled colors, and, yet, silver and black at their core.  So much in there!

Now, I know the obvious thing to do would have been to spin these with abalone shells but I tend to shy away from blatantly obvious so I opted to go with my little unloved shells and some dyed freshwater pears.  This is a corespun, beaded and bejeweled treasure!  There are over 50 shells and 30 pearls in this strand and it's still only 4.6 ounces of worsted weight YUUUUM! This is one of the yarns I'll be teaching the method/process for at Fiber College next weekend!

I'm in love and I still have another few abalone batts left so I'm thinking of working up a combo of art yarn and traditional yarn for a project.  I'm probably going to put some in the shop for the upcoming update but, you know, I'm stingy so I'll keep some for me, too:)  Want a closer look at the shells and pearls?

Neither of the two things featured in this post were penciled in, in any way, in my to do list and upcoming project goals.  I guess I just needed to veer from the path a while and remember how to fly by the seat of my pants.  This was not helpful when I finally sat back down to the 'real' list and realized the impossible window was now even more impossibly narrow than before but I consider it more like spirit food.  That window will likely stay impossibly narrow for a while.  What makes it even possible at all is the energy we bring to it and, to get such energy, I sometimes have to take a detour and dip my toes into the pool of just plain crazy.  Who am I kidding?  It wasn't just a toe.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tipsy Leprechauns at the Tour de Fleece

Curse me for my vivid imagination! It has been a bane since early childhood, causing me many embarrassing episodes and much need for 'punishment' during my years in school. Why oh why, then, am I also blessed with the ability to think of names for colorways so readily? If you can, at all, veer away from the image of a bunch of trouble making tipsy leprechauns on the sidelines of the Tour de France, please come with me for a minute while we look at yarn:) I'm probably going to giggle like a 10 year old here and there when the image pops back in my head.
Tipsy Leprechauns was the June installment of the Happy Hooves Club (shown here are the batt and top clubs). There was also a bit of top involved in my sweater lot of Tour de Fleece yarn spins. I'm having a bit of a rainbow craze right now. I don't know how to explain it and that's very convenient because I also don't really feel the NEED to. I just like rainbows. They make me happy. And, I'm in a place in my life right now where I am not uncomfortable with being happy so I'm just not fighting it. So, this rainbow is special. I mean, all rainbows are, aren't they? But, this rainbow is like driving into a desolate field after a rain and finding a huge double rainbow waiting for you. It's a powerful rainbow. I had originally only intended to spin it into a sock yarn or mitten yarn or something 'small' and non imposing. But, I changed my mind. Then, another club member mentioned a sweater out of this yarn and - SHAZAAAM! - it stuck in my head and took root immediately. So, there's this sweater lot of yarn (accompanied by a small skein of coils I made with the leftovers of the batt making supplies which I will intermittently add into the sweater rounds.

I fell in love with this sweater 2nd. I know, kind of a 'wonk wonk woooonk' instead of a drum and cymbal bang. But, there it is. I fell in love with it's sister sweater first (Coat of Many Colors which is the sweater on the cover below). Only after considering the yarn, and, again, being influenced by a smart club member who was miles ahead of me in the creative thinking process, did I realize the genius of these yarns meeting this sweater. So, they are headed for the knitting altar and will be joined together in what I can only hope will be sweatered bliss. I feel honored to be involved and hope to be enveloped in a load of handspun BFL wonder....and I get a rainbow, too. I know, who's the lucky one, here? Me, surely it is me.

This all brings me to this book, where this sweater was born and planted itself into my consciousness. We have to talk about this book, even though I'm sort of the donkey wearing the pinned on tail in the story. I love circular sweaters. I love their drape, the swing, the ultimately figure flattering nature of their shape. Truly, take any sized woman with any combination of bumps and lumps and curves and put a circular sweater on her and - voila! You have unleashed a temptress! But, I have to admit that I made an assumption when I first saw this book. Well, not really saw the book but the online book seller's 'pictures' of this book. I assumed what I'd also assumed about rainbows when I first set out to dye this colorway - rainbows, swirly circular knits - they've been done. They cannot be reinvented. I've dyed dozens of different versions of rainbows in my near decade of being a fiberista (I know, how did it get that long so quick?) I tested. I dyed. I tore my hair out and - then, in the pure release of having given up, Tipsy Leprechauns just 'happened' in my studio. Let me be the first to admit that I am certain that this is NOT what happened with Sandra McIver's book KNIT, SWIRL! 

This is a wheel reinvented. It's not as simple or predictable as a circular knit. It's a shaping concept that allows you custom fit, unique styling, and your own original touch in every single rendition of the circular knit. Also, if you try one of these sweaters on, you should have a sturdy friend beside you. The way the fit will drape instantly across your shoulders and start drawing it's body defining lines to accent your own unique shape is like a spell in the making...you could forget who you are and immediately adopt the persona of a runway model. That's all fine and great if you are dolled up and ready to go but, if you are all sweaty and at a summer fiber show in the heat of the day with limp, kinky curly hair and lipstick that hasn't been retouched since you set out of the house at 7am and only 1/2 cup of coffee (because you spilled the other half whilst running around setting up your booth like a madwoman) in your bloodstream - it ends up, at best, being comical. At worst, well, it's just kinda pathetic so try to keep your composure and resist the spell. This would be where I thank Natalie for first showing me her copy of the book and a knitter I do not know by name but love for letting me actual WEAR her Knit, Swirl! sweater for a moment. I hope I get to see her again and that, after my behavior, she doesn't run from me so I can rightly say 'thank you'.

I bought the book the next day. It was only an added bonus to read the sleeve cover on the book. It seems that Sandra McIver is my new knit crush. This woman has all the things about a person I love. She jumps into this concept with a combined tenacity and attention to detail that just instantly floods me with admiration. And, she adds those unique styles and adjustments to each pattern and type of swirl that turn the old, antique key in the knitter's mind to unlock a plethora of potential, ideas, and dreams for how to incorporate (insert name of rabidly favorite yarns here) into these projects. Then, there's the fact that she's, obviously, a very driven and creative woman. It may surprise you, but these are the kinds of women I usually feel honored to call my friends. Then, and I fell out of my chair when I realized this - she is a winemaker from the Sonoma region - one of my favorite wine regions. I poured a glass of Sonoma County wine that night and toasted her creative genius.

The photography is stunning. The charting and descriptions are thorough and if you haven't hopped over and bought this book yet, then I just give up. I did. And I spun enough Tipsy Leprechaun to make the sweater.

There were other yarns, honestly there were.  Like, this beauty. 
It's a textured art batt that I created with some sari silk ribbon, sequin and bead/bell additions to it.  The batt itself really doesn't show the rich color transitions in the fiber, the jeweled sparkle that undulates throughout the yarn, and the bits and baubles that were added in with a tensioned ply sort of neatly finishes it. It's all about the ooh and ahhh.

But, after those darned entertaining Tipsy Leprechauns, I feel I cannot do the 'other yarns' justice.  It's as if I just marched out in the first 4 minutes of the circus with the prized animal and paraded it around, then asked everyone to sit for the rest of the show.  Sure, these critters are beautiful.  There are cloudy beehive art yarns, corespun sparkly art yarns, beaded yarns, 3 ply sock yarns, wool silk lace yarns, and plain but beautiful grey fleece yarns for sweaters.  But, you're already picturing those Tipsy Leprechauns dancing around the sidelines of the Tour de France, aren't you?  Me too.  Even in this picture, there's a tricksy Tipsy Leprechaun sneaking in.  Can you see it?

Still, these other yarns are very good yarns.  I love them.  They were created with love and the joy of spinning.  But, well, I'm out of umph for introducing them. 
I just want to crack open the book, poor a glass of Sonoma County Pinot Noir, and start swatching all of these skeins of rainbow love and let the Tipsy Leprechauns take me where they will.  Can you blame me?  I'll be back in a day or two....I can't promise I won't be bringing more Tipsy Leprechauns with me, though.

This last pic just aptly conveys my poor yarn walking attitude.  Crappy cell phone pic ends the parade...."wonk wonk wahhhhhhh" (and all of the clowns fall over). LOL.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

5 Things About A New Start....

I wouldn't even know where to start this post. But, the beauty of that is that it is the first post - so simple, sweet, and a fresh start will be better than fumbling through floods of explanations:

 1. It's been almost 2 years since I've been tending a blog - 3 if you count the last year being spotty at best. Some fires you just can't rekindle. Sometimes, it's best to start with new materials, refined skills, and a fresh perpsective.

2. Spammers suck really bad. They take advantage of your blog when your life is in great tumult and change and, once they stick their teeth in you, it is virtually impossible to get them to let go. I have released the old Farm-Witch blog on the 'other hosting' site to said parasites. Go and enjoy yourselves - that domain is dead and that ground is infertile, the joy of it being permanently sucked away by those who like to take a creative outlet and turn it into the epitome of unkind behavior. If you subscribe to that old feed, I am sorry for all of the spam. I tried, I really did. Please delete that feed and re-subscribe to this blog.

 3. There are times when you walk away from something for good reasons, but find your way back to it when it has obviously changed for the better. I'm glad to be back with Blogger. I'm comfortable, here. And, to write this blog properly, that is essential.

 4. Sometimes, a ripple makes long lasting vibrations, but, sometimes a large splash has long lasting ripples. Life has changed a lot for my family in the last few years - leaving the farm, saying goodbye to sheep after 14 years as a shepherd, and watching my kiddos grow into beautiful adults who value their privacy and need me to respect that, in spite of my writings. It was hard not to just give in to the change and silence myself entirely. I needed the splashing to stop, time to enjoy the peaceful letting go of the ripples, and find my own feet before returning to a public forum where I can share MY creative endeavors, wacky living, and tangled times with you without infringing on the privacy of these human WIPs that I'm finishing up:)

5. In the mess of chaos, there is total simplistic clarity. All of those changes, while not so fun in the process, have made life much simpler, and in doing so, reminded me of why this blog came about in the first place - a place to share the art, the love of all things yarny - and a few recipes, peeks into crafting a homemade life. So, this I promise you - this will be the last time I come to you apologizing about the length of time between posts. We'll simply pick up, move on, and sink our teeth into serious yarn love.
How about we start tomorrow? With some Tour de Fleece sharing and a whole lotta looking forward? I'll make coffee and cookies for us, too. Would I be me if I didn't give you at least a little yarn love in this post? Think of this lot of beehives as my captcha to prove this really is me - LOL.