FO FriYAY!

It’s Friday and I’ve decided to share not one, but TWO Finished Objects today. I think that means this Fri-day levels-up to Fri-YAY, don’t you?!

My first finished project I’d like to share is my Lesley Sweater!

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I’m the first to admit that I may have been a little overzealous with the length.

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I was trying to avoid the hits-at-waist-look, but it seems instead of going a smidge longer, I’ve created a tunic — at least that’s how it looks on the mannequin! In reality, on my person, it’s not quite so insanely long, just nearly covering my backside and the fit is actually quite good.  I do reserve the right to rip some back, but I think I’m far more likely to just wear it and enjoy a draft-free sweater. I mean, if I leave the length, than I can probably get away wearing it with stretchy pants out on the trail… that’s something to think about!

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The design is just a super simple raglan.

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And I adore the pretty blue color, Quince & Co’s Osprey in River. While I’m undecided on whether I’ll leave the length as-is or take some off, I’m positive that I love the fit and feel of this sweater and I’m very happy I finally got around to knitting it!

My other FO today is a pair of socks!

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After the whole darning affair of a week or so ago, I dug in and got these done for Mr. Knitting Sarah. As you can see, once again, I got a little overzealous in the length of the cuff — must have been something I was doing in February when I overshot on my Lesley Tunic, I mean Lesley Sweater, as well!

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I mean, yikes! Usually I have quite a bit of yarn leftover from these big Regia skeins I use for him, but NOT THIS TIME. It was yarn chicken all the way and I just escaped by the skin of my teeth! I maybe had 5 yards leftover!

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In any case, I finished them last night and had to share them today as they need to go right into the sock rotation for Mr. KS. I’ll be casting-on another pair asap as well, to help bolster the reserves, but I am glad to have one new pair heading for his sock drawer. Hopefully one more in the rotation will help the longevity of the newly darned socks. Everyone cross your fingers with me!

This weekend I hope to ply up three spins that are waiting to be finished and maybe get working on the next step of my French Braid Cardigan. Oh, and cast-on that pair of socks, too! What’s on your knitting and spinning agenda for this weekend?

Ply Twist Takes Center Stage

This month’s Skill Builder challenge in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group was focused on 2-ply yarns. I had the pleasure of spinning with their February Calendar Colorway, East Window on their Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk 80/20 base.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

Due to travel and sickness in my house, I’m a bit behind in sharing it, but better late than never, right?!

As I shared earlier, I always take the time to pre-draft this particular base. I just find it spins a little easier that way. If you’ve got a cultivated silk (also called “mulberry silk”) spin on the horizon, you can check out this video I shared for how I prep my fiber.

Since the goal was a two ply, I first split the fiber into its three color repeats. And then each of those 3 repeats I split in 2, creating 6 more or less even pieces. The first 3 pieces I spun as is, end to end.img_5897

For the second 3 pieces, I broke each piece into 2, 3, or 4 pieces (or more!). I like randomness in my barberpoling skeins, so I find purposely breaking the fiber into uneven pieces and in different ways helps with that. I spun both portions each onto their own bobbin.

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You can see how different the color repeats are even in this photo!

 I had hoped to create a video of how I ply my 2-ply yarns because I think there’s no other type of yarn where ply twist quite takes center stage, but with a house full of sick family, including my husband who was diagnosed with pneumonia this week, it just didn’t happen. I do plan to make a video of this though at some time in the near future though and I’ll be sure to share it here when that happens. I find that because the idea of a 2-ply yarn is so basic, it is often overlooked as far as instruction goes and I’d like to share how I find the amount of ply twist that I like to work with.

While we wait for me to get a video together, though, I can share a couple photos.

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This is the amount of ply twist I usually look for while I’m plying a 2-ply yarn when the yarn is under tension, but not yet up on the wheel.

img_6115When it’s wound up onto the bobbin…

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And without tension, but still on the wheel. I used to subscribe to the idea that a “balanced” yarn is one that will lay limp and flat in this same position, but over the years I’ve landed firmly in the camp that would label those limp yarns as underplied. That’s not to say there is not a place for low twist yarns, but generally speaking I want my handspun to have some soft twist in a plyback test while plying. It just makes a better yarn. This spin is probably a smidge more ply twist than I’d call ideal. With a snap or a thwack to even out the twist after a nice bath, all that extra twist relaxes and you get this…

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It’s a finished skein with just enough ply twist to make the yarn plump and full of life & energy, but not so much to be twisting out of control.

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It’s going to make a great knitting yarn to be sure!

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I just love the colorway — from the true yellow and grey to the soft blues and oranges. And I’ve really come to love the Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk base, too, as it makes such a nice yarn. Today is the last day to pre-order your very own East Window on Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk from Three Waters Farm, so if you want to give it a whirl you still have time!

And March’s Skill Builder in the TWF Group will start tomorrow! We’ll be taking a closer look at traditional 3-ply yarns and I can’t wait to get started! Since my spinning time was limited this past month, I’m hoping to make up for some lost time at the wheel in March. The featured Calendar Colorway for March is Common Ground on Falkland and it’s available already for pre-order! It’s time to get spinning some traditional 3-ply yarns!

Life Lessons From A Red Fox

Today we awoke to our second snowfall, the first that actually lasted beyond the sun breaking through the clouds for more than an hour. There’s probably still an inch on the ground, but it is melting in the bright sunshine. I really do love winter. As soon as there is snow on the ground, the whole world changes color because the light is so different. Everything looks crisp and defined in this light. The world becomes all hard lines and blinding lightness. It is the same world I strolled through in summer, but somehow it’s also totally different.

As I look at our outdoor thermometer, I see that in the sunshine at midday it is reading 28°F and the winds are due to pick up, potentially bringing some more snow tonight. It’s cold. And while I have a warm house and plenty of wool to keep me warm, I can’t help but think about a special someone…

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I shared an image of this Red Fox at the beginning of October and I think it’s time I share his story.

I’d spotted this fox around the neighborhood a handful of times during the past year — once loping across the street, once chasing a rabbit in an open lot — you know, doing what foxes are supposed to do. In early October when it slinked into our yard, though, it was almost certainly suffering from sarcoptic mange. Nearly blinded by its swollen eyes and clearly starving, it was resorting to stealing sunflower seeds from our ground feeder.

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Its posture and body language were all wrong.

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It was clear that it was desperate — with eyes almost completely swollen shut, we assumed hunting was difficult if not impossible. With winter coming, things were not looking good for its survival.

Mr. Knitting Sarah shared a photo on his social media and had feedback from some biologist friends for courses of treatment that might help. He dug further and researched treatment plans and then set about getting the inexpensive medicine available at our local farm store.  We set up a dosing calendar based on helpful instructions from a red fox rehab center. Since we wanted to remain hands-off (I’m not interested in wrangling sick wild animals) for our safety as well as the animal’s, we opted to inject food with meds for treatment. We set-up trail cameras on our feeding stations to be able to monitor them, making sure the fox actually was getting the meds. We’d talked about getting trail cams for a while to see what kinds of animals were coming through our yard at night and this was just a good reason to finally do it.

Because treatment needs to happen over a 3-6 week period to effectively treat mange, the key is that you have to get the fox to return regularly. I don’t think this one had an iPhone on which I could set an alarm, so per instructions we set out his favorite foods daily — a mix of wet & dry cat food and a couple cut up hot dogs. The hot dogs were key as they were his favorite. In the early days, I’d refill the stations if I knew he’d been through to make sure there was always food available.

When dosing day rolled around, I would be in the kitchen carefully hollowing hot dogs, injecting them with the appropriate dose of medicine, and then placing a couple pieces of dry cat food inside to soak up the meds in case the piece of hot dog should happen to fall over. Then I’d set the medicated “fox dogs” around the yard and wait, hoping that he’d take them and hoping I’d be able to get a glimpse of him to observe his appearance and body language for comparison.

Sure enough, he came back. And like a good patient, he took his meds every time.

Over the course of the next month, we watched carefully and we set food out and we dosed on schedule. At first, the images taken at night would catch eye shine in just the one eye and he’d return multiple times each night with that same insecure posture.

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We were ecstatic with each successful dose and I read vehemently about the progression of the healing process for this disease. I promise you that at this point, I know way more details about sarcoptic mange and treatment for it than I ever thought I would. Within a couple weeks, we started to see him spacing out his visits a bit and the eye shine of the second eye started to show up, first a little slit and then…

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Both eyes wide open!

His slink became more like prancing punctuated with the occasional leap and pounce. We started to get images that indicated the fox was pushing the feral cat that stopped by sometimes off the food station instead of skittishly ducking away from it. I even watched it once scare off a bunch of deer!

One evening, our red fox friend popped by just before dusk and we were astonished — our scraggly friend had transformed into this much healthier looking canine!

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Still  a little skinny maybe and his tail was taking its time growing back in, but his posture and body language was so much better.

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His winter coat was coming in nicely…

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It looked like an mostly healthy fox! He pranced around looking in all his familiar spots for his fox dogs just long enough to for Mr. KS to catch these photos. He was on his way, leaping and bouncing like he was walking on air until he was out of sight.

The last evening we caught a picture of him was October 30th. I’m wondering if the hub-bub of trick or treating on the 31st paired with the feral cats who were occasionally dropping by to take advantage of the feeding stations made it competitive enough that with his improved health he finally had the incentive to move back out into wilder terrain. We’re right on the edge of town, so it would make sense as he has a lot of fertile hunting grounds just a little farther afield. Of course it could be that the mange came roaring back. It could be that some other predator or the cold proved too much. We might never know.

I do know, however, that when you have a very big heart and you’re a little bit of a control freak, this kind of investment can be taxing. I started out very resistant to the whole endeavor, afraid to be hurt or disappointed or to fail, and only got involved because Mr. KS pushed me. I’m glad that he did. As time went by and I saw the fox’s health improve though, I realized that it wasn’t about making sure this animal survived  the winter (although that was and is the hope). Each easy meal and each successful dose of meds gave this animal an extra day; a day that was better than his last, a day he likely would not have had otherwise. And that was… meaningful.

It is easy to go through life and in the hustle and bustle forget just how precious each day is. It’s easy when we aren’t struggling, to forget what it means to struggle. It’s easy to take good fortune and good health for granted. And it’s easy to not recognize just what an impact you can have on another’s life with just a small investment of time. These are the life lessons I learned from our Red Fox and that is… meaningful.

I hope that our Red Fox friend is healthy and pouncing and prancing and leaping in a place that makes him happy. I hope his belly is full and his coat is warm. I hope that maybe someday I’ll see him again. But most of all, I’m thankful for the days we had each other because for as much as he needed us, I think there is part of me that needed him.

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A ‘Stylish’ Option

In my last post I shared that I was ready to start my handspun sweater! One more indulgent look at the handspun? Yes, please!img_4396

Of course, as is old news by this point, I’ve been spinning this yarn to create my own handspun Tecumseh SweaterAs it snowed and rained and sleeted Sunday morning I finally buckled down and got it all wound and then I got to knitting another swatch.

You may remember I swatched earlier with the first skein of Sunshiney Day when I was making sure I was close on the weight of the yarn. So why do another swatch, right?! Well, it’s simple. I wanted to do another swatch with the main color to double check where the remainder of the skeins were with regards to weight. I’d aimed a bit lighter after the initial skein and I was hoping that despite doing the math to accommodate the heavier yarn, maybe I’d lightened up the yarn just enough to be able to use the pattern without my calculations. Sure enough, a quick swatch with just one needle change got me right on the listed gauge and with a fabric that with which I’m quite pleased. Perfect! 

Having set my swatch aside, Mr. Knitting Sarah finished up some work and we dashed out for a quick drive through the rain and sleet and snow to see what we could see. We didn’t see much of anything because — let’s face it — not much wildlife likes to be out in that kind of weather, but what we did see was pretty fantastic…

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We saw 3 Whooping Cranes. As Mr. KS — who took this photo said — it’s always a special day to find one, let alone three, in the wild considering that at one point they numbered just over 20 living birds in the world. Now, while they are still listed an endangered, there are 757 living Whooping Cranes. This was by far the closest I’ve seen them in the wild. We spent a good long time just watching them rooting around in the fields for food, looking mostly undisturbed by the unpleasant weather. They are always such a regal, magical sight.

After this sighting, we turned and headed for home as the temperature fluctuations were wreaking havoc with our tire pressure sensors and — being in the middle of nowhere — we did not feel like getting stuck with a tire issue in 30 degree rain and sleet. We got back to town, dealt with the tires, and headed home for a warm cup of coffee.

It was then that I grabbed my freshly wound handspun so I could cast-on (for real!) my handspun Tecumseh sweater. Now I did wind all 11 skeins of yarn and needed a place to keep all the yarn, of course. Thankfully I’d just gotten my brand new Stylish Hermit Project Bag in the mail at the end of last week!img_4411

This fabulous bag comfortably fits all 11 skeins plus my project on the needles!

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I absolutely adore the size, first and foremost. Big enough for a sweater project, but thanks to its deep V design, you can easily tie it down to smartly accommodate a much smaller project, too. The luxurious linen folds down very neatly as well to create an open basket feel for knitting in action.

Having dabbled in sewing myself, I find the seams a really elegant way to present a no-catch project bag…img_4414-1

They are as beautiful as they are practical.

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Thanks to this bag, but sweater is ready to travel anywhere! In addition to knitting projects, this bag will also be perfect for holding prepped fiber for spinning projects. I may need to pick up more!

Stylish Hermit bags are currently available in two autumnal hues — Moss Green and Bordeaux Red —  through Three Waters Farm.

 

The designer-seamstress behind these lovely project bags is none other than Mary Ann & Stephen’s daughter, Liliana Pagano. Liliana has a BFA in Costume Technology and these project bags are her most recent collaboration with Mary Ann. Combining the talents of these two talented women, it’s no wonder these project bags are so wonderful! I for one can’t wait to see what they dream up next!

In the mean time, I suppose I’ll keep knitting on my Tecumseh Sweater. It might be a drag to tote around such a large WIP, but thankfully I have a ‘stylish’ option. It makes all the difference — there’s definitely no better way to carry around a sweater knit in the making!

 

 

 

Second Annual

This past weekend was the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and while I was unable to attend this year, it brought back a lot of truly wonderful memories from my last time there. Last year, if you remember, a large group from the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group traveled from near & far to get together and meet up for this event. It was just totally incredible! This year, the same amazing group of women set-up a similar get-together, but this time in Maine. Unfortunately, that was not in the cards for me either this year, but they’ve been sharing stories and images with us and my heart is full knowing they are having a fantastic time.

True to form, these enthusiastic band of ladies haven’t stopped at just the travel and adventure, die-hard knitters that they are, they had the idea to put together a knitalong to coincide with the whole event. It’s such a grand idea as it allows those who can’t travel to still participate and be a part of, even if the travel is not in the cards. Last year, the group decided on Rainbow Warrior and believe it or not, a year has passed and I’ve yet to share my finished project. Well, friends, today is [finally!] the day!

My Rainbow Warrior project has existed in not one, but three incarnations. It started as this…

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But it just didn’t suit me. So I switched it up and tried it with this combination…

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But it was still not quite right. It was a little too Green Bay Packer-y for me (not that there’s anything wrong with that, just wasn’t tickling my fancy). After ripping attempt #2 I had this inkling that this skein might be the ticket…

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It’s a skein of KnitCircus Greatest of Ease Lothlorien Panoramic. And I thought… this gradient + that grey I’d been using — SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock in Silver — I think that could be it! With the holidays coming and other things on my mind, I tucked both skeins away in my cedar chest only to unearth them again months later in mid-June.

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And I just knew it was going to work almost instantly. And in a few short weeks, I was finished.

Since that time I’ve been wearing it. And loving it. And not photographing it. It actually made it on my little shawl and sweater rack near by bed so I could throw it on on chilly morning. Finally, this morning — inspired by my latest knit — I brought it down to the mannequin and took some photos to share. Would you like to see?!

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After being through two combinations I did not care for, it’s even more satisfying seeing how this version turned out.

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The pattern was really fun and easy to knit and I adore how the gradient worked with it. And while I can take or leave a picot edge, on this shawl, I really love it. I think it suits the texture perfectly.

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Beautiful. And already in my regular rotation of shawls!

The reason I opted to share this with you today is that just like last year, the Friends of Knitting Sarah Group (really, it’s a shame my name is on it because they are well beyond me at this point!) have selected a new KAL to coincide with the get-together and while a group are knitting away in Maine, those of us unable to attend are enjoying their photos and stories and knitting away on this year’s selected pattern, Down The Road And Back Again.

This year, I pulled a few options out of my stash and put them in a bit where I could walk past them, get used to them together, and ruminate on my options. Then, as I was contemplating photographing my options and posting them to the group for opinions and thoughts, I thought what about…

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It’s my handspun Merry Poppies spun with Three Waters Farm fiber and a skein of String Theory Caper Sock in Dark & Stormy I received as a gift a couple years back. I’d started a project or two with the Caper Sock, but never found anything that was good enough. Before losing incentive, I wound the Merry Poppies, weighed both skeins (the project goes by weight, so awesome for all you handspun knitters out there!) and started. And unlike the many false starts of the Rainbow Warrior, this one I knew was going to be perfect from the get-go.

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I am just smitten with everything about this project. It’s fun to knit and the colors just work.

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I am struggling to put it down — just one more color change, I tell myself all the time! It’s one of those knits!

So I don’t think the second annual Friends of KS Fall KAL will take as long as last year’s (at least I hope not!), but there’s no denying that both are/will be lovely and that I’ll get a whole lot of wear out of both of them. Even though the first took a good long time, this event has quickly become a KAL I really look forward to and enjoy knitting. Here’s to many more years knitting with this wonderful group and to many more adventures and opportunities to get together in the future!

Where the Birds & Bears Take You

It’s been a while since I’ve shared an outdoor adventure here. Partly because I’ve had a lot of good crafty things going on and also because our family adventure time has been a little more limited lately. When we’ve made the time for gallivanting, I’ve been more focused on being in-the-moment than snapping pictures. In any case, today I thought I’d share a couple recent jaunts with you. Brace yourselves for wintry landscapes! Because you know what? It’s still winter here!

A week or so ago we actually got about a foot of fresh snow. It was not bomb-cyclone style intensity, but it was snowing for a good 24-36 hours straight. On the evening it was meant to wind down, my hubby saw on social media that someone one street over had had black bear tracks in their yard the night before and Mr. Knitting Sarah was instantly in adventure mode. “We have to go take a walk to see if it’s out there tonight!”

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How I get talked into these things, I will never know.

For those worrying or thinking we’re those people — you know — the ones who ruin it for everyone, winding up attacked by bears or provoking bad behavior, I promise we are not. We have a lot of experience viewing wildlife in nature and have great respect for nature in all its forms. We always give animals large & small plenty of space and follow proper etiquette to keep everyone safe. We will, however, obviously go out to view wildlife when possible. But I digress. Suffice to say, on this particular evening we enjoyed a peaceful, quiet walk and once the wind was at our backs, it was easy to appreciate the beautiful snowy night. No bears nor bear tracks were spotted, but we made a wonderful memory as we marked 1 full year in our new home.

The following day, we made a trip about an hour or so north of home to one of our favorite parks.

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There’s a waterfall in there and, obviously, the falls were more treacherous than normal because the deep snow — up to my thigh in some drifted spots — made it hard to see where one boulder stopped and the next started or, more perilously, where one boulder stopped and the waterfall started. We were extremely careful and cautious, of course.

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Thankfully, in this landscape the picturesque does not require endangering oneself. It’s all around.

This day also took us to a slightly less scenic outpost…

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You see, a power plant not too far from our home is the nesting spot for a pair of Peregrine Falcons and as birders and amateur naturalists we went to see what we could see. The truth is, from this spot you cannot see a whole lot at this point because the birds spend a whole lot of time warming their four beautiful orange-y eggs.

Thankfully, there is a camera that has a live stream of the nesting site.

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You can check it out here, but be warned that it’s very, very addictive. Sure, 95% of it looks like nothing more than a bird sitting on gravel, but if you leave it on or watch long enough, you’ll hear these amazing birds calling to each other and possibly to their own little ones still in their eggs. We’ve been lucky enough to see the birds off the nest and once we even heard what have must be them circling over the nest because you could hear their constant calls come close and then fly off repeatedly. Was there a predator? Were they flying with their mate? Oh, the intrigue! Forget humans on realty television, this is so much better!

I often have the live stream open in an extra window on my desktop with the volume on very low — you can usually hear when something is amiss and then the kids and I run to the screen and toggle over to see what’s happening. Sometimes I grab screen shots when I can. This is a personal favorite…

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Because, you know, hello there Birdie!

Somwhere after the waterfall and Peregrine adventures I finished my Iron Blue from Three Waters Farm

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So I can finally finish up my handspun Brillig project one of these days. It’s a bit less overtwisted than the first skein and I believe it’s because I plied on a faster whorl, more suited to the whorl I made the singles with. Thankfully, I believe the weight will be close enough that it won’t stand out from the first skein despite being spun 6months apart. Alas, this project will need to wait just a bit longer.

You see, I’m working on a very special handspun project that has a deadline.

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It’s currently miles of moody purple handspun garter stitch soon to meet a lace border and edge. I’m loving working on it and it’s “due” in a couple of week, so I’m devoting most of my free time to this to be sure I have plenty of time to finish, wash, and block this dreamy piece.

Just in case, this all wasn’t adventure and scenic enough for you with my customary dash of fiber arts…

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We had a beautiful (and less wintry!) day yesterday as we trucked ourselves down to Necedah Wildlife Refuge. We saw nearly 40 species of birds including a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks, two separate Whooping Cranes, a Loon, Buffleheads, Purple Finches, and, well, about 35 other kinds of birds! (One of these days I swear I’m going to get a bird list going somewhere here on knittingsarah.com) Oh, and I best not forget, we also spotted this guy…

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Mr. Knitting Sarah trekked the kids into the woods to get this photo while I stayed back at the car as my hip does not love bushwacking. I do, however, get credit for spotting him. For the record, if you are ever driving down a backroad in the central forest or northwoods of Wisconsin and you see a large dark circle in a tree, you could very possibly be looking at a porcupine. You had better stop, grab your binoculars or spotting scope, and take a closer look!

Is that enough adventure for one day?

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Moose says and emphatic YES. After running most of yesterday followed by what could basically could be called an aromatherapy bath with coconut smelling shampoo, this morning Moose was super tired and had no interest in getting out of bed.

8 hours later if I just swivel my chair…

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Yup, still tired. I wonder if he’ll be up for his afternoon walk today? Poor Moose, we can’t help that you’re so tuckered out — we just go where the birds and bears take us!