Flurry

No, we haven’t had even one picturesque December snow flurry of which to speak. In fact, instead of a blanket of pristine white we see this scene while out on our hikes.IMG_1533I will say this particular hike was very eerie as the dog was clearly unsettled. Had we not been with Mr. Knitting Sarah, I probably would have gotten right back in the car and found a different spot. As it was though, it was a spooky Halloween-y hike in December. And while it isn’t necessarily unheard of to be snow-less this time of year, it’s definitely not quite as fun to tramp through the woods in mud and fallen leaves instead of snow.

But I digress.

There has, however, been a flurry of activity around our house. Ever since we put the tree up, we’ve been filling all our spare moments with Christmas music and finding those last perfect gifts and preparing for the family we’ll be hosting for the holiday. Since the kids are really into baking and since a couple of the cookie varieties we like to offer handle freezing well, we’ve starting chipping away at the cookie list.

At Thanksgiving my mom handed me some chocolate stars and asked if I could use them. I’m not one to waste chocolate so…

IMG_1557Peanut butter with stars it is!

And of course no holiday would be the same without cut-out cookies…

IMG_1566-0Our selection of cutters is accidentally extensive and the selections the kids make to use is always very eclectic. We made one batch last week and then another over the weekend. It’s way too many, I know, but this way I won’t feel stingy with letting the kiddos sample them leading up to the holiday.

In addition to baking and shopping and all the holiday merry-making, I’ve been clicking away on my final (I think, I hope) knitted Christmas gift.IMG_1552Shown in black and white here, of course, to surprise the recipient, I can share that I’m knitting Martina Behm’s Fractal Danger and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve been very impressed and inspired by the Behm-a-long that’s been taking place over in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry thread and while this one isn’t in TWF yarns or handspun, I found the pattern for this gift through this -along nonetheless. I’ll be sharing more on the Martina Behm project I did start with Three Waters Farm handspun, a new spinning project, and some other fun Three Waters Farm news soon.

In addition to all the holiday-related goodness, remember that double marl I’ve been working on for a while using a couple braids of Cloudlover fiber?

IMG_1559I finally finished plying!

IMG_1560It’s drying now after its bath, but suffice to say after all the doubt and worry as to how this skein would turn out I am very, very pleased. I’ll be sure to share proper photos once it’s dried.

On a less colorful but still exciting (at least to me) note, you might notice that the Knitting Sarah blog has very recently gone ad-free. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, but have put it off because of the fee involved. Alas, the perfect storm of wanting to do it and needing a bit more space here for media has finally allowed me to take the leap. You may have not even noticed the change, but I wanted to share just because as dorky as it is it was a big deal to me.

So. You see what I mean — we’ve been busy little bees around here lately. Baking, spinning, knitting, hiking about, making long-awaited blog changes, and all around enjoying the season. I hope you are enjoying a bit of the holiday spirit, too!

Routine to Ritual

A few weeks ago when my husband and I started talking about and beginning to organize plans for the holidays, I was reminded that my birthday was coming up and — as tends to be the case — it brought about some reflection and self-assessment. By and large this year has brought about a lot of growth and other good things for my person, but one area decidedly needed help: I certainly had let my health habits slip a bit the last few months. Like most, this area ebbs and flows for me — I get on a great track and then kind of fall off of it and then I tackle it again. I made the decision that my birthday gift to myself this year would be to get that aspect of me back to a place where I felt good about it.

Of course the biggest obstacle to this undertaking was time. We joke that I’m not really a morning person or a night person, but more of a middle of the day person so when I told my husband that I planned to get in a routine in which I wake early every day to do some yoga and strengthening exercises before the kids woke up he was supportive, but understandably skeptical. What’s unfolded, however, has been surprisingly… great. It started with a short program of stretching and strengthening, followed by my not really knowing what to do with myself during the extra time in the morning for which I was now  w i d e   awake. I mostly drank coffee and blinked a lot while I stared blankly. Over the past couple weeks, however, it’s evolved from a routine in which I kind of floundered into a ritual that I really enjoy and wake up excited to start.

Today, for example, I woke up and did my yoga & strengthening routine. Since starting I’ve expanded the time frame and variety as well as learned to mix up the order in which I do things every week or two to keep it fresh. With that done, I get my coffee which I set the night before to begin brewing around the time I wake up and I get dressed. Today I had a bunch of laundry to fold, so I snuck that chore in quickly, too. And then, it was time to spin.

Since I’m working on that double-marl with my Cloudlover fiber., I began by organizing and laying out some fiber.

IMG_1437And then I turned on my ‘Fireplace for Your Home’ on Netflix. I realize this is pretty nerdy, but we don’t have a fireplace or a space heater that looks like a fireplace or anything like that so on these cold mornings that fireplace on the tv is the best I can do. For me, it sets a nice relaxing tone. And then I spin…

IMG_1436I usually get to spend about 30minutes to an hour before breakfast with my wheel. Since I get to watch the light change as the sun comes up I’ve started to think of this time as my ‘Sunrise Spin’ — even the name makes me happy. It’s been a real boon to my spinning progress as well as putting me in a very calm and productive mind-set before the school day begins.

There are some days when it my little ritual doesn’t happen – like on the weekends when I take a slower approach to the day or I instead opt to spend the time knitting or sipping coffee & chatting with Mr Knitting Sarah when he has a late start or a day off. By and large though, this time has proven to be a very unexpected delight that I look forward to, that I’m excited to get out of bed for, and that I gladly find a way to squeeze it into my day. Born of a simple desire to just get my body in better shape in time for my birthday, in a very natural and beautiful way it’s become a time to take care of my whole self.  I can’t think of a better early birthday gift!

The WI Sheep & Wool Must-See List

The Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival in Jefferson, WI kicks off tomorrow and I will be there with bells on. As in my tradition, I thought I’d take a moment to on this festival eve to share my survival guide and ‘must-see list’ with all of you. For the most part I go to for inspiration — I don’t get to any other fiber festivals really and it’s just so nice to be around fellow yarn & fiber addicts. As relaxing and fun as this event is for me, I do go into it with a plan. I could easily just say that I want to see all the things in all the booths because that’s the honest truth, but I thought I’d narrow it down to the vendors I’ve highlighted in my guidebook to make sure I don’t miss them. I’m listing their location in the Country Store East and West buildings, too, just in case you want to jot them down.

  1. Bijou Basin Ranch (Booth 616-617E): This booth is inspiring and terrifying to me all at the same time. Inspiring because there is never a shortage of gorgeousness and terrifying because if I’m not careful I could easily spend my entire budget here. I’m going in specifically (but not exclusively, of course) to check out Xanadu, their new 100% Mongolian Cashmere. At $35/400yd skein I think this might be prime gift knitting yarn, especially when paired with the freshly re-released Miya Shawl from Mari Chiba. I’m looking forward to the chance to check this yarn out in person. Also in this booth you’ll be able to find Lindy Sinclair, of Balwen Woodworks. If you’ll remember, Balwen Woodworks sponsored a giveaway here on the blog in June. Not only will Lindy be helping out in the booth, she’ll have some of her beautiful wares for sale, too. I will definitely be looking for buttons for my son’s sweater I started last week.
  2. Bumblebee Acres Farm (Booth 687E): I meant to stop here last year, but somehow missed them. I’ve been following this farm on Instagram and browsing their online shop pretty frequently, so I’m excited to see some of their unique fibers in person.
  3. Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber (Booth 732W): Of course. Of course, I have to stop in and check out one of my favorite dyers! I may have one of almost every color she dyes in my stash, but that’s only an ‘almost’ so there’s definitely room for another braid or two.
  4. Green Mountain Spinnery (Booth 739-740W): It has been another little tradition that as a huge treat I get sweater yarn here each year. Unfortunately, even though I have a pattern all picked and ready to go, I haven’t quite made it to last year’s sweater yarn. I thought about attempting to crank out a sweater during August, but I simply ran out of time. Regardless, I’m looking forward to visiting this yarn. This year I’m actually hoping to take a look at their Sylvan Spirit and Cotton Comfort yarns.
  5. Wheeler Clay Studio (Booth 776W): Last year I purchased buttons here, but there is no shortage of absolutely beautiful, locally made pottery. I’m especially excited to check out her yarn bowls and mugs this year.
  6. The Woolgatherers, Ltd (Booth 656-657E): Another local shop, this one I’ll be looking specifically at spindles. I’ll have one eye open for spindles everywhere, but I’m interested to see if they bring a selection of Snyder Spindles since I’ve been very pleased with the one I have.
  7. Yarns by Design (Booth 668-689E): This shop always has great kits and a gorgeous selection of yarns. Last year I managed to avoid buying my weight in Mrs. Crosby, but it was restraint that could be categorized as ‘heroic.’ Always lots of delicious temptation and friendly customer service here, so even though I don’t need anything specific I can’t pass up stopping.

I’ll be there most of the day Friday soaking up all the awesome. I hope you get some time this weekend to attend and enjoy, too. If you’re there Friday, give me a shout-out — I’d love to say hi!

IMG_0637

Tour de Fleece 2014 Wrap-Up

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the Tour de Fleece. With the exception of the KALs I’ve run on my own, it’s definitely my favorite fiber arts event. I love the talented spinners on the teams I’ve joined and I always learn a lot. I also appreciate that it really inspires me to experiment a little more with my spinning and pushes me to spin a bit every day. While I certainly didn’t spin 15skeins of yarn this year like I did in 2013, considering I was away from home 11 out of the 23 days Le Tour ran this year I’m not going to turn my nose up at my 5new skeins

Before I get to my full round-up here, let me share my last two skeins which I haven’t featured here on the blog yet. First, from my stash I pulled a beautiful 4ounces of Dyeabolical‘s Themyscira on a Mixed BFL/Tussah Silk base.

themyscira_medium2Like many fibers, this one had been in my stash far too long. I spun it into very lightweight singles as my original thought was that I would maximize the yardage with a simple 2-ply. Well, when it came time to ply I started in the evening when I should have called it a night and when I came back to it in the morning all I could see was this section I had under twisted. The only way to really deal with it was to run it back through my wheel. But I had a lot of yardage. And I was tired. And I wanted to finish. So while I thought over my options, I enlisted some help.

d spinsAnd when we finally got through the singles, when I had decided to just send it back through my wheel to adjust the twist instead on a total impulse I opted to Navajo ply my slightly wonky 2ply.

ThemysciraAnd I wound up with about 160yards of a really, really pretty 6ply.

Themyscira detailI think it was one of those lucky moments where a mistake leads to something really grand. I just love this skein!

Next up, I grabbed this fiber…

golden_afternoon_medium2Dyeabolical‘s Golden Afternoon on a polwarth/silk base. I bought this fiber after being inspired by Kara’s work last year — she actually  inspires the heck out of me on a regular basis. For those of you who don’t know, Kara is an amazing spinner and in addition to sparking my creativity, she’s been kind enough to help me now and then to solve spinning challenges. Definitely follow her blog if you don’t already — it is completely awesome.

Anyhoo, I split this fiber into 3equal portions for a traditional 3ply  and then split each of those 3 portions uniquely (read: randomly) to blend the colors.

Golden AfternoonI’m really very happy with the results. This fingering weight yarn could not be any prettier or softer.

golden afternoon fullI’m so happy to have a generous 450yard of this beautiful yarn.

As for the rest of the tour, let me sum up my other skeins. First, I had the skein of Cloudlover Rambouillet in the Lakefront colorway from the fiber club.

lakefrontFriends, also don’t forget the 15% discount for all Knitting Sarah friends at Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber which runs through the end of the year ( the giveaway is over, but see here for details on the discount).

Next, I had the Manos del Uruguay superfine merino in Blue Jay…

blue jay manosA beautiful blue-purple single.

And of course, the super lovely Cloudlover BFL/silk in Blue Hawaii….skeinedThis 2ply is so much fun!

Add the last two skeins to the mix and here you’ve got my five completed skeins from the Tour de Fleece 2014…

groupDefinitely not as many yards this year, but I’m so very happy with the results.  Most importantly though, I’m very inspired and motivated to keep spinning! And, as always, I’m marking my calendar for next year’s Tour — July 4, 2015 can’t come soon enough for me!