This Week in My Dreams

I think because I’ve committed to knitting sweaters for both kids before the snow flies — or, let’s be realistic, before the snow stops flying this winter — I’ve been obsessing nonstop about knitting shawls and wraps. Of course I am. I may have even cast one on, but I’m still kind of in denial about that fact.

But I digress.

One shawlette that has been on my mind for a good long while has been Mel Ski’s Menehune.

                                               Copyright MSkiKnits — Please click photo for link!

Like so many, I’ve been touring Periscope this week. For those who don’t know, it’s kind of like YouTube, but you broadcast live and your recordings don’t stay available as long. I’m @KnittingSarah if you want to make a friend there & possibly see me babble on a bit. In any case, I’ve really loved & been inspired by Mel’s scopes as she’s such a driving force of kindness or positive thinking. You can find her on Periscope at  @MSkiKnits and I really recommend checking her out. Obviously, I also love her designs and have been dreaming of creating my own Menehune in this handspun…

IMG_0819It’s a 2ply I spun out of Cloudlover BFL/Silk in the ‘Blue Hawaii’ colorway.

IMG_0823And I think it would make an exceptionally pretty little shawlette.

What are you dreaming of knitting this week?

WI Sheep & Wool 2015 Recap

Well, despite the extra large cup of syrup my daughter ingested on her pancakes right before Wisconsin Sheep & Wool yesterday, the subsequent sugar high that ensued, and the fact that both kids had handled taking my mom to the Quilt Expo in Madison the day before & were pretty much hitting their patience limit, we all had an incredibly wonderful time. Of course we did. Of course.

First of all, what an amazing treat it was to meet a few people I’ve only ever ‘talked’ with in emails or Ravelry forums or via Instagram. I swear every year that part of the Sheep & Wool festival gets better and better. It was also great to see a few familiar faces, even if I couldn’t always remember how I knew them — whoops & sorry! I’m the kind of person who will recognize faces pretty quickly, but names are often another story. If you were in that boat please know that’s just how my crazy brain works. In any case, to put it plainly I go to the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and I always feel right at home. What an absolute treat and what great fun!

You probably want to see what I picked up though, don’t you? Okey, okey. I’ll share because I’m really excited, too!

First, it’s worth saying that my mom and I have been going to this festival together for a few years and we kind of have a system. Along with highlighting ‘must-see’ stores, we walk through both the East & West Country Stores entirely before purchasing anything. We take notes on things we might want to purchase including what the item is and where it’s located. Then we take a break, figure out what we want to take home with us, and make a final sweep to the shops where we want to buy. It’s a system we’ve been honing for 3 or 4 years now and this is the first year it ever felt like we really had it down. It made the whole experience much less crazed than I’m used to feeling which was fantastic and made the whole day way more fun for me.

In any case, on to the fun stuff, right?!

One of my first stops was Bijou Basin Ranch where I met Lindy from Balwen Woodworks. I thought she was awesome over email and she’s even awesome-er in person. And she helped me find the perfect buttons for the sweater I’m working on for my son.

balwenThey’re made from vintage tool handles and the edges have little flecks of blues and a little red, too. They couldn’t be a better match for this project. I was so excited about these I totally broke protocol and bought them on the spot. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do!

After we toured the rest of the country store pavillions — which took us a couple hours — we headed over toward the dog trials so the kids could have a snack and watch the working dogs do their thing while my mom and I could figure out what stops our final sweep required. Along the way, we were walking past some working dog owners and met one of their dogs who was a little skittish. Because we’re us and we’re lucky like that, these kind folks said, “Hey, we have some puppies back over in their pens — do you want to play with them? We’re working on socializing them.”

Do we want to play with puppies?

Um… YES!

So we made new friends.

IMG_0662Meg and Hawk were very, very playful.

IMG_0663And very friendly.

IMG_0665And this little lady could not have been any sweeter. I would scratch her chin and if I moved my hand, she’d scoot up to it so I wouldn’t stop. She was kind of tired and I was kind of in love with her. I didn’t catch the name of the folks who owned these pups, but I just want to say that the owners of Meg & Hawk really made our day with their generosity.

Having played with puppies, had a snack, and checked out lists, we headed back to business.

We made our way to the Wheeler Clay Studio booth where I proceeded to fall in love with one of each item. Eventually I narrowed it down to this beautiful mug.

alison wheelerI thought it was gorgeous immediately, but when I heard it was microwave and dishwasher safe I was 100% sold. As soon as I took this photo, I gave it a quick wash and I’m drinking my tea out of it right now. I just couldn’t wait! I can tell this booth will be one I revisit for many years to come.

We spent a good deal of time chatting with Natalie in the Cloudlover booth where I spent far too much time trying to decide on which of her new Halloween colors to take home.

cloudloverIn the end, I picked Cauldron (on the left) and Smolder (on the right). They are kind of really close in their colors, obviously, but I was really feeling the grey/orange/purple thing and I don’t have anything like these at home so I went with it.

From here, we finally made it to Bumblebee Acres. I meant to visit this booth last year and somehow missed it. I’m so happy I didn’t miss them this year!

bbacresAt the last moment I found these two batts in the Avalon colorway. This photo doesn’t do justice to their sky blue/purple/grey/magenta majesty but trust me when I say these will make some incredibly beautiful yarn someday.

And finally, we stopped at The Woolgatherers booth where we got to meet Scott Snyder of Snyder Spindles. He could not have been nicer or more patient as he showed my mom how a Turkish spindle works. She’s never spun before and he did a great job of demonstrating even with all the distractions of the festival and my kids starting to meltdown. As she was picking her spindle (her first – yay mom!), she asked what a certain design was — it was a sperm whale. In my slightly overcooked brain after a day of wrangling children and being bombarded with looking at awesome things, I thought this Moby Dick of spindles was the bee’s knees and I brought it home.

moby dickI believe he said it is redheart and it’s purple hues will deepen as time goes by. I really do love it and it’ll go so well with the narwhal spindle I already have.

You may notice that there’s no yarn here. No, I didn’t miss anything. I actually didn’t buy any! I did find sweater yarn at Green Mountain Spinnery to fit a pattern I really want to knit up, but since I’m not sure when I’ll get to it I thought I’d wait and order it a little later. I also meant to go back for a skein of Xanadu from Bijou Basin Ranch, but I remembered that as I got into the car to leave. That was my one little misfire for the day so it looks like I’ll be ordering that a little later as well.

Many thanks to all the folks in booths who chatted with my super-talkative kiddos while I shopped — everyone was so patient. In a world where it often feels like the unpleasant outweighs the pleasant, I have to say I got home today feeling very fortunate to have been surrounded with that much kindness. Kindness and beauty and inspiration and fiber and puppies and family and friends — what a great way to spend a day.

It Could Definitely Be Worse (Probably)

Sometimes things end up a bit of a disaster.

When I got my fiber club installment from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber in the Spice Cake colorway dyed on the most luxurious Organic Polwarth + Silk base, I did my best to get right to it.

spice cake braidLike most of my spinning projects, the first 4oz flew by and I was beyond excited to finish up what I knew was going to be a drapey, gorgeous 2ply shawl yarn in what I anticipated being epic yardage. That’s why I did a 2ply, after all, was to get a whole lot of yardage.

spice cake on wheelI spun and I spun and I just fell head over heels in love.

And then somewhere along the line something happened.

Something truly not great.

Somehow the singles got very mucked up in what I’m sure was the direct result of me trying to whiz through the last half of the fiber too fast and trying to spin through a whole lot of interruptions. Whether it was that I changed the ratio unknowingly or I managed to get the twist going the wrong way (my stomach churns at the thought of that last one), I struggled during plying to recover what I could for a couple of hours one night and then went to bed and struggled for another hour or two in the morning. Finally I had to make the heart-wrenching call of pitching a whole bunch of my beautiful singles and just use what I could.

It shook my confidence to the core. I’ve been spinning just a handful of years and I’m by no means super skilled, but I’ve never, even in the very beginning had a mishap like this. To have to ditch this beautiful fiber in such a rich colorway kind of made me sick — it was like adding insult to injury, kicking me while I was down and all that.

But you know, these things happen. I think. I hope. And I had no choice but to make the best of it.

full skeinAnd what I could salvage wasn’t half bad. In fact, it’s beautiful.

orange detailI love the pops of orange amid the browns and purples and as I said before, it is an unbelievably rich colorway.

spice cake looseIn fact, the only thing I don’t love about it is that I know I could have a lot more than 330yards if I hadn’t had the incident.

It’s taken me a couple months to share this skein. Partly because I’ve just been busy, but partly because — you know — what do you say when you have this kind of disaster? When you have to scrap hundreds of yards of some of the most lovely base there is? The words that have finally come to me are that I’ve learned some valuable lessons. Take your time. Note your ratio. Take your time. Note the basics (like is the wheel spinning in the correctt direction?). There are some times — when there are loads of interruptions — that I simply can’t be spinning. And, oh yes, take your time. I also recognized that it was really time for me to have my wheel in a permanent place where I could easily spin daily, so once the Christmas tree came down I left a spot in the living room for it.  It helps to have everything in one spot and to not have to shuttle the wheel from place to place. The experience provided a healthy dose of humility & self-forgiveness, too. I will still make mistakes and that’s ok. It has to be ok or I will not get very far in this craft. And finally, the silver lining. For all that mess, I still managed to create 330yards are pretty spectacular yarn. It could definitely be worse (probably).

Last Call(s)!

I got my latest installment of the Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber Fiber Club last week and I was in a spot that allowed me to start spinning within a day or so. As most of you know this is not usually the case for me because I always have a multitude of other obligations, but when it does work out it is always very special and fun. This month’s installment is called “Spice Cake” and is on an unbelievably amazing Organic Polwarth + Silk base.

IMG_7584This round of clubs I ordered the double dose of fiber, so I have 8 beautiful ounces with which to play. I’ve opted to divvy the fiber up just enough to gently blend colors in each braid and eventually turn it into a simple standard 2ply. I am envisioning a big drapey shawl in the yarn spun from this gorgeous fiber, so spinning a 2ply will let me maximize the yardage.

This is one of those colorways that reminds me why I so love the fiber club. These braids I would not have picked on my own — don’t get m wrong, they are stunning, but I generally gravitate toward cooler palettes. As soon as I started spinning Spice Cake here though, I was completely smitten and can’t imagine my stash without it. I am just having an absolute blast spinning it and can’t wait to knit it!

While I’m speaking of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber, I just wanted to remind everyone that today is the final day of our special 15% off discount for the shop, so be sure to hop over the site and treat yourself to a little something (or better yet, a few somethings). Remember that the 15% off will apply to all fiber & yarn including sale fiber & yarn. Club subscriptions are excluded from this discount, but everything else is part of the deal! Simply use the discount code  SOCKSWITHSARAH  when you check out to get your discount. Many, many, many thanks to Natalie at Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber for her wonderful support of the Socks with Sarah KAL & for all her beautiful yarns and fibers!

Today is also the final day for you to use our special discount code for the wonderful Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe.

Photo courtesy of Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe

If you remember, I posted a review of these lotion bars and lip balms before the holiday and along with a giveaway, the shop extended a 10% of discount for those ordering during the month of December. Just use the coupon code  FOS10  when you check out for 10% off your order.

Many thanks to these two wonderful shops for offering these special discounts. I hope you they help you have a little fun treating yourself to a couple end of the year/new year’s treats!

It All Comes Together in the End

My friend Sue is one of the very few people with whom I actually get to sit and knit. She’s just a very good friend who has very patiently opened her home to me even through this past fall when my schedule was insanely erratic and constantly changed at the last minute. She was the first person to encourage me to do the Socks with Sarah KAL and is just the sweetest, kindest, most supportive friend out there. She truly does knit a whole lot and loves doing it, so I wanted to find a special skein for her for a holiday gift. She loves green, so I sifted through all my favorite hand-dyers for the perfect skein of green yarn. There are certainly no shortage of beautiful green yarns, but for whatever reason none of them were it. Sue is a very well-versed knitter and has tried a lot of yarns, so I was looking for something she couldn’t just run down to the LYS for or order with a couple clicks of a mouse.

Just when I started to lose hope and was beginning to think about what other avenues I could possibly pursue for a gift, I remembered this was in my stash…

Photo courtesy of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber.

One 4oz braid of Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber Merino/SW Merino/Silk in the Ponderosa colorway. Ironically, I had actually bought this with a different friend in mind, but as soon as it crossed my thoughts I knew it had to be reassigned. As this epiphany came just before Thanksgiving, I pulled the braid from my stash and left it out so that I could get going on it as soon as I returned.

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a flurry of insane cleaning when I arrived home, but by Saturday afternoon I broke open my braid. I split it up into 3 equal parts because I thought a nice round 3ply would be ideal. Each of the 3 parts I then broke up uniquely to blend the colors as much as possible. Personally, I find handspun 3ply yarns to knit up a bit closer to commercial yarns and thus can knit up a little more predictably. You must sacrifice some of the yardage you’d get with a 2ply, but they definitely knit up into a more even fabric. So off I went…

ponderosaI cruised along in order to spin & ply the entire project within about 24hours, so I could get it washed, set, and drying in time to gift on Wednesday. It was a faster pace than I’m used to, but I managed it. And sure enough, it was hanging to dry by Sunday night. I’ve discovered that since I don’t have the outdoor option for drying in the winter that if I hang my handspun above one of my furnace vents I can dry it quite quickly — the one in the bathroom above which hangs a convenient towel bar serves very nicely. The skein was dry by Monday evening.

And the results…

pondoNot the most even yarn I’ve spun — I probably could have dealt with a few of the slubs a bit better and of course the slickness of the silk makes it harder for a relative newbie like me to get my singles just so, but all in all, I think it turned out very nicely. And most importantly, it was just what I was hoping for for Sue.

Now once I had it skeined, I noted that I had about 185yards of roughly fingering weight yarn. That is kind of limiting as far as pattern options go, so I wanted to give a compatible pattern along with the yarn to make it easier to use. I searched all over Ravelry for a pattern that would work. I started with my favorite designers, dog-earring a few options before sifting through more broad Ravelry searches to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. What I finally ended up getting was Arcus by Lisa Mutch of Northbound Knitting. A pretty little cowl requiring 130 – 330yds of fingering weight yarn and knit in a super chillaxed garter stitched variation, this fit the bill perfectly.

pondopatternI purchased a copy for myself (because I have more than a few skeins that would work great with this), printed it, and put it in a sheet protector. Once I actually gave the gift, I purchased a gift copy for Sue so she could have it in her Ravelry library and reprint as she wanted. Whether this yarn works with the pattern and is to Sue’s liking remains to be seen and, really, I’m fine either way. I just wanted to include an option, you know? And it made a nice little package, the yarn & pattern, so I was very happy with how it all came together in the end. I hope Sue is, too!

It’s worth mentioning that Lisa Mutch is running a Buy 2, Get 1 Free Sale in her Ravelry pattern store for the month of December. She has nearly 80 patterns available and I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity, elegance, and modernity of her designs. If you were interested in trying her work out, now’s a great time to pick-up a couple patterns. No coupon code is necessary, the 3rd pattern will automatically be deducted in your cart.

Also, for those who are ogling the fiber, remember we have just a couple weeks left to take advantage of the Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber Socks with Sarah discount. Use the  SOCKSWITHSARAH  discount code at checkout to receive 15% off your yarn & fiber order.

And All the Craziness In Between

While WordPress dutifully posted my writing over the last week or so, I actually haven’t turned my computer on for almost two whole weeks. Sure, I used my smart phone, but I use it mostly for reading and posting to Instgram regularly — I really love that little app — but that’s about it. Suffice to say, it’s been busy here as I’m sure it’s been where all of you are, too, and it’s kept me from tending my little corner of the interwebs here. This morning though, in between math lessons and over my lunch break, I’ve managed to not only catch up on my blog comments, but also on the Socks with Sarah Discussion Thread on Ravelry as well as a couple long overdue email replies. I feel like I’m back in the saddle, refreshed and ready to go here.

I thought today I’d share a brief little overview of what I’ve been up to. It’s true that I don’t have photos of the less glamorous goings-on — like dentist appointments and my husband being very under the weather with the flu and having to jump start the car — but I did snap some photos of the more picturesque moments. And you know me, I love to tell a story with good pictures (it’s the art historian in me, I can’t help it).

On a sort of semi-last minute decision, we spent Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. It was snowy and quite cold. After a yummy meal, we walked around the property in the snow…

tractorAnd froze a bit in the icy winds off Lake Michigan…

lakeiceBut it was nice to come back to a snug fire, family time, and knitting.

fireOne word: Cozy.

The day before Thanksgiving, we discovered that where my husband expected only a couple days off, he was able to take the whole week after the holiday, so at o’dark hundred Sunday night/Monday morning we packed up the car and headed to my husband’s parents’ home in Southwestern Missouri for a little pre-Christmas celebration/visit. We usually don’t get to see them this time of year, so it was a special treat.

On the way there, I worked on my DesertVistaDyeworks Oh Clark! socks and finished one up just as we pulled into their town…

christmassockI seriously love these babies.

While there we visited with my husband’s parents, watched Christmas movies, had many many laughs, got to have dinner with his brother, and somehow I ended up taking photos of their cats. I’m really not a cat person. My husband is very allergic so mostly what I think of when I see them is his asthma going bananas, but apparently I can still photograph them all right…

cat1This one did not like me a whole lot, but I think she mostly was just annoyed that we had invaded her house with two children and a giant dog.

cat2This one was pretty friendly — he mostly liked everyone, including the two kids and giant dog. And clearly had no trouble sleeping through me getting all up in his grill for this photograph.

While in Missouri, we also visited a local quarry for some fossil hunting…

fossilIt was pretty amazing. And excellent little homeschool field trip site, indeed.

On the final night of our visit, I finished up the second Oh Clark! sock…

christmassock2While we watched The Christmas Story together. I reserved the afterthought heels for when we were home (actually I started them this morning).

During our visit my mother-in-law very sweetly asked if I’d be willing to make her a pair of socks and, of course, I’d come prepared just in case this happened.

newsocksSo in the car on the way home I cast-on this pair for her in String Theory Colorworks Orbit in the Solanum colorway. She loves greens and I thought these would be fun for her, plus I just love knitting with String Theory Colorworks’ sport-weight Orbit base. It is such a great yarn!

Along the way home, we took a teeny tiny detour through the Amana Colonies. For all the times I’ve driven through Iowa and past them, I’ve never stopped. It was a rather foggy day and those little old towns looked haunted like no place I’ve ever been. My husband and I agreed we’d love to live in a little spot like that — those big rolling hills, those little old towns, that whisper of what once was — it’s just gorgeous. In any case, we made a brief stop at the woolen mill to get a wool blanket for my husband…

amanaIt was pretty amazing to see the mill & all the beautiful woven blankets. In the end, my husband didn’t find anything he couldn’t live without (he has quite a stockpile of wool blankets already), but we did find something for a special family friend.

Upon arriving home, for some unknown reason I became compelled to clean ALL THE THINGS. It started with the mountain of laundry — everything anywhere near the cats gets a thorough washing when we get home to try to stave off further asthmatic issues. Then the bathroom got a thorough scrubbing… and the refrigerator needed to be cleaned out… and while I was at it I scrubbed that and the freezer… and then I discovered our chest freezer needed to be defrosted… and the kitchen counters… and the cast-iron skillet needed to be restored…

castironIt was about right here that I realized I was going a bit overboard for having just arrived home and that I had a yarn to spin for a holiday gift… so I got going on that.

I had hunted and hunted and hunted for the perfect skein of green for one of my knitting friends and I just could not for the life of me find it. And then I remembered the braid of Cloudlover merino/sw merino/silk in the Ponderosa colorway I had in my stash and before we left I pulled it out so I could start it when we got home.

ponderosaIt turned out a much richer green than I expected which was wonderful. I started this Saturday and spun like the wind so I could ply it and get it washed by Sunday night. I had a knitting date for Wednesday and just in case I didn’t see my friend until after the holiday I wanted to be sure I got it to her. I will share the finished project in the coming days, but suffice to say it is delivered and already being knit — wow!

So along with all these other things going on as well as getting my kids back on the straight and narrow path of school, my husband has been quite under the weather. I’ve had on and off sinus headaches, but nothing terrible — thank goodness. True to form, I’ve been sleeping a whole lot and getting lots of fluids to try to avoid the brunt of whatever my hubby has. Yesterday, however, to get us all out of the house we took our first real family excursion to find Snowy Owls. It tends to take a fair bit of driving around, so it is a pretty low-key thing to do, but effectively gives us a change of scenery which is very nice when you’ve all been a bit couped up.

As you probably know, we look for Snowy Owls every year and it just never gets old. I swear every time we find one, it’s as exciting as the first time for me. Now I am the first to admit that I may be the world’s worst Snowy Owl spotter. I mean it. I’m absolutely awful. If not for my husband, I’d probably never see one even if it was directly in front of me. So, as a little joke, my husband has taken to finding them and then stopping the car and nonchalantly scanning with his binoculars just to see how long it will take to find them. Well, yesterday, he had to finally pull my attention from the pretty rough-legged hawks to point out not one, but two amazing Snowy Owls in our field of view. One beautiful nearly pure white one and one with the signature black stripes of the immature or female.

We got this very blurry photo that my husband took with the phone camera through his binoculars…

snowyThis photo isn’t anything fabulous, but I must say that just before finding this perch, I watched this bird finish a meal and then fly a couple hundred yards. If you have never seen a Snowy Owl in flight, let me just tell you it is absolutely awesome. I don’t know that there’s much in nature that takes my breath away quite like a snowy owl in flight. It’s something about the icy cold in which you view them, the pristine white of their plummage on the wintry landscape, and that incredible, almost other-wordly owl face that just slays me. And to see not one, but two owls so close to each other was truly special for me.

This morning, I woke early to wrap-up the socks for my mother-in-law…

ggfinishedThey are all done and washed and once they are dry I’ll pop them in the mail, hopefully still in time for the holiday.

And I started the heels on those Oh Clark! socks as well, but I’ve been waylaid by those usual suspects — laundry, dishes, school lessons and correcting, and catching up here in my little corner of the internet. It sounds and looks like so much when I write it down here and it is indeed a very full life, but after the last couple weeks ‘away from my desk’, I feel so very refreshed. Ready to face each day, ready to tackle the hustle and bustle of the season, and ready and greedy for those little amazing moments — like haunted towns, ancient fossils, two owls in one field of view, hearty laughs with my family, and all the craziness in between.