Cold Face, Warm Ears

I live in a place that gets cold. Not Fargo cold or Antarctica cold, but cold nonetheless. And it just so happens that my family and I don’t stop enjoying the outdoors just because it gets cold. On the contrary, my hubby loves the cold and routinely winter camps. The kids will stay out in the cold & snow until the absolute last possible moment. I’m a fan of being out in the cold on the condition that I get to return somewhere warm afterward and there’s not a lot of sitting still out in it. In addition to daily walks the kiddos and I take in all but the fiercest weather, sometimes we hike a little further afield in the snow. Last week included one of those little adventures.

My hubby has recently started organizing a small backpacking trip for himself and the kids later this spring. I’d consider going except the mileage they will cover is a little more than my legs will take me and, honestly, I won’t mind a couple days to myself. In any case, it won’t be winter camping, but we’ve really never required the kids to carry substantial packs so last week we decided to take a little trek out on the Ice Age Trail to see how the kids would do with packs.

We packed them up and picked a short out and back hike to a shelter. We are used to having the trail to ourselves, so it was kind of neat that along the way we met an older gentleman who was doing his routine 10mile hike in preparation for a trip to Everest Base Camp. You just never know who you might meet out on the trail. The hike was deserted otherwise though and we enjoyed the snowglobe-ish snow falling in the empty forest.

img_2312This forest is a favorite of mine. It’s pretty thick with trees and it’s hilly and we always hear the weirdest noises. As big fans of the movie Trollhunter, we like to say the crazy noises are trolls. Sometimes I like to come up with troll species names for the specific sounds we hear, but that’s probably more information than I should share here, but just in the off chance you hadn’t gotten the memo that I have a weird sense of humor and am easily entertained — well, there you go.

But I digress.

We made it out to the shelter where the kiddos went about collecting and sawing wood for a fire.

Moose stood watch and was vigilant about keeping track of us. I’m 100% sure he’s terrified that he might be lost or left behind as he — like me — likes to come home to his nice warm bed.

We cooked up a simple warm lunch and hung out around the fire and in the shelter for a good long while.

img_2309You know, just long enough for my feet start feeling like blocks of ice, as they do out in the cold. The hike back, of course, was a little colder since we’d been outside for a while, but thankfully I’d brought my new Timber Bay hat.

img_2337As you can see, I knit this hat pretty generous in the slouch department. Because I made mine out of Sheepish Yarn Co’s Midwest Merino, it has a bit more body and less drape than the sample. In fact, if I don’t pat it down when I put it on it will stand WAY up…

(That’s me on a different day wearing randomly thrown on snow gear and woollies as well as my husband’s cross-country skis. He knew I’ve been wanting to ski and we discovered my skis need repair, so he found a way to make it happen… even if the boots where 4 or 5sizes too big.)

 The Midwest Merino is a really beautiful yarn that I picked up at a special event at Cream City Yarn last autumn. It knits like a rustic wool, but feels much softer to the touch. I would describe it as a true, authentic merino — warm and yet soft enough to wear next to the skin — and it is truly a wonderful combination with this pattern for my cold winter walks and hikes.

I especially love the folded brim…

brimIt is so incredibly warm! Even when my face is frozen (as it was in the photos above), my ears stay nice and cozy.

The textured components are a lovely touch, too.

stitch detailThey are fun to knit without being difficult and both the Andelusian Stitch and the Fisherman’s Rib add both beauty and warmth to the design.

I started this hat on the way back from Yellowstone last month and finished it the day we got home. Well, I finished it except that a week or so later I decided to add a pom to it.

straight onI still think a slightly larger pom would better, but I ran out of yarn so the decision was kind of made for me and I love it all the same.

We made our way back to the car with almost no complaining. Considering the snow and occasionally icy trail, the necessity of wearing snow instead of hiking boots, and the addition of the packs, we are counting this as a small and amazing miracle. The Snickers bar we had on hand for that last boost of energy didn’t hurt our chances either. We arrived back at the car happy and tired, but invigorated by the cold. It may have taken a a little while for my face to warm back up, but thanks to my lovely new hat…

sidewaysmy ears stayed nice and warm.

Happy Superheroes… I mean Mother’s Day!

There are few experiences in life that radically change you immediately and permanently. Becoming a mother is at the top of that list. The transition isn’t unlike that of a comic book superhero. Getting bitten by a radioactive spider, having a baby — both are pretty instantaneously life-changing. Most days moms across the world go about the business of tending their flocks with heroic patience, unconditional dedication, and a love so strong and so deep that it’s almost inconceivable. And one day a year we pause to celebrate our moms and say thank you.

Usually I am just happy to spend the day with my family. Today, though, I was treated to breakfast in bed. This plan was hatched by my son who was started out upset he doesn’t yet know how to make pancakes. According to him, I always make him the best pancakes and he just really wanted to do the same for me. My husband helped him out and brought home some yogurt, berries, & oatmeal that the kids could easily put together. They woke me up with big eyes and faces so full of excited anticipation that they could have handed me a plateful of worms and I’d have eaten it.

After breakfast, as we waited for the rain to pass, I was able to finish up my SilverSpun Paper Moon socks.

IMG_9232The ends are woven in now and they are all set to be photographed, but suffice to say the fit and feel of these socks is absolutely divine. Inspired in part by these very socks and some very wonderful knitters in the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry Group, I’ll have information sometime in the next few days about a knitalong I’ll be hosting featuring the hand-dyed SilverSpun yarns of the Summer Sock Club from Feel Good Yarn Company. Space is very limited in this club, so pop over, reserve your spot, and knit with us this summer! In the mean time, don’t forget to use the discount code SARAHKNITS to get free shipping on orders over $42 from Feel Good Yarn Company (please note the discount code DOES NOT apply to the Summer Sock Club).

With my socks finished and the rain still falling, I cast on the project I received in my PostStitch box…

IMG_9244Mares’ Tails by Kater Tater Knits in Anzula Breeze, a silk linen blend just made for a summery shawl like this.

With the first repeat complete, we had some lunch and then had just enough time for a quick hike before it started raining again.

IMG_9250We went on one of our favorite short trails that is half boardwalk and half forest. We watched terns, shorebirds, and even saw a few warblers. It was one of those spring days when the green is just so green. As soon as we got back to the car, it started to rain again. We drove over to another trail just to check and see if the bobolinks had returned yet, but they were no where to be seen. Soon, though, soon.

As a sort of Mother’s Day side note, I also wanted to share that I got a special something in the mail a couple days ago…

IMG_9236It turns out I won the Ice Age Trail Wrap kit from the Cream City Yarn birthday raffle last week. Since I wasn’t able to get back to the shop, the ladies very graciously dropped it in the mail for me. A couple days later the pattern & three skeins of the lovely Sheepish Yarn Co Super Merino Sport arrived in my mailbox. Thanks to the timing, it definitely felt like am early Mother’s Day surprise! A simple & elegant design, this will undoubtedly be a delight on my needles in the near future.

I’ll admit that it’s nice to be pampered a little on Mother’s Day — with yarn and knitting time and breakfast and time spent together. Mostly, though, I find myself spending the day thankful to be able to wear the title of Mom. While this is coming late to most of you, I wish all my fellow mothers out there a very heartfelt happy mothers day. I may have never met you, but I assure you I’m in awe of everything that you’ve done and continue to do. I hope you spent the day feeling like the superheroes that you are.

Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, Lucky Me

Mr Knitting Sarah & I marked our 12th wedding anniversary yesterday. I simply couldn’t ask for a better partner in this life and I’m very thankful for every day we have together, but in all honesty we don’t really celebrate the date. It’s not because we can’t or weirdly don’t want to, it’s that we both agree that we pretty much try to make the most of every day and that in general we do a lot of awesome things with each other and for each other. In other words, the actual date is less significant than the day-to-day living life together.  Additionally, the mister had to work (and then wound up coming home early sick and spending the day resting in bed), so he suggested I take a special day just me and the kids.

That probably doesn’t sound very Earth shattering since I am a stay-at-home homeschooling mum, but because our days off with the mister tend to lead us all over the countryside, we usually spend our days as three at or near home. The plan we settled on originated because I had heard that Cream City Yarn was celebrating their 4th birthday and having a party. I just felt compelled to drop in to say happy birthday in-person. I won’t lie, it didn’t hurt that they have a great selection of yarn and that they’d mentioned they’d have cake. So, we planned a day around getting there: zoo, yarn shop, lunch, bookstore — something for everyone!

After a couple fun hours at the zoo, we headed over to the yarn shop where the children were instructed that they could not ask for cake, but if it was offered they could have some. Much to their relief, as soon as we walked in we were asked if we wanted some of this infamous cake. I let my two delighted kids each pick a piece and as my daughter grabbed the piece with MEGA frosting visions of frosting-slathered fingers touching Quince & Co yarn flashed through my head and I quickly ushered them both to the bistro table out front, far far away from the pretty pretty yarn.

IMG_9136True to the word on the street, the cake was excellent. So excellent, in fact, that these two could not be bothered to pose for a picture. And I’m happy to report that aside from talking one of the owner’s ears off briefly while she was trying to take pictures, they were little angels while I shopped.

I’m very proud of the fact that I walked in with a half dozen project ideas and the yarn requirements for each, so I wasn’t a total slave to impulse shopping. I’m also very proud to say that I did not buy yarn for all of them. What I settled on was…

IMG_9142Quince & Co Osprey in the River colorway for a Lesley pullover from Hannah Fettig’s new book, Home & Away: Knits for Everday Adventures. I don’t think she’s aware of it, but I’m pretty sure she wrote this book for me. Lesley, Boothbay, and the Sycamore Vest are high on my want-to-knit list, so this selection was easy.

IMG_9146I also picked up a bento bag from Ambatalia. These are new to the shop & when I saw a post that they would be available at the birthday party, I knew I had to check them out. They’re made in California and the craftsmanship is gorgeous. Plus my daughter picked out the color for me, so it’s extra special.

The final selection was so tough. There was a promotion for Sheepish Yarn Company’s Super Merino Sport that was soooo tempting. And by tempting I mean I actually physically put the three skeins of yarn for the project in my basket and then my fiscally responsible side reminded me that I had a sweater quantity already in said basket, so the gorgeous new Ice Age Trail would just have to wait. I allowed myself one of the skeins because…

IMG_9147I have a definite weakness for colorways named ‘Horicon Marsh.’

Of course, I threw a third of my raffle tickets (1 earned for every $10 spent!) in for an Ice Age Trail kit. The other two thirds went into a Cane Bay Wrap kit (in blue!) and then a Cream City Yarn logo coffee mug (because who can’t use another coffee mug?). The place was hopping with shoppers, so I certainly don’t expect to win, but it’s fun to play nonetheless. The funniest part is I asked my daughter to look at the 25 raffle items and choose the three she thought I’d like and she nailed it. No hesitation. I love it!

I should also mention free with purchase came this awesome little notions tin filled with some delicious color-coordinated jellybeans.

IMG_9151I skipped the cake, but I totally ate these and didn’t share a single one with my kids.

My kiddos and I left the shop and headed out to lunch, followed by a bookshop stop — the special treat for my daughter — where each child got to pick a new book. As you can tell by the photos, we didn’t get home until the long shadows of the early evening were starting to steal my natural light. I got everyone settled, took the dog for a walk, and made a quick trip to the grocery store for a feel-better-Mr-Knitting-Sarah watermelon (he likes watermelon when he’s sick). And as I reflected on our busy day, I just felt awfully lucky. For my hubby who pushed me to take the kiddos on this little adventure even though he couldn’t be there and for his general awesomeness every single day. For my kiddos who are so good and never complain about the fact that I have to walk really slowly around the zoo and that they have to wait while I take a while picking out yarn. That for my anniversary, I got to visit a store that always makes me smile where I got to pick out some knitting goodies that I really love. And most of all, I feel lucky that tomorrow we get to spend the whole day together as a family. It’ll be a quiet one as the mister convalesces, but it’s another day we get to spend together and that alone will make it pretty great.

New Additions

I’ve been trying to be pretty controlled with my yarn & fiber stash enhancement lately as I think a lot of us have been. I’m not sure who coined the term ‘slow stashing’ officially (I do know Clara Parkes has written about it), but I think it’s a concept to which we all subscribe to varying degrees at one point or another. To not give up yarn altogether, but to be mindful of the skeins we have and to strive to add just the really special ones to our stash. With that in mind (and because show & tell is fun), I thought I’d share a few very special items that have been introduced to my stash lately.

As a blogger who has the good fortune of working with items for review as well as occasionally getting to host giveaways and offer discount codes to readers, I try to skip entering any yarn and fiber giveaways or contests just because it usually feels weird to do so. About a month ago, though, when Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns posted a giveaway up on Instagram to celebrate and promote their new Party of Five Mini-Skein Sets

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Photo from Sweet Georgia Yarns Instagram feed — You can follow them at @sweetgeorgia

I broke my rules and entered. Partly because I really loved the neutral set and partly because the other set instantly made me think of Lolly of the LollyKnits blog. To enter you just had to like the photo, follow the feed, and tag a friend. I did these things, tagged Lolly, and that was that.

And then we won.

And then Lolly put it in my hands to choose who got which set and it was terrifying. I didn’t want to be selfish and just pick the one I wanted without consideration for my co-winner, so true to form I contemplated sending a crazy email to the effect of ‘no you choose,’ but I was pretty sure that would not be helpful. So — also true to form — I agonized over it for a few hours and then just went with that initial instinct. To my delight, it turns out ‘Snapdragon’ is the one she wanted anyways! And thus ‘Rusted’ arrived on my doorstep…

IMG_9099All packaged up with a little badge and a bright pink bow.

I had to share the packaging, but let me take those out of the plastic for you…

IMG_9100GORGEOUS.

I am pretty sure I will use one of the free patterns available from Sweet Georgia with these mini-skein sets in mind, like the Reverb Shawl or EVO Socks. It’ll have to wait a bit as I have a few things already on my agenda for the next couple months, but as with all my yarn I’ll find a way to work it into the line-up.

In less exciting acquisition methods (but not less exciting in fibery goodness), I recently received some fiber from Northbound Knitting. I am trying out the Classic Semi-Solid Fiber Club…

IMG_9098…which this month is Grey Shetland Combed Top in the Electro colorway.

I’m also trying the Luxury Gradient Fiber Club…IMG_9101… which this month was Grey Shetland/Silk Combed Top in the Dubstep colorway.

I’m kind of stocking-up for the Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla this year as I think I should actually be home for both and am seriously considering treating myself to taking part in both for the first time ever. I also know that summer is my favorite time to spin, so it never hurt to have pretty fiber at my fingertips.

And last, but certainly not least, during a sale a few weeks ago I picked up a skein of Wanderer Sock…

IMG_9096… in the Grasshopper colorway from The Little Mount Yarn Co.  I follow this little shop on Instagram and I think it’s great fun.

Speaking of fun & yarn acquisitions, I’ve been debating driving over to Cream City Yarn with the kiddos on Saturday, May 2nd as the shop is hosting its 4th birthday party. I have the feeling it’ll be a last minute decision based on how ambitious we are about being out and about on Saturday morning as it’s been a busy week already here, but it’s sure to be a fun day at this cozy little shop complete with “new products, raffles, give-aways, cake and so much more!” If you have the time, definitely pop over and maybe pick up a special skein or two for your needles or to enhance your stash!

Little Flowers

As knitters, we are always in search of good places to purchase materials. Until we all get our own farms and flocks, we depend on shops — both online and brick & mortar — to supply us with good quality yarns and tools to keep us inspired and in good supply. One such shop that I’ve come to really love is Cream City Yarn. I’ve mentioned this shop a number of times before because it’s semi-local to me — it’s not down the street, but it’s not too far away either, so I get to stop in a few times per year. The thing with this shop is, I always walk away happy. I’m always greeted by the very warm staff who will help me as much or as little as I need. Every time I stop in there are new samples & new yarns so that it’s rare that I walk out with only what I stopped in to get. They are the only Quince & Co stockist is my home state of Wisconsin (if you’ve knit with Quince & Co yarns, you know that’s kind of a big deal), so it’s the only place I get to check out this beautiful yarn. And even though I only visit every few months, Kris, one of the owners, knows me and always very kindly takes the time to ask what’s brought me to the area, inquires about my kids, and we usually talk for a bit about — what else? — knitting. I can tell she’s busy, but she takes the time anyway and I appreciate that.

On one such stop about a month ago, I popped in to the same reception to which I’ve grown accustomed. I happily poked around all the shelves and managed to narrow down my selections to a skein of Sheepish Yarn Co’s Merino Sock

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It just so happens that the woman who dyes Sheepish Yarn Co yarns, Jennifer Donze, also happens to teach at the shop. I ran into Jennifer at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival last September and she had mentioned that Cream City Yarn had put together kits for Kate Davies’ Peerie Flooers using the always gorgeous Quince & Co Finch. All these months later, I hadn’t forgotten…

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And luckily I got one of the last few that were currently in stock (they have a bunch more of these kits in stock now).

It is no secret that I’m a fan of colorwork. In fact, I was informed recently that I’m what you could call a ‘colorwork junky’. Once I start this type of project, I really struggle to put it down. I started on one evening…

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And by the following evening…

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I was done.

No, this is not normal. At least I don’t think it is. These types of project probably should take more time and really, I kind of wish I could make them last longer, but it’s one of those personality quirks I’ve just come to accept. When I start a colorwork project, I just clear my calendar and enjoy.

The results?

peerie flooers2Beautiful!

I can’t tell you what my favorite part of this project is.

peerie flooersThe crown decreases — were crazy fun and look fantastic.

peerie flooers3The rainbow-y brim is just so pretty.

pf detailAnd the little flowers, (“Peerie flooers” means “little flowers” in Shetland dialect — just in case you were wondering), of course, are absolutely darling.

pf flatOne more shot of the whole hat? Why not?!

Oh, and before I forget, someone mentioned to me that they like shots of the inside of colorwork, so I snapped a couple of those, too.

A detail…

pf insie out detailAnd the whole hat.pf inside out

All in all, I really could not be happier. I, of course, have to give credit where credit is due. In all honesty, I was able to knit this hat up so quickly and easily because of the kit. I know a lot of knitters really love to pick out their own colors palettes, but I will admit that I’m not really that great at it nor and I very patient in doing it. I love it when I’m able to just grab the kit and knit it up. The very capable ladies at Cream City Yarn picked the colors & measured all the little mini-skeins out. All I had to do was wind the yarn and knit it. This pattern has been on my to-knit list since it came out in August of 2011 and I just finally got to it now. With as busy as I am — as most of us are — the kit was the difference between not quite ever getting to the project and having this beautiful finished hat to wear.

Now I know I started this by singing the praises of Cream City Yarn and some of you are probably sad that it’s not closer to you, but I’m happy to report that they do have an online shop from which you can purchase a lot of beautiful yarn and accessories, including this very kit. In fact, you can find it right here. The kit includes all the yarn you need to make the smaller, beanie sized hat (you must purchase the pattern separately — it’s available on Ravelry here). Like I said, it is created using Quince & Co’s Finch, a fingering weight 100% American wool in a palette I find to be really, really beautiful. Wondering about fit? Here’s mine on my head…

pfheadshotPlease keep in mind that mine is knit slightly tighter than the given gauge, but I can still easily pull it down over my ears and eyebrows should the weather really be nippy. This is just how I prefer to wear it on the average day. I just love the fit & warmth.

  I’ve used the Cream City Yarn online shop a few times for various things over the past couple of years as well as done special orders through them and I find the customer service for both the online shop & over the phone to be equal to my experience in the shop. The customer service is friendly and my orders are always handled efficiently — shipped very promptly and at a rate that is reasonable.

So what do you think? Don’t you want to knit a beautiful Peerie Flooers hat for yourself?

Perhaps instead of getting cut flowers for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, you could opt for some darling little knitted ones…

pf detailI know I’d love that!

Wow.

As someone who is generally pretty introverted, the last couple days at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival have been pretty overwhelming in the best of ways — I almost don’t even know where to start here! So let’s let the words ruminate for a bit while I show you some photos…

IMG_6320Sheep show! These were not completing based on their wool…

IMG_6327 I had never watched the shearing process before and it was nothing short of incredible.  I also discovered later that this gentleman has quite the… um… fan club of ladies at the festival.

IMG_6297This is the puppy my husband almost adopted while I was away for the day.  She ended up being a little pricey otherwise I think we’d now be a 2 dog family. Apparently this answers the question of what would happen if I’d ever take a day away from my family.

IMG_6309When I got home Friday, I realized the last two skeins Green Mountain Spinnery had of Weekend Wool in the Blue Jay colorway that I had purchased to complete my Little Wave sweater were the same dye lot as my sweater. What are the odds?!

IMG_6306I brought home some of the Knitting Sarah/Socks with Sarah customer colorway, Quick’s Point, from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber

IMG_6353And I cast-on right away. I had started them on my Hiya-Hiya needles, but I got these Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina DPNs at the show & literally could not wait to try them. I sat down in the car and knit my sock right onto them. They are fab!

IMG_6305Of course Quick’s Point wasn’t all I brought home from the Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber booth. I grabbed an armful of fiber and am super excited to try knitting with these gorgeous silk hankies.

Now for the words…

The festival was just a wow.

First and foremost, I have to thank all the readers who took the time to visit with me. Whether you tracked me down while I was walking about or you came & found me in the Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber booth, it meant so much to me to be able to put faces & voices with the words and photos I see online. Really, you can’t imagine what a treat this was for me!

Next, I have to thank all the shops that offered (and these offers are still good today at the Festival!) discounts to my readers. One of the real joys I have writing about my craft on this blog is introducing crafters to amazing supplies & tools that are perfect for them. I’m a true believer that every crafter and even every project is unique. I feel truly lucky that I have the opportunity to try so many different yarns and fibers and tools. Not everyone is interested in everything I do and my personal favorites aren’t always going to be yours, but I like to think that by feeding my own love of variety I help readers to find their own ‘perfect fits’. The right needles that have the perfect tip, yarn that feels just the way you’ve always dreamed it should, eco-friendly practices that you feel good about supporting, or sometimes just a single artist who really loves their work, treats customers with kindness, and creates a color palette of fiber you never want to live without — whatever you are looking for, I love that I get to play a little role in helping you find those things that make your craft that much more fulfilling in your life. And I so appreciate that there are shops that support me in that and — for example — offer generous discounts to help make it easier to get their items in your hands.

If this wasn’t enough, I also got to meet some wonderful people this weekend that I’ve worked with, exchanged many emails with, and yet never met in real life.  I got to have a really great visit with the wonderful instructor and special events coordinator from Cream City Yarn & the owner of Sheepish Yarn Company, Jennifer Donze. We had an awesome discussion about sock construction and she told me all about how she teaches her Sock Club — seriously, it sounds a-ma-zing! I got to meet Stefanie Goodwin-Ritter, author of Conversation Socks, her blog Handmade by Stefanie, and all around excellent/dangerous influence. I had quick chats with the very friendly folks at Bijou Basin Ranch and the sweet, sweet ladies from Green Mountain Spinnery. I also wondered into a booth looking for buttons and ended up meeting Alison Wheeler, my new favorite ceramics artist. I bought buttons for the sweater I’m making for Spud & Chloe’s Chill Chaser KAL from her, but wished I could have also brought home a yarn bowl, too… next time!

Last but not least, I have to give an extra special shout-out to Natalie from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber. We met once a few years ago and it was from her that I bought my very first ‘Learn to Spin’ kit. Her yarn & fibers have been a constant source of inspiration for me over the years, so you can imagine when she agreed to work on a custom colorway for me and then offered to let me hang out in her booth for a couple hours at the Festival, I almost died. It was such a awesome treat to visit with her in person. We talked about the colorways we’re dreaming about, how her fiber club always delivers exactly the colors I’m dying to have in my hands, and all sorts of random stuff. It was just the best time. So thank you, Natalie! You rock!

After all this excitement today I’m enjoying a quiet day. I’m going to partake in some knitting — it seems only right — and maybe I’ll ply that fiber that’s been waiting for a couple weeks. Eventually I will start to put away the goodies that followed me home. I’ll also be sifting through all the ideas and inspiration of the last couple days and plotting out a couple years worth of projects. The best laid plans rarely survive reality — it’s true I think especially in knitting and spinning — so I don’t have too many delusions that I will stick to said plans. That being said, just the act of making them is what propels me forward and keeps me going. I’m so glad, so thankful to have been able to attend the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and I’m looking forward to all that I will do with the ideas, yarn, fibers, and tools I’ve brought home.