This Week in My Dreams

After the inspiration high of WI Sheep & Wool, I am a little conflicted by reality vs. fantasty. I assume most knitters can relate to the fact that there’s a healthy rift between the honest actuality of what I am capable of knitting vs. what I think I am capable of knitting. In any case, this week I’ve had one singular dream: Carrie Bostick Hoge‘s Lucinda sweater from her book, Madder Anthology 2: Simple Pleasures.

Photo copyright Carrie Bostick Hoge (from Ravelry pattern page) – Please click photo for link!

While I would love to knit it in The Fibre Company‘s Acadia in the Verbena colorway

Verbena
Photo from The Fibre Co website – Please click photo for link!

I’m kind of leaning toward using Green Mountain Spinnery‘s Cotton Comfort in the Storm colorway.

Cotton Comfort STORM
Photo from Green Mountain Spinnery website – Please click photo for link!

80% Targhee + 20% Organic Cotton, I got to see this yarn at the WI Sheep & Wool Festival. Either way, I think this sweater would be a treasure in everyday wear-ability.

What are you dreaming of knitting this week?

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

Fly, you fools!

Yesterday was the quintessential summer day. My hubby had a meeting out of town for a few hours in the morning, so the kids and I rode along and spent the morning at a nearby beach.

IMG_0354I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m never quite as happy and at peace than when I’m near big water, preferably with my toes in the sand.

IMG_0360It’s even better when there are terns flying nearby and my kiddos are happily playing together —

IMG_0362Making sandcastles and…

IMG_0368Just generally being goofballs. Having grown up near Lake Michigan, it’s sometimes easy to forget that when you look at photos of this great lake, it could easily be mistaken for an ocean. Of course there’s no briny sea air to cleanse the lungs, but you can’t see across it so the horizon looks very similar and definitely is equally relaxing.

IMG_0379I spent some quality time with my String Theory Colorworks self-striping sock. Essential summer knitting always includes something in stockinette on which I can easily knit while keeping an eye on the kiddos.

After meeting up with my parents for lunch, we headed home to get back to Moose & relax after our relaxing… I mean after being in the sun for the whole morning. I worked on the lace shawl on which I’ve been plugging away…

IMG_0381As it should be, the lace is getting much easier as time goes by, but the rows get longer and longer so it feels like I’m plodding when in reality I probably could consider it cruising at this point.

The middle of August is always a crossroads though. It’s when summer doles out its hottest temps, but you can feel that we’re on the cusp of that breaking point when things will start to cool down, when our little spot on Earth starts to really lean away from the Sun. For the knitter in me, that means an intersection between the lazy summer knitting above and a frenzied case of CAST ON ALL THE THINGS with a side of SPIN ALL THE WOOL. I always feel like in this moment, Gandolf the Grey in The Lord the Rings is talking directly to me when he says, “Fly, you fools,” just as he falls from the bridge Khazad-dûm. Knit and spin it all in haste, you fool, for winter is coming for you.

With this motivation over-taking all reality, my to-knit list is wildly optimistic and overly-ambitious. Of course it is. Of course it is. Shall I share some of the crazy with you? I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

  1. Knit all the sport weight self-striping socks from String Theory Colorworks starting with the awesome sport weight sock club colorways, plus the fingering weight test drive of a new base I’m lucky enough to get to try (it’s amazing!)
  2. Knit a completely amazing Askews Me Shawl with the Spun Right Round DK I have in my stash.
  3.  Knit a Guston for my son (this has been on my to-knit list for two years).
  4. Knit sweater for my daughter (totally random, no idea on any details yet, but I have to be fair if I knit one for her brother).
  5. Knit a Portage for myself using my Green Mountain Spinnery Mewesic.
  6. Knit another pair of red self-striping socks from String Theory Colorworks for my son.
  7. Knit about a million shawls of varying weights and sizes.
  8. Knit up my Ice Age Trail Wrap in Sheepish Yarn Co Super Sport (a raffle prize I won at Cream City Yarn this spring — whew-hoo!).
  9. Knit a Musubi for myself with the Dream in Color Groovy I got for a steal this spring.
  10. Knit a Palladio for myself in the Madelinstosh DK I have in my stash.
  11. Knit all the fingering weight socks.
  12. Knit about a dozen pairs of mittens, especially for my daughter for this winter.
  13.  Knit a Grace Cardigan in The Cyborg’s Craft Room Assockilate in ‘Space Princess’ (because… duh… Space Princess!).
  14. Knit a Drizzle hat with some Plucky Knitter Traveler Sport I have in my stash.
  15. Knit a Lesley sweater pour moi in some Quince & Co Osprey I picked up at Cream City Yarn‘s birthday celebration this spring.

The to-spin list is pretty simple:

1. Spin all the stash.

 I had a pretty intense mail day yesterday, too, just to add to the fervor…

IMG_0383As I set out the yarn to take this photo all I could think was that I really need to get knitting. And spinning. For all of you who — like me — are feeling that urgency through the chill of the early morning & the honking of geese as your little slice of Earth starts to tilt away from the Sun, I think it’s time to listen to the Grey Wizard. Knit and spin it all in haste, for winter is coming for you. Fly, you fools. Fly.

Little Wave

So the story goes that in September of 2013 at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival I splurged on a sweater quantity of Green Mountain Spinnery Weekend Wool.

green mountain There was nothing I was not in love with here. The color, the wool, the spin — everything was perfect.

Then a year slipped away. You know how that happens. The nice thing is that even yarn that gets stashed for a time, I rarely lose enthusiasm for it. I don’t mess about with yarn for which I’m not totally head over heels in love. Anyways, as August rolled around, I thought, “Hey, I should knit that sweater before the next Sheep & Wool Festival.” At the beginning of August 2014, I cast-on, but of course with a different pattern, Gudrun Johnson’s Little Wave.

The knitting was great, the yarn was fantastic, and I was right on time to have it finished by the festival. It was kind of like my version of a Rhinebeck sweater, as I attempted to finish it before that first weekend in September. As I knit away, it became pretty apparent that I would not finish, not because of timing, but because I was going to run out of yarn.

full sweater pre blockAnd so I did. my beautiful sweater done, save the pockets for which I had no yarn. I decided to go to the festival & either pick up the same color or a contrast, depending on the closeness of the dye lots. There was no way, after all, that I would be able to pick up the same dye lot a year later.

IMG_6309When I got to the Green Mountain Spinnery booth, there were two skeins of Weekend Wool in my Blue Jay colorway. I got them home and compared tags. Sure enough; they were the same dye lot as the skeins I bought last year. So miracles do happen! I feel like I should contact religious authority to share this parable with them for teaching purposes. I mean, this just doesn’t happen!

In any case, miracle experienced, I got back to knitting and finished this sweater the last week of September. And then I wore it a lot and kept forgetting to take pictures. Or, more frequently, I would be wearing it in the most beautiful landscape while out hiking and remember I needed pictures, but would not take them. Let me share something less than flattering about me as to why that would be the case. When we go hiking, I’m not usually really dressed for photographs. Generally speaking my husband is raring to go early, so I don’t shower or put on make-up (not that I really wear it frequently anyway) and I’m generally lucky if I get my teeth brushed, let alone a comb through my hair. Once, we visited my friend who works at The Marsh after one of our hikes and she literally pulled a feather out of my hair from my feather pillow. Yeah, it’s not great. I promise, I do have good hygiene practices, it’s just usually after hiking that that all happens.

So finally a week or so ago, we were outside and despite some serious hat hair, my hubby snapped a couple photos of me in my finished Little Wave.

IMG_6781 The buttons are rosewood and I got them from my favorite shop for simple wooden buttons, Anthony’s Woodshop on Etsy. I can’t say enough great things about the work he does — the buttons are always superb — and these match the feel of this sweater perfectly.

One of my favorite parts of this sweater is that garter detail at the side.

littlewave sideviewI just love how it looks and how it adds to the overall super comfy fit.

littlewavepocketAnd, of course, I love the pockets. The undulations match perfectly with the sweater — a detail for which I tip my hat to the designer. I get lots of compliments on that, especially from other knitters.

little wave backAnd really, how do you not love this? So beautiful and in the blue — I don’t know about you, but I think it’s breathtaking.

And here I am again.  You can see this sweater is just a smidge on the big side in the shoulders and it is overall a roomier fit than I usually make. You can see it in the shoulders when I wear just a light tee underneath, but I did want the extra room so I could wear it in winter — to throw over other layers when I run out to get the mail or take the dog out. Or just to stay super snug when it was cold outside. In truth, I love it just the way it is.

IMG_6789It is the perfect trail sweater. The perfect bird watching sweater. The perfect house sweater.

IMG_6847And the perfect jumping in leaves sweater. As you can see, I’m not kidding that I wear this sweater all the time and it’s tardiness being shared here is a direct indication of just how much I love it and wear it.

I thought the pattern was very well written — clear and easy to follow as well as very manageable for any intermediate knitter and up. Actually, an ambitious, committed advanced beginner could hand this one, too. The yarn-pattern combination is fantastic, too — they suit each other very nicely.  In fact, I was so impressed with the Weekend Wool that I picked up another sweater quantity from Green Mountain Spinnery at this year’s WI Sheep & Wool Festival. This time, I picked up Mewesic in the Norwegian Wood colorway and having learned my lesson I bought more than I thought I’d need. I got lucky with my miracle this year, so I don’t want to push my luck. I have some ideas as to what I want to knit with it, but let’s be honest, there’s a fair chance I might not get to it until August. And there’s a good chance I’ll change my mind. One thing’s for certain though, with this yarn it’s going to be one darn nice sweater.

For more information on my Little Wave sweater, please see my Ravelry project page here.

The Forest

As I mentioned in my last post, the first couple weeks of our homeschooling experience has had its ups and downs. Part of the challenge is like any other beginning to the school year — to know what the expectations are, to learn and understand how a normal day unfolds, and just in general settling into a routine takes time. At our home school we learned quickly that the schedule we meticulously set this summer for our average day needed a major overhaul and by day 2 we were re-writing it. It’s ok, though, we half-expected that – even the best, most carefully laid plans rarely survive contact with reality without requiring major changes. This is especially true when your reality includes 2 very bright children: one a slow, methodical, perfectionist  9year-old learner and one a very speedy, impatient nearly 7year-old learner who has very little attention to or interest in details unless she is specifically interested in said details.

Oy.

Suffice to say by the middle of week two, I was starting to come undone a bit. It wasn’t concern about my kids’ education. Really that part is pretty clear — we’ve researched and worked hard to make sure that is all laid out to set our children up for success. No, my concerns were based more in questions like ‘will my children would still like me at all when they are grown after this or just see me as a crazy schoolmarm’ and ‘will I survive this exercise?’ The best way I can describe how those first two weeks felt are if you imagine not working out of the house for 10years and then not only starting a full-time career again, but make it a running new company with headquarters in your home and you spend 24hours a day and 7 days a week with your coworkers. The return to work alone is a shock to the system and — especially for an introvert like myself — the 24/7 of it is just draining and exhausting. There were evenings when I mostly just wanted to cry or at the very least not speak or think for a couple hours once our school day ended. Those were the ‘down’ moments — although difficult in the moment, I knew they were things I’d get used to in time.

The ‘up’ moments included how my son sat down very maturely with me to discuss changes to his schedule, asking for very reasonable alterations like math in the afternoon instead of the morning and time for creative writing. It was pretty nice to be able to fast-forward my daughter through the first couple units of math because she really didn’t need to spend multiple days practicing counting to 10 since she counts to 110+ with ease and accuracy. It has been awesome to see my son relax and really thrive without the anxiety he had in his public school. I loved finding inspiration for my daughter to improve her handwriting with the promise of being able to be pen-pals with my mom. It was really amazing to have a lesson in plants that allowed us to spend time in the garden and to have the freedom to take field trips for hands-on learning. And it was pretty cool how it just worked out that the local art center is offering art classes for home schoolers once a week that works with our schedule. The ‘ups’ were pretty significant.

I’m thankful for my husband who despite working long hours at his job does his best to provide me with those important quiet moments. When I was at my wits end because when my daughter gets bored or tired a lot of the negative stuff she witnessed last year in school comes out in a torrent, it’s my husband who could easily see the forest for the trees and helped me set up some accountability and incentive for her to leave that behavior behind her.  I’m thankful that his field days with the kids are optional for me — so that I can write or clean or do all the things that are no longer happening during the daytime.

I’m also thankful for our sweet dog, Moose.

https://i1.wp.com/photos-f.ak.instagram.com/hphotos-ak-xaf1/10691622_1519527824950925_396905110_n.jpg

Not only providing extra snuggles in the evenings, whenever my daughter is having a moment he comes over to try to calm everyone down. As ridiculous as it is, it works! It’s hard not to laugh when this big crazy dog is thwacking into everything with his wild tail or when he inadvertently picks the kitchen table up with his back and moves it 2″ this way and 4″ that way. It’s hard for my daughter to remember whatever random thing she doesn’t feel like doing when the 85lb dog is burrowing his head into her lap, too. He is such a huge help.

And I’m thankful for knitting which gives me a form of meditation, something to quiet my mind, and a sense of accomplishment no matter what the day brings. This weekend, I took advantage of some time in the car and some real weekend time and got some real knitting done. I’m very happy to share that I not only finished my Pussywillow Mitts

FO hand-inBut I also wrapped up my String Theory Colorworks AfterThought Heel Socks

IMG_6421They are drying now, so a better photo will be coming in a couple days. Don’t forget — this is the String Theory Colorworks yarn for which we have a 15% off coupon code through Sept 19th!

And I also finally got those pockets on my Little Wave sweater with what I’m dubbing the ‘Green Mountain Spinnery Miracle Skeins’…

IMG_6430You might remember I came up short on yarn for this sweater.  So one year later I went to the same annual fiber festival where I purchased the original skeins and picked up the last two skeins in the yarn & color of the sweater. And they just happened to be the same dye lot.

After the ups and downs of beginning the school year, it felt really good to wrap-up some projects. While it always feels good to click away on something, that satisfying tick from WIP to FO was even more monumental this weekend after a somewhat emotional week. I know our weeks and months and years as homeschooling parents — and as parents in general — will always be full of ups and downs. I think it is simply the nature of the beast. While in the moment it can be really hard to see the forest for the trees, I know that overall we are getting closer every day to having all the daily routine wrinkles ironed-out. I know that the kids are working hard and are very happy. I know that I will most likely survive this exercise and my kids will probably still like me when they’re grown. I know that the kids will have a great education and we will have bonds that are — according to my son — indestructible. These sentiments are the forest that is sometimes obscured in the moment, the thoughts I need to keep in mind when the dog is knocking the table all over the kitchen.

This week is another week and while it probably won’t be perfect, we’ll all do our best, we’ll all keep working those wrinkles out, we’ll remain thankful that we have this awesome opportunity to be a homeschooling family, and hopefully we’ll manage to keep the kitchen table upright. I’ll keep my knitting close and the forest in my sights.

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.