Settling In

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind around here as we attempt to settle in to a new school year. Fighting with computer programs, learning a new schedule, and still squeezing a few last hurrahs out of summer have made for a busy house. I’m very happy to say I’ve conquered the misbehaving software, think we’re finally on target for our schedule today, and we did manage to squeeze some fun into the last couple of weeks. I don’t know how we got there — on any of it — except to say that there was a lot of stubborn perseverance involved at times and a commitment to just making it all work.

Our first adventure was to spot a new-to-us bird, also know in the birding world as a “life bird” or simply a “lifer.” A Swallow-Tailed Kite‘s range does not reach north beyond Louisiana normally, but there were reports that one of these birds was hanging out about an hour and a half away from our house. We aren’t huge “chasers” when it comes to birds, but since even Mr. Knitting Sarah hadn’t yet seen one in his lifetime and it wasn’t too far, we had a day off and decided to go for it.

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It’s a very elegant bird — sized sort of like a red-tailed hawk, but much lighter and sleeker as it puts on an aerial acrobatic show grabbing bugs and dragonflies from the air. We were lucky enough to watch this beautiful bird for at least an hour even mingling with a kettle of nighthawks for a bit. My favorite part, however, was when it would grab bugs from the tops of the trees and then while in flight, it would feed itself with its feet! What a crazy behavior! It was a grand memory indeed and we celebrated with a yummy lunch out and then raced home to meet my parents who were incoming for a visit.

My parents arrived mid-afternoon and we were very fortunate that my dad brought his boat along, so the kids and my dad and I explored some new waters nearby over the next couple of days…

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I try to never pass up a day on the water…

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We got a tip from an old friend to try this new-to-us lake and it was wonderful. With the kids, we tend to fish for panfish and just catch and release and this spot — while it has other kinds of fish in it as well — provided a pretty steady stream of bluegills for us.

Almost as good as the fishing, we have a tradition when we fish with my dad that we usually grab a bite to eat somewhere and on day one of our fishing exploits we stopped at what may be the best named restaurant on Earth, The Thorpedo, in Thorp, WI.

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Family dining fare at it’s most Wisconsin-y.

Somewhere amid the hub-bub, I did make some headway on a couple fiber-y projects. Remember the latest Top of the Month Club from Three Waters Farm that I shared in my last post?

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Well, I got to spinning it. I haven’t (at least in my memory) spun with a Cultivated (also known as “Mulberry”) Silk blend before and I’ll admit this one took me a bit to get the hang of. I’d broken up my fiber into small 1-3gram nests for short color repeats and in using the short-forward draw, I found it was kind of tough to draft. It was clear that I was missing something in how I was approaching and handling this blend. I played around with different ways to make the drafting easier and finally landed on heavily pre-drafting. Really pre-drafting out each nest made it spin like a dream and I’m happily cruising along now. I’m sure there are other ways of drafting this beauty, but this method worked for me! I’m very happy to have cracked the code, too, as I have a companion colorway headed my way soon as I’ve been envisioning stocking my shelves with some two color companion skeins for future 2-color projects.

I also finally started plying my Sunshiney Day skein for my sweater spin.

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I don’t know what else to say other than I adore this yarn. I think that bodes very well for the sweater to come! Now to get it finished so I can swatch and then continue with the spinning!

I’ve been focusing most of my attention, however, on my Honey Trail Shawl for my mother-in-law. It’s at the large, difficult to photograph stage, so pardon the quick & dirty version of a photo here…

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But I’m now flying toward the end…

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I believe I’m under 10 rows from the last section now and it’s at the point where those rows are nice and short and I feel a little like a kite that really has caught the wind, so I’ve on a mission to wrap this project up.

The sun is shining here today after over a week of almost constant rain and I have to say it’s a nice change. I was beginning to feel a bit like this guy that my husband found at a nearby botanical garden we visited yesterday…

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I love rainy days and I love sunny days, just too much of one thing for a period of time tends to wear on me and I think this dragonfly was 100% with me with that sentiment. Today’s change is most welcome. I’m finally washing all my finished skeins of handspun (there are 7) and am hoping to have them dried in the sun & breeze that is abundant today. I’m baking bread because it’s 70F and not at all humid. The computers and all the software is working today, we are right on schedule for our school day, and I’m thinking we are going to have a beautiful afternoon outdoors once we are through with out studies for the day. Yes, my friends, it feels like it’s been a long time coming, but I believe we are at long last, truly settling in!

Welcome to the Family, Mr. Tinkles

A decade ago this past week when we welcomed our baby girl into the world. I won’t go into all my thoughts on the subject of time passing and how quickly our 5lb 15oz happy little bundle of joy grew into the tough and strong and smart and loyal and loving and goofy young lady who loves all things pink, baking, has a “climbing spirit,” and takes her giant headphones and my old iPod everywhere she can so she can sing at the top of her lungs. Honestly, I’m still processing all those thoughts.

What I will talk about today though is her love of the color pink and cats.

We were never ones to force gender specific colors on our kids. Honestly, with my love of blue, I was constantly seeking blues for my girl. Alas, since the time she could have a preference, she’s always been into pink.

And then there are cats. We can’t actually have a cat because Mr. Knitting Sarah is horribly allergic (we’re talking on the scale of seriously troubled breathing), so we say that we have a “No Cat Policy” in the house. Now we tease and claim it extends to all cat imagery, references, movies, etc, so when we inevitably get her something cat-related Mr KS will dramatically declare, “BUT WE HAVE A NO CAT POLICY.” And she will giggle uncontrollably with glee. It’s our girl’s glorious rebellion, to love cats the way she does. We agree it’s one rebellion we are happy to bear.

Suffice to say when I saw the Parlor Cat on Rachel from Dyeabolical’s Instagram feed, I knew that despite my general distaste for knitting stuffed toys it had to be done and it had to be done in pink for my girl’s birthday. It was in July that Rachel posted it so I knew I had the time. Since I did not have a skein of pink superwash yarn for the job, I popped over to the Dyeabolical site and order a skein of Freedom, Beauty, Truth, and Love on Superwash Merino Worsted — gotta love the dyed-to-order option! A short while later I got the yarn and printed the pattern and set it aside with the deadline set for birthday week last week.

I started in mid-October after I’d finished up with Spinzilla…

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It’s just the purrfect pink, if I do say so myself (sorry, I went there, I couldn’t resist). The yarn is totally fab. It’s soft and easy to work with and dyed to perfection. Why do I not have a sweater quantity for my girl yet? In any case, the pattern was well-written and pretty easy to follow. I had some issues centering the neck and head — I’m not sure if the pattern isn’t quite correct, or it was user error (most likely the latter), but after not being centered correctly twice, I literally drew it out on a piece of scrap paper, did the math, and carried on.

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It all worked out in the end. Thankfully, I was able to work on it in front of her until I got the second ear on. Then it got a little too obvious and I had to save work on it until everyone else was asleep. My husband joked that his contribution to this cat was lying next to me, snoring rhythmically while I knitted furiously in bed at night. It’s a true story.

In any case, the main body is knit in one piece and you stuff it as you go, which is pretty sweet. When you get to the end of the tail, you’re totally done with it save the two legs and face.

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(See how the photo is now on a blanket? Yeah, that’s bedtime!) At this point, time was starting to get a little tight, so I pushed on the next night to make and attach the legs and tack down the tail.

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And then I stalled out a bit because everyone was sick (including me) and I needed to get materials for the face.

I bought buttons for eyes and on a whim I grabbed some thick black thread in the check out. I was really dreading the face. It’s not something that comes naturally to me at all and usually it doesn’t turn out very well. I settled into it 2 nights before B-Day in bed next to my snoring mister. I attached the buttons for eyes. I stitched the nose. I tore it out. I stitched it in again and was concerned about it being too big, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t get much better so I left it. In hour number two of the endeavor, I dug into the whiskers and mouth. I went simple there with the plain black thread. As I finished and held it out to admire my handiwork, I cringed. Those eyes were freaky. I ripped them out and, getting exhausted now, I grabbed the same blue yarn I’d used to sew on the buttons and stitched in some eyes.

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And there is was, perfectly imperfect and as good as it was going to get.

I haven’t yet mentioned that my girl has never really taken to any of the toys I’ve made for her, so this was a huge gamble. I was hopeful, though, that pink + cat would equal a winner.

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It did.

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Mr. Tinkles is loved so much, that he’s scarcely left her arms. Mr. Tinkles, loved so much he’s already got a claw that needs to be trimmed.

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Oh, Mr. Tinkles, the adventures you will have. Welcome to the family, Mr. Tinkles. You are loved.

Plyingpalooza Awaits

It’s true! I — like many other spinners — am in the throes of Spinzilla this week. Normally I’d have had a pre-Spinzilla post here with my plans and then regular updates, but let’s be real — I was not that ahead of things this year. I’m happy to report that despite my poor reporting here, I have been spinning away merrily this week with my fellow teammates on Team Three Waters Farm. Spinzilla is a yardage-centric competition for many, but on Team TWF, it’s about the yardage, of course, but it’s also about the good old fashioned love of spinning. And that’s what I love about it.

So far I’ve been exclusively spinning with my new wheel, the Schacht Reeves. I’ll admit, I found a new set of muscles or tendons or something in my right leg courtesy of the single treadle, but it’s nothing a walk with the Moose and knocking off a couple hours early one night didn’t alleviate. I found the Goldilocks whorl for the fibers I was spinning  — you know, not too fast and not too slow, but just right — and it was really and truly the best I’ve felt yet with the new wheel. It’s pretty awesome the way it just keeps getting better and better and more comfortable.

I’m about two-thirds of the way through my goals for the week.

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12oz of singles are complete. The two bobbins on the top are TWF’s Maple Leaf Rag on a Polwarth + Silk 60/40 base.  It’s totally dreamy and 1000% perfect for this moment when the trees are all nearing their peak for the autumn season. This will be plied into a simple 2-ply and is destined to be a gift.

The two bobbins on the bottom are hopefully going to work for the Nimble Nim SAL+KAL being hosted in the TWF Ravelry Group. The left bobbin is African Sunset on a BFL + Tussah Silk base (this colorway is currently available on Mixed BFL here). It’s a wonderfully  moody colorway that I spun in no time just because it was so yummy. The right bobbin is TWF’s Iron Blue. It’s not currently in the shop, but it is hands-down my favorite blue ever. There is zero doubt in my mind that I will be ordering more via special order in the future. My plan for these bobbins is to chain ply them and hopefully have enough yardage to make a respectable sized Brillig. The pattern is highly adaptable, so it’s not that I couldn’t knit it up with less yardage, I’m just more interested in a larger sized scarf. If they don’t fit that bill, I will spin something else and save these beauties for another day. Time will tell!

I don’t think I’ll have any more time than plying these three skeins before Spinzilla comes to an end. I actually did not intend to spin them quite as lightly as I did, but as sometimes is the case in spinning, I went with the lighter weight because once I got into it, it simply felt right. In case I do make exceptional time plying though…

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I’ve pulled out fibers destined to be quicker, heavier weight projects that I can fly through in a couple of spare hours.

Alas, I’ve got errands to run and then Plyingpalooza awaits. I’ll see y’all on the other side!

Best. Exchange. Ever.

I’ve mentioned my friend Rose here before from time to time for various reasons, usually because she did something awesome or I attempted to thank her for being awesome by knitting or spinning something for her. I always introduce her along the lines of “Rose & I have known each other since around the 8th grade,” which at this point means I’ve known her over half my life. I always start there because I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to really capture Rose in words. She is as tough as she is kind. She is quirky and fun and a little shy. She is passionate. She is like an extroverted introvert. She is the person who can spontaneously say “I’ll be at X from 3-5pm” and  I’m fairly certain that no matter where X is, friends will always show up to spend time with her. We just all want our chance to be around her.

She and I were close through most of high school & even a brief yet ill-fated stint as roommates in college. I think we are both the kind of people that hang on to friends and time & space doesn’t really phase that. She could call me tomorrow and I’m pretty sure we could talk just as we did sitting in her kitchen after pep band eating Ben & Jerry’s and Italian bread from the Pick n’Save. That’s why when around this time last year she proposed doing a themed gift exchange, I was very excited. The idea was to pick a movie we watched together as kids and to each compile a gift box based around it to exchange around Christmas. We set a price cap, agreed that at least some part of the box had to be handmade, and exchanged a few preferences — like ‘I hate pastels’ and ‘Please don’t send me licorice’ — and then it was time to select a movie.

After a brief discussion we agreed to base our gift exchange on none other than the cult classic, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Photo from Amazon.com

We used to watch this movie probably more than was healthy. It’s hilarious though and even to this day I can quote it at will and while my husband looks at me like I’ve finally lost it, I laugh hysterically all the way through the end scene.

I got the movie and watched because I needed a refresher, of course, and some visual cues. I took notes and started formulating a plan. The handmade item was very hard for me to settle on, but I finally found ‘it’ toward the end of October. By the end of November, I was picking up the last few items at the store and wrapping them up.

r&mI found this blue & pink/red sparkly wrapping paper and on each I pasted a Post-It note with a quote from the movie (for those who haven’t seen it, the Post-Its are a reference to the movie, too). My gift box to Rose included these quotes and their respective gifts:

1) “All I’ve had to eat for the past six days are gummy bears, jelly beans, and candy corns.”

I packed gummy bears, jelly beans, and red vines (because candy corns were out of season and while I considered buying them at Halloween and saving them for Christmas I decided that was too gross and went with red vines instead).

2) “A fun frisky use of color.”

Photo courtesy of Dyeabolical.

A set of Highlighter Minis from Dyeabolical.

3) “What about making them yellow?”

I wrapped up a package of top-of-the-line classic yellow Post-Its.

4) “Have a Romy & Michele Day!”

This is the handmade item that took some figuring. I know Rose walks and bikes a lot, so I wanted a cowl that was light, but warm enough to keep a chill at bay. With Romy & Michele as the theme, the colors just had to be fun & funky & bright, but at the same time in the realm of colorways that Rose would be happy wearing often. I finally settled on using my skein of Madelinetosh Twist Light Care that I was able to order from Cream City Yarn before they sold out.

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And for the pattern, I chose Bristol Ivy’s Sallah Cowl (a free pattern on Knitty!).

sallah stitchesIt was one of those projects that once I got going I knew it was going to be really beautiful. Knit on the bias and finished with i-cord edges, it’s stretchy and comfy and just easy to wear. It was just right.

rosieI think Rose likes it, too (she let me share this photo with her modeling — thanks, Rose!).

As for the box Rose sent to me, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was horrible, just horrible at photographing & documenting it because I could not stop giggling with glee as I tore it open. Instead of plain quotes, she printed off photos, much like I did that went with each gift. This was what I saw when I first opened it…

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(if you haven’t seen the movie, just trust me that this is hilarious) and it was at this moment that all interest in documenting went out the window. I was just too excited!

Within the box was the movie Pretty Woman, some cherry gummy candies, & a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. For the record, those cherry gummy candies were ridiculously delicious — even my husband agreed they may have been the best gift ever.

Although this pretty much tied those gummy candies…

IMG_8208A skein of the pinkest Malabrigo Sock in the Light of Love colorway.

As did these…

IMG_8207These are Fetching mitts in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend in the Wildflowers colorway. Rose made some mods to the pattern and you can see them on her project page here. We definitely both had a good chuckle because whether or not it’s apparent in the photos the mitts and cowl have very, very, very similar colorways. Great minds think alike, I guess!

I have to admit that I repackaged and re-opened my box a few times (and if I forgot something that was inside, Rose, it’s not for lack of love — it’s entirely due to poor documentation due to extreme happiness). It was just so fun and made me really happy to open it all over again. I asked right away if Rose would be interested in doing an exchange again this year and I’m delighted to report that she is. We’ll be exchanging around Labor Day this year to help avoid the holiday rush and our theme this year…

French Kiss
Photo from Amazon.com

The classic Rom-Com, French Kiss.

I started my research last weekend when I got a copy of the movie from the library…

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… and I’ve got some ideas churning. I can’t wait to see where this one takes us!

Handknits, Heirlooms, and Memories

Like most kids I always wanted to pick up souvenirs when we would go places or do things. The urge, however, started waning before long and by the time I was in college I had scaled down most of my belongings to fit inside my two-door car. Of all my travels abroad, I pretty much only have an espresso set from Italy which I carefully brought back across the Atlantic after my first trip. I’ve saved some artwork from my kids and for each, the little tiny outfit that I brought them home from the hospital in, but that’s mostly it. I always like to say that I am a collector, but of memories, not things.

When it comes to ‘stuff’ and ‘things,’ most of what we have are hand-me-downs or furniture my dad handmade for us. We just aren’t ones to pour a ton of money into our home. Our living room furniture is from the rec room in my parents’ basement — it’s very nice, but they wanted the space for my mom’s quilting machine. The kids’ dresser is my own from my childhood. The kitchen table, my sewing table, our entertainment cabinet, and our bedside tables my dad made for us. Half the kitchen chairs are from my Grandma’s house. My dresser & the table the kids use for a desk were my Grandma’s, too. It’s a little ironic that someone who saves so little has a house full of furniture that are like souvenirs from three generations of my family.

This weekend, my parents made the trip down to our house with the new-to-me washing machine. It’s a long story as to how I acquired my parents’ ‘old’ washer (it’s only 3 or 4years old), but true to form I was happy to accept a not-quite-perfect item in lieu of having to buy brand new.  Suffice to say the bar has gotten pretty low here for washing machine expectations and I’m just relieved and elated to be able to do full-sized loads of laundry again that don’t shake the entire house when on the spin cycle. This washer is the best early Christmas gift I could have gotten! In any case, in the interest of clearing out their basement for my mom’s new quilting machine, they also brought along this.cdIt’s a cedar chest. Now the last thing I need in my tiny house is another piece of furniture, but most know that a cedar chest is as good as gold for a knitter as cedar naturally repels moths that can destroy items knit from wool. To make it even better, this isn’t just any cedar chest — it was made by my Grandpa for my Grandma (my mom’s dad) at about the time of their wedding in 1940. I had mentioned at one Christmas with my family that I would eventually love to get or make a cedar chest. A few days later on my birthday, my sister told me she wanted me to have this piece which she had previously asked to keep. And now here it is, in its new home.

I really don’t know anything about its construction, but I do know that my Granddad was relatively handy, so I assume that it was largely handmade for the most basic materials. It has some really lovely details.

cdcornerLike this corner piece…

cdsideAnd this simple handle.

And to my surprise, it contained some heirlooms…

cd spreadA bedspread my dad’s mom embroidered for me when I was little…

cdsweaterbabyA sweater knit by my dad’s sister knit for me when I was a baby…

cddotwA set of days of the week dishtowels also embroidered by my grandma.

I think the piece that gets me a little choked up is this though…

cdbook1An embroidered fabric book from my grandma that actually has my name stitched on it…

cdbookI don’t remember her making this in particular, but I remember her embroidering when I was little and even learning a bit from her. Her stitches are so neat & tidy even though she must have been at least somewhat advanced in age when she made these.

As someone who doesn’t hold on to a lot of ‘things’ like this — my initial reaction is that I have no idea what to do with these things. They are sentimental, but at the same time I just don’t hang on to things that I’m not actually using. This morning my daughter and I sifted through these heirlooms though and she was kind of wowed by them. I tucked them back in the chest.

To them, I added some of my own sweaters, including the very first thing I ever knit…

cd sweaterThis simple green cardigan was the subject of my ‘learn to knit’ class over a decade ago.

cd openFor now I just put in the sweaters that didn’t currently have a proper home, the ones I’ve been wearing most often, but there is plenty of room probably for my entire collection of knitwear. Obviously I’m ecstatic to have a place to store my knits that is safe from the dreaded possibility of moths. Even more though, in this house full of mismatched everything, of hand-me-downs and seconds this beautiful chest fits right in. And it feels just right to be the third generation to use this simple cedar chest that my Grandpa crafted nearly 75years ago to store my handknits, my heirlooms, and — in a way — my memories, too.